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?)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: 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.
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.
SEASON: Hmm … season three, fairly soon after The Devil You Know.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Um … Untitled
By ocean gazer


Prologue …

"Now remember, campers, this is supposed to be a vacation. That means we're not going to sit around and talk about the SGC or about past missions or anything like that. This is a time for us to relax and unwind … and fish." Colonel Jack O'Neill couldn't contain his delight at the very idea—his face was set in a satisfied smirk as he offered that bit of guidance to the four people standing in his living room.

His companions—Teal'c, CMO Janet Fraiser, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and Major Samantha Carter—did not look nearly as pleased at the thought. Teal'c's face was set in its usual mask of placid implacability—the one that made it impossible to tell whether he was content, discontent, annoyed, or bored as hell. Fraiser simply looked highly uncomfortable at the notion of the group vacation thing, since she rarely spent her off hours with any of the members of SG1, except for Sam. But the expressions worn by both Jackson and Carter suggested a sense of profound horror at O'Neill's statement, as if his proclamation was one of the worst fates they could imagine. That was saying a lot, given the types of situations that the team routinely found itself in.

Jack looked around and noticed the distinct lack of enthusiasm in the room but ignored it since he, himself, was happy as a clam. His gaze strayed instead to the suitcases and duffel bags littering his floor in preparation for the group's excursion up to a lake nestled in the mountains. He just knew that once he got them away from the SGC, they'd all enjoy themselves and get into the spirit of relaxing and not want to come racing back to work … at least that's the way it always worked for him. "I picked up the keys to General Hammond's cabin and to his fishing boat this morning, so except for getting a few groceries and picking up some movies, we're all set."

Daniel groaned—loudly—never one to be comfortable with letting his friend be in charge of the planning, especially when said planning involved him. "Jack, I do happen to agree with you that we all NEED a vacation. But … well … we don't all find the same things enjoyable. I happen to like talking about the work I'm doing and I don't think it's fair of you to insist we can't talk about anything connected to the SGC. I'm involved in some really exciting research that I'd love to share."

Jack rolled his eyes, but managed not to offer any of the highly inappropriate negative responses running through his mind at the prospect of having to listen to hours upon hours of really boring theorizing. Instead, his tone dripped with the faintly martyred tones of long-suffering patience. "Daniel, I know you're all excited after presenting your Broken Divide essay thingie at that conference last weekend …"

"It's THE BROCA DIVIDE," interrupted the archeologist impatiently. "And it isn't an essay, it's a journal article."

"Whatever." Jack paused for a moment, his voice becoming earnest. "The point is that we spend all our time talking and thinking about work. It's not healthy to be so obsessed with just that one part of our lives. And while I know you and Carter find it loads of fun to sit around and compete to see who can use the most big words in one sentence, it's not exactly relaxing."

Janet, whose eyes were swinging from person to person as if she was tracking a ball at a tennis match, had to muffle a faint laugh at the hurt look that walked briefly across Carter's face before jumping over to settle permanently on Daniel's. This time it was Sam who voiced the protest, though she managed to keep her voice habitually polite. "Sir, just because you like going to the woods and fishing doesn't mean that the rest of us enjoy that as well. I don't see why it's a problem if we talk about the things we enjoy while you're enjoying the outdoors." Left unsaid was the thought that if it came down to a vote about whether discussing meaningful research or engaging in pointless recreation was the more attractive option, it would likely be three against two.

The colonel actually managed to look offended by the very notion, though his reaction was an act … well, mostly an act. Janet, despite her distinct lack of enthusiasm for the trip, felt the cheer-for-the-underdog urge to speak in O'Neill's defense. "Look, this whole vacation is actually General Hammond's idea. He knows how hard we've all been working and how stressful things have been recently, and he's concerned about the toll it takes on our health and sanity." She paused briefly, her tone growing thoughtful. "And since I can't remember the last time any of us actually took downtime for anything other than medical reasons, I think it he's right that taking a break from things would be good for all of us." None of them were stressed or overworked enough to be in any actual danger—she would have grounded anyone who was—but at the SGC it was easy to forget about the little thing called "having a life."

Teal'c nodded towards the woman. "You are indeed correct, Doctor Fraiser. It would be to our benefit to significantly lower our levels of stress … relaxation is an admirable objective and one within our reach." Janet acknowledged his agreeable words with a nod of her own, while part of her mind wondered whether the Jaffa had been watching infomercials again, since he almost sounded like one … albeit one that actually used words of more than two syllables … and didn't rely exclusively on exclamation points for punctuating sentences.

Sam, oblivious to the last part of the conversation, her brow knitted in the type of concentration she was noted for, spoke abruptly. "I can understand why he thinks taking some time off is good for us. But I don't understand why he wants us all to go on vacation together and go up to his cabin. That seems a little … well … odd."

O'Neill snorted. "I think he just wants us all to do a little team building, only he's using the PRETENSE of us all needing a vacation. Said something about recent suspicious behavior in the SGC and wanting his best people to be working together … yada yada yada. Yeah, it's kinda weird, but no weirder than when they haul those executive office types out into the woods and make them do that survival stuff in hopes of building a team." He added in a happier tone. "At least he's letting us do something fun, instead of walking on tightropes and stupid stuff like that."

Sam and Janet exchanged a dubious glance, which did not go unnoticed by Daniel. He offered in his best placating voice, "I really don't think it's all that odd. I was there when Jack and the general were making the arrangements … and right after he was talking about suspicious behavior—which could easily be what passes for normal at the SGC—he started talking about fishing … talking about suspecting there's a big fish close at hand that you just can't see … the thrill of putting out bait in hopes that the fish rises to it, even though you hate seeing the bait squirm … watching eagerly to see what you catch."

Jack threw in triumphantly, "See, I'm not nuts … Hammond likes fishing as well as I do."

Sam simply stared at both her teammates, not even bothering to hide her doubt behind her usual veneer of politeness. "Are you sure he was talking about fishing?" She knew as well as any of them that fishing was one of the general's favorite pastimes, but it wasn't something he was overly prone to wax poetic about. And he especially wouldn't be inclined to muse about not wanting to see bait squirm … he was more the "bait the hook already" type. Something just seemed off about the whole set-up.

They stared back, innocent question marks in their eyes. Jack was the first to speak. "Sure, I'm sure. What else would he be talking about?"

This time Janet added her own formidable stare to the mix, thinking the men were being a little on the dense side. She would have agreed with O'Neill's team building theory … if she hadn't been asked to accompany them; there was no reason for her to be involved in that unless it was with her medical staff. "It sounds almost like he's talking about cops and robbers … baiting a trap … the stuff of overly melodramatic mystery novels."

One of Teal'c's eyebrows raised slightly—a powerful show of reproof at the mere suggestion. "For what purpose would General Hammond involve us in such a scheme? I do not believe he would do such a thing without informing us as to his intentions."

Sam and Janet shared another doubtful glance, then shrugged in unison. O'Neill saw the gesture and shook his head decisively. "I swear, you two would grasp at any straw to get out of this vacation, wouldn't you. You both raise the bar for workaholics." He ignored their annoyed glances at the insinuation (accurate though it was) and continued, "Teal'c's right … why would Hammond do something like that? C'mon, let's get this show on the road. We're going up to the cabin, we're going to relax and enjoy the woods, and we're not going to talk about anything work related. Period … end of story … not up for debate."

Janet sighed heavily, her tone sounding anything but thrilled at his ultimatum. "Colonel, I don't think a total ban on talking about things related to our jobs is necessary for us to relax." She didn't actually expect her argument to make any difference to the man, but she didn't like being told what she could and could not say. If she'd wanted to hang out with dictatorial types, she'd have long since have moved to Cuba … at least the beaches and scenery were nice.

Before O'Neill could say a word, Teal'c spoke—with just the faintest trace of amusement in his voice. "Then you clearly have not spent sufficient time with Daniel Jackson and Major Carter."

Daniel opened his mouth—presumably to argue the point—and Jack spoke quickly. "I outrank all of you, so what I say goes … no talking about work, so there. Look at it this way, Danny-boy, we'll have a nice break from people shooting at us. Doc, you'll get some space away from Cassie, and she'll have fun spending time with Hammond's grandkids. And Carter, at least up in the mountains on planet earth, you won't be in a place that might trigger JOLINAR'S MEMORIES."

Janet looked up to see the haunted look on Sam's face at her CO's typically insensitive statement. Knowing better than anyone that the other woman still had occasional nightmares as a result of being a temporary Tok'ra host, the doctor reached out to place her hand lightly against her friend's shoulder in a gesture of support. O'Neill, realizing that once again his mouth had run off before his brain, blundered on hastily, attempting not to dig the hole any deeper, "I know that whole thing on Netu was hard on you, Carter, and I just think it would be good for you to be here for a while rather than wandering around the whole galaxy."

Sam nodded faintly, hearing the genuine concern behind the clumsy sentence. With a forced lightness to her tone to show him she accepted his apology-of-sorts, she offered, "Just don't expect me to go fishing; I hate fishing."

Daniel, conceding defeat in both getting out of the trip and in challenging Jack's conversational rule, sighed heavily. "I'll go fishing, but don't expect me to help with cleaning the fish or anything like that." He was an Egyptologist, thank you very much, not Grizzly Adams.

Jack rolled his eyes. "Gee, don't sound so excited there, kids." Shaking his head in mock exasperation at their clearly reluctant responses, he walked over and stood in between his astrophysicist and his archeologist, draping his arms over their shoulders. "Relax, it'll be fun. Trust me."

Story …

Janet walked carefully out onto the balcony of the cabin, a cup of coffee in each hand, and a beer tucked under one arm. She handed one cup to Daniel, used her free hand to grasp the bottle and offer it to Jack, and then leaned back against the wooden railing, lifting her cup of coffee to her lips. The air was chill with early evening and the warm beverage felt good against her throat.

"God, it's peaceful up here," Daniel said between sips, a dreamy tone to his voice.

Jack took a long swig of beer and smiled in satisfaction. "See, I knew you'd like it up here. Nice to just get away from everything for a while."

Janet looked off into the distance. The cabin sat on the top of a large hill, with other hills off to either side. The slope below the balcony was bare dirt, and there were other bare patches visible on the hills on either side, evidence of where long-past landslides had washed the trees away. Other than those spots, and the hints of a hiking trail winding its way down to the valley and the lake, the hills were covered in evergreens, a deciduous tree occasionally sticking out like a sore thumb. There was a faint glint of blue between the trees down below, the only visible evidence of the lake General Hammond swore had the best fishing in the world. On the other side of the valley, providing a beautiful view from the balcony, the hills gradually stretched up to become mountains. She knew they really weren't too far from civilization, there was a town that was only about five miles away, but it felt almost like they were totally alone.

"In the SOLITUDES of the wilderness," she murmured, to which the two men nodded in agreement. Well, she thought to herself, as much solitude as could be found surrounded by a plethora of birds and bees and assorted wildlife … not to mention her four companions. "It's almost too peaceful," she muttered to herself, forgetting that the self-talk technique is only successful when you don't actually make a sound.

Jack looked at her askance. "What do you mean it's too peaceful? That's the whole point of being up here in the first place."

Janet sighed, leaning against the railing of the balcony. "I just can't shake the feeling that this is too good to be true. I don't know, it just seems like the general is setting us up somehow. I still agree with Sam that it's really odd for him to want the five of us to go on vacation together."

O'Neill laughed ironically and waved an expansive hand in the general direction of the trees. "Ok, so let's say he is setting us up. What are we supposed to do … keep an eye on any butterfly that looks suspicious, in case it's planning to undermine the FRAGILE BALANCE of the forest ecosystem? Or maybe he wants us to keep an eye out in case the deer start playing POLITICS and plotting the cervine version of WATERGATE."

Put that way, Janet couldn't help but spit out a mouthful of coffee, since she was laughing too hard to swallow. Daniel seemed to entirely miss the humor, instead eyeing O'Neill as if he'd morphed into a different species of mammal in front of their eyes. "Where'd you pick up that word?"

Jack shrugged, trying not to indulge his amusement at the younger man's wide-eyed stare. "Spend enough time outside and reading about nature and you learn all sorts of useless information."

Fraiser was still chuckling. "Alright, sir, you've made your point." And, regardless of her odd feelings, he did have a point. With no one else around, the possibilities for mischief being afoot were extremely limited.

Daniel, draining his cup of coffee and seeming to want to change the topic, looked down at his watch. "Doesn't it seem like Sam and Teal'c have been gone an awfully long time?" They'd decided to head straight up to the cabin rather than picking up their supplies on the way in. Fraiser, Jackson, and O'Neill had taken charge of getting the cabin cleaned up while the other two had been dispatched to run errands.

Right on cue, they heard the front door open, signaling the return of their companions from the grocery store. Jack and Daniel bounded into the cabin, presumably to help with unloading the bags of food … or eating the contents of said bags of food. Janet trailed behind them, pausing in the doorway between the balcony and the kitchen, taking one more look at the gently undulating treetops in the distance.

Jack looked back to see her lagging behind. "What's up, Doc? You waiting for one of us to come and carry you across the THRESHOLD?"

Janet rolled her eyes at the Bugs Bunny reference (since she'd heard it roughly fifty thousand times since completing her residency and it had long since lost any faint semblance of humor). "Sorry, sir," she offered in answer to the second question, her tone devoid of the slightest touch of sincerity. "Hate to break it to you, but neither you or Daniel are my type." She finished the thought in her head, 'Not even close.'

"Ah well." He waved a negligent hand, completely unoffended, and turned his attention back to the bags being carried in by Sam and Teal'c. Once everything had been brought inside, Jack and Daniel began pulling everything out of the paper bags, while Sam and Janet began trying to put things away, and Teal'c watched as if supervision of the process was an absolute necessity. Given the haphazard approach taken by the men, perhaps it was.

Sam took charge of several smaller brown bags, then handed one to Janet, knowing her friend's love for cinnamon raisin bagels. The smaller woman looked up with a pleased grin splitting her face, the first genuine smile she'd offered since being roped into the whole vacation-with-SG1 thing. The major's face crinkled into a smile as well … she hadn't exactly been excited about being dispatched to do the shopping, but she found solace in being able to buy some expensive things she knew the others would like and charging it all to O'Neill's credit card … with his permission, of course … well, his permission to use it for getting necessities. It all just depended on how you defined necessities.

As if the sight of the brown bags reminded him of an unpleasant duty he must perform, the Jaffa cleared his throat. "I am sorry, O'Neill," Teal'c said gravely. "I found the onion-flavored bagels as you requested, and I was also able to acquire creamed cheese for them. But I was unable to locate THE NOX you requested."

Jack rolled his eyes—he, like the rest of them, was used to the big man's interesting use of the English language, but there were still times when he was caught off guard. "That's lox, Teal'c … bagels and lox."

Without missing a beat, the big man added smoothly, "I did not locate them either."

O'Neill's tone was flat but challenging. "Uh-huh. How would you have found them when you were looking for something else?"

Sam chuckled, and spoke quickly before Teal'c could cock his head to the side and give a far more in-depth answer than the subject actually deserved. (It was an ironic gesture, given that most of the time she also gave far more thought to things than they deserved.) "Sir, it wasn't exactly an upscale, trendy store. I checked as well, and they didn't have any."

The by play was interrupted by Daniel, who grabbed a box in each of his hands and waved his hands excitedly in the air.

"You look like a kid who wants to go first for SHOW AND TELL," Janet remarked mildly, raising her eyebrow at seeing the more … enthused side of Doctor Jackson. Usually she only saw him when he was at his whiny best in the infirmary after having gotten himself into yet another scrape.

"Doughnuts!" the archeologist exclaimed, as if it was the culinary equivalent of finding King Tutankhamen's tomb.

O'Neill turned to Carter, putting on his best lecture mode. "Doughnuts? You bought him doughnuts? Do you really think he needs that much sugar in his system?" A brief pause, then, "Do you really think we need him to have that much sugar in his system?" Daniel tended to be high-maintenance enough without chemical interference.

Fully expecting the colonel's rebuke (and unable to resist quoting his words back to him), she shot back neatly, "As you keep pointing out, sir, we're on vacation … taking a HOLIDAY … taking some time out for R&R. We're supposed to be having fun and enjoying ourselves, remember?"

He grumbled something as a response, but couldn't actually argue the point … especially knowing he'd left himself wide open for that one. Plus, Daniel did look so very happy clutching his treats. Jack turned his attention back to the unveiling of food, finding a big bag of designer coffee and shoving it in Daniel's direction as well, with the assumption that Sam had bought it for their very own caffeine fiend.

After a short while, everything had been neatly stowed and Janet reached for the plastic bag with the name of the town's one movie rental store emblazoned on the front. She reached in, asking, "So what did you find to rent?"

Sam flushed slightly, a frown creasing her features, her words coming out in a rush before trailing off uncertainly. "Well, there wasn't a lot to choose from on a Friday night, and I kinda let Teal'c make the selections …"

Fraiser held up two of the three movies, a look of disbelief crossing her face since she'd long been glad they'd left the 80's behind. "Adventures in Babysitting? Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead?" She shook her head in mock horror and looked down at the last movie. "And since I haven't even heard of RED SKY, I'm going to assume it's one of those dreadful straight to video things."

Sam, her frown deepening, but in a studious way this time, picked up the box housing the video in question and responded earnestly, "The movie came out in 1969. I don't think they did straight to video in those days."

Janet rolled her eyes, though it was a good-natured gesture, patient as she was with Carter's serious streak. Her friend might be a real, live, card-carrying genius, but that didn't mean she always had a solid grasp on mundane things like teasing. "It was a joke, Sam. Really." The blond looked up, blushing softly when she saw the familiar flash of humor in the doctor's chocolate eyes.

Daniel, oblivious as usual to the byplay, spoke up in his patented mildly chastising voice. "Um … what's going on with the babysitting theme?"

Teal'c's voice was calm and unperturbed. "It appears to me that it would be a wise course of action to become better acquainted with techniques of caring for Cassandra before we once again watch over her while Doctor Fraiser is otherwise occupied." It seemed a perfectly logical explanation to him, as he knew Major Carter was the only one of SG1 who was experienced in caring for the child.

Sam blushed even redder—though not, this time, from being teased—but didn't say a word. Jack glared at her before turning his attention to Daniel and complaining, "I thought you'd explained movies and tv to him."

The younger man shrugged, not looking particularly perturbed at the accusing note in the other man's voice. "Well, Jack, there's only so much that I can explain about fiction to someone unfamiliar with the basic concept. It's like being shoved into some wildly complicated game like … like soccer without THE GAMEKEEPER around to explain the rules."

"It's not a gamekeeper, Daniel, it's a referee," O'Neill corrected automatically.

"Whatever." Daniel paused for a moment, weighing words. "The point is that I've made some progress but there's still plenty more to learn." A lot more to learn, he added to himself.

Teal'c spoke quietly and with no noticeable inflection, though the tiniest hint of a frown on his lips showed how irritated the conversation was making him. "I would prefer if you not speak about me as if I were not present."

A chorus of "Sorry" came as a response.

Sam plopped down on one side of the double bed, then looked across to the other side of it, regarding Janet. Her voice sounded dubious. "Are you okay with this, Janet … the sharing a bed, I mean? I can always sleep on the floor."

The doctor smiled wryly. "For heaven's sake, Sam, it's not the first time we've slept in the same bed, and I'm sure it won't be the last. It's no big deal." More than once Sam had stayed late at her house and the two friends had shared a bed (Janet's couch being a bit too short for the taller woman), and other than the blonde's tendency to toss and turn, it hadn't ever been a problem. She couldn't quite figure out why Carter had even mentioned it.

Sam looked worried. "Really, it's not a problem … I mean, I've slept on the floor before. You just seemed really annoyed when the colonel said … when he made that … well … I just don't want to make you uncomfortable …"

Janet cut her off with a soft, derisive snort at the mention of the colonel, then turned an assessing gaze on her friend. Carter wasn't usually so self-conscious—at least not around her, given all the time they spent together—and the doctor wasn't sure whether she had done something to make her friend uncomfortable, whether it was having the guys in the next room that was causing the reaction, or whether it was because O'Neill had made one of his thoughtless little porn fantasy jokes. It was her turn to ask Sam, "Are you okay with this? I mean, the way you're acting, you'd think sleeping with me was like being …" She broke off for a moment, trying to find a suitably distasteful comparison, the Goa'uld suddenly coming to mind. "Like being WITHIN THE SERPENT'S GRASP or something."

Sam's eyes widened in surprise at the admittedly odd reference and then she apparently realized just how she'd sounded. "Sorry," she apologized, "I didn't mean it like that. Just making sure everything was ok, since you seemed pretty annoyed when the colonel said we were sharing a room … and a bed."

Janet rolled her eyes, but more out of habit than out of irritation, since she actually thought it was sweet of her friend to be so concerned about her comfort … or lack thereof. But she really should have known Sam would worry entirely too much about offending her. Guilt and worry were two traits Carter had in spades. Leveling her dark gaze on the blond woman, she said dryly, "I was pretty annoyed … at Colonel O'Neill. You have to admit, his insinuation that we could give the women on the Spice channel a run for the money was entirely out of line."

Sam actually winced at the reminder. "That was a bit out of line." Catching Janet's wry expression, she sighed and continued, "Ok, so it was completely out of line. Tact is not one of his strong suits." She sighed again, clearly uncomfortable with her CO's juvenile tendencies, and then perked up a bit. "I don't think he liked the way Daniel and Teal'c both told him to shut up."

Janet laughed evilly. "Or the way I told him I'd arrange for his next physical to have extra needles … really big needles … or worse."

That earned a bright smile from the blonde. "No, don't think he liked that at all." Entrenched in the habit of automatic respect for senior officers, she added in his defense, "He doesn't really mean most of those sorts of things … I mean, he's not someone who has the intention of being offensive … well, only around people he doesn't like …" She stuttered to a halt and flushed under Janet's highly skeptical stare, before managing, "He just has this bad habit of saying stupid things out loud."

The doctor rolled her eyes again, and in perfect mimicry of the man, muttered, "No kidding." Left unsaid was her conviction that he did usually mean what he said … just counted on the naivete of half his team (namely Sam and Daniel) to assume he was only joking. But Janet didn't have the cruel streak necessary to point that out to her friend. Instead she forced a lighter tone into her voice as she asked, "So, which side do you want to sleep on?"

The conversation broke off for a little while as they finished unpacking their bags and set about making the little room a home away from home. Then the doctor turned to her friend. "All right Toto, we should probably go out and join the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the TIN MAN."

Sam just stared for a long moment, confused as to the significance of the statement … assuming of course that it had any significance. "Wait a minute … why am I Toto? And who's who?"

Janet (in her best, albeit it admittedly bad, southern accent) drawled, "That's for me to know and you to find out." Then, seeing the pondering look in the deep blue eyes, she amended (in her regular voice), "Actually, given the way you routinely save the universe, you'd be a better Glenda the Good Witch than Toto. But as for the guys, you have to figure that one out." She chuckled and then added, "C'mon, Glenda, let's see what surreal adventure is waiting for us on THE OTHER SIDE of the door."

She turned on her heel and led the way into the living room, a still pondering Samantha Carter trailing close behind, giving the joke far more attention than it actually deserved.

They entered the living room of the cabin, to find Jack and Daniel sprawled across the two recliners facing the television set. Teal'c couldn't do something as ungraceful as sprawl if his life depended on it, but he too seemed incredibly relaxed, sitting upright on one end of the couch. Sam took a moment to glance around the living room while Janet plopped onto the couch. It wasn't exactly a room, per se, but rather an open space between the kitchen and the bedrooms. Still, with a fireplace and bookshelves lining one wall, the television and chairs and couch, and the dark paneled wood walls that made the space seem far cozier than it was, it felt comfortable and homey just like a living room.

"You ever gonna sit down, Carter, or are you just gonna stand there?" Jack had a look of exaggerated impatience on his face as he watched his teammate take in the scenery. "Teal'c is anxious to get on with it."

She didn't even bother to respond, just grabbed a couple of throw pillows and settled herself on the floor, leaning against the couch next to Janet. Daniel, who for some odd reason had the remote control rather than Jack, hit the fast forward button to move them through previews and the stern warnings against duplicating movies.

And then they were thrust into the world of Adventures in Babysitting.

As the movie wound on (and on and on), Sam found her attention wandering all around the room. For some reason, she just couldn't keep her mind on the action onscreen … though to be fair, it might have had something to do with the fact that Janet kept whispering disparaging comments to her about what was going on.

Teal'c seemed to be completely engrossed in the movie, as if he was taking notes of what he should not do anytime either Cassandra had a wild urge to run away and take refuge in a bus station or he and his companions were caught on a subway with some gang members. Daniel was … well, Daniel was watching intently, fascinated as only he could be by a new culture … and admittedly American teenagers were a culture unto themselves. And the colonel seemed completely entertained by the action—which Sam attributed in part to the fact that there were five empty beer bottles on the floor next to his chair, and a nearly empty one in his hand.

She felt a tug on her shirtsleeve where her elbow was resting on the edge of the couch next to Janet's leg. Her head snapped up and the doctor leaned down and whispered in her ear, "My god … this is the most ludicrous thing I've ever seen … look, Sarah gets to meet her hero. Yes, ladies and gentleman, this lovely mechanic is really a Norse god … and look, he's holding the modern day version of THOR'S HAMMER."

Sam stifled yet another round of giggles by burying her head in the crook of her arm. Daniel muttered a distracted "Shhh," without once taking his eyes off the screen. Teal'c and Jack seemed oblivious to the whispered and ongoing movie critique.

Janet was merciless, her dry whisper full of amusement. "And I swear, if they make one of the cars in his shop into THOR'S CHARIOT …"

Sam didn't hear what the rest of the sentence was; she was too busy laughing. She felt the weight of Janet's head against her own as the doctor broke into hastily stifled giggles as well. She could only think they must have looked like a pair of Catholic schoolgirls … huddled and giggling at their own private joke. She shared the image with the brunette and since they had finally reached the point of amusement where everything is hilarious (puns … innuendo … celery … toothpaste), it set off a fresh round of stifled giggles. Daniel actually took his eyes off the screen for a full half second to glare at them for being so distracting. The other two men continued to be unaware of their presence.

Once the movie ended, Teal'c turned to his companions with a completely deadpan expression on his face. "I did not realize that watching after children for an evening could be quite such a perilous activity."

Sam and Janet, not surprisingly, burst into giggles, once again collapsing against each other. Jack said nothing, having fallen asleep. Daniel was left to answer. "Well … um … this really isn't at all what it's like. Do you remember what I've told you about truth and fiction so far?"

On that note, the two women jumped up hastily and declared their urgent need for sleep.

"Oh Lucy, I'm ho-ome." The colonel's voice rang through the cabin, shattering the mid-afternoon quiet.

Sam and Janet stared at each other, both startled by the sound, and then both hastily scrabbling to their feet as if they'd been prodded in the backside with something sharp. O'Neill's unexpected and enthusiastic entrances often had that effect on people. Their attempt to get to their feet proved easier said than done, as they'd been reclining against opposites ends of the couch, noses firmly in books and legs as hopelessly tangled as yarn after a kitten.

They hadn't actually tried to untangle themselves before rising, so the sudden movement in search of an upright position served only to tangle their legs further. With a resounding thud, the two women fell to the floor, and could only stare up helplessly as their companions entered the living room and stared down at them.

Daniel was the first to speak, making absolutely no attempt to help them up, his voice no little smug as he parroted back to the doctor the words he heard from her nearly every week, "You really should be more careful."

Janet shot him a magnificent glare as Teal'c offered her a hand up. Having her own words quoted back to her was bad enough without him acting so damn superior about it. Sam scrambled to her feet on her own, and her voice was breathless as she asked (desperately trying to swing the spotlight away from herself and Janet), "So, how was fishing?"

Jack's face lit up, any sarcastic comments he'd planned to offer about Sam and Janet dissolving like butter as he warmed to his topic. "Oh man … it was great. Hammond was right; this is the best fishing spot in the world. Blue water, hardly a soul around for miles, and fish just begging to be caught." He sighed in rich contentment. "And Hammond's boat is sweet … nice, smooth engine … I could stay up here for A HUNDRED DAYS and never get bored …" He trailed off for a moment, and amusement colored his tone when he continued. "But I'm definitely gonna have to hassle him about the name of his boat … I mean, who names a boat Freedom? I mean, really."

Daniel cleared his throat as if going into academic lecture mode. "Well, it makes sense to me … I mean, the freedom of the water and from the trappings of civilization … an EMANCIPATION from the demands of daily life. What's wrong with it?"

O'Neill rolled his eyes expansively, going into his own version of lecture mode—a style far less loquacious and more direct than ever heard in the confines of a classroom. "You name boats after women. After your mom or your sister or your girlfriend or your wife … even after your rich Aunt Ruby so that she'll have good feelings towards you when she writes out her will."

The archeologist asked the most basic question of all—the one that all small children instinctively know drives adults the most insane (which was a specialty of the young man). "Why?"

Jack, not really wanting to play guessing games as to which part of his sentence the question was directed, stuck to the last thing he'd said. "Well, you name it after Aunt Ruby so she'll leave you a little … LEGACY … an inheritance …"

He seemed ready to continue when Daniel interrupted him impatiently. "Hello … not stupid here … I know what legacy means. What I meant was, why do you name boats after women?"

"Oh." A really, really long pause. "Beats the hell out of me."

Sensing that the conversation had hit the proverbial brick wall, Sam deftly changed the subject, a wistful note in her voice. "I'll bet my dad would have loved to be here. He didn't usually have a lot of time to do it, but he always has enjoyed fishing. It was one of his favorite things from childhood … going fishing with his FAMILY."

The innocent statement served as an unwelcome reminder of their last mission to the lovely hell planet Netu, and cast a sudden gloom over the group. Sam noticed it and instantly kicked herself—mentally, not physically—for being the cause of the mood shift, since that was the last thing she had intended. (Especially when she recalled the colonel's "rules" regarding topics of conversation, and annoying her CO without cause was not on her "to do" list anytime soon.) She spoke quickly, a forced lightness to her tone. "Of course, I have this feeling that Selmac wouldn't be too keen on fishing. I can just imagine them arguing about it."

O'Neill—apparently not noticing the topical slip (or perhaps noticing the sudden flash of guilt in her eyes)—picked up the conversational ball and ran with it. "Plus, he wouldn't be able to just get out on the water and enjoy himself. With his schedule these days, I'd have to make an appointment now for the year 2001 … hell, I'd have to make one now if I wanted to take him fishing in 2010. Plus, he wouldn't be able to just relax since he's got those ubiquitous bodyguards these days … TOK'RA I and TOK'RA II … Tweedledee and Tweedledum … Tom and Jerry … whatever their names are."

As diversionary tactics go, it was spectacular, though no one actually seemed interested in the content of his sentence or, for that matter, got the joke. Instead, Sam, Daniel and Janet all looked at each other and asked simultaneously, "Did he just use the word ubiquitous, and use it correctly?"

Teal replied calmly. "I believe that he did indeed."

"Uh guys, can you not talk about me like I'm not here." Jack sounded vaguely annoyed, and waved his hand in the air to attract their attention. "Y'know, I do know some pretty good words; I'm not a complete moron."

There was no graceful way to get around that conversational landmine, so Daniel didn't even try. "Of course you aren't, Jack. It's just not a word I've ever heard you say." He paused just long enough to make the change in subject less abrupt, and then proclaimed, "I'm starved. What's for dinner?"

Janet chuckled, thinking he was joking around. "Well, since you've had such a good day fishing, I would imagine we're having fish for dinner."

None of the men responded to that, though they all exchanged sheepish glances, and Janet exchanged puzzled looks with Sam. The doctor tried again, not quite understanding their reaction, her words slow and cautious as though she was talking to more than one alien who spoke American English as a second language. "You did catch fish, right?"

Jack scratched his head and started, "Well …"

He got no further, as Teal'c injected decisively, "We were indeed quite successful in our endeavor, and did indeed catch numerous fish."

Jack shot a very exaggerated mock glare at his friend before continuing. "What I was going to say before TEAL'C INTERRUPTED me was that we caught a lot of fish … we just didn't keep any of them." He didn't look overly thrilled at the confession; even to someone like O'Neill, who liked the aesthetics of fishing more than he liked the practical outcome of it, not keeping any of a day's catch just went against the grain.

"Why not?" came a feminine chorus.

Daniel cleared his throat and looked embarrassed, his shoulders moving upward in what appeared to be a shrug, though it looked more like an imitation of a hunchback. "Well, I didn't want to actually kill the fish. Just couldn't stomach the thought of eating something I'd seen swimming around."

Sam and Janet exchanged amused glances. That sounded very much like the archeologist. He had no qualms about looking at mummies, people, and animals long since deceased, but take a few hundred years off the time of death and he tended to be a little green. With a small shrug, the blonde major said, "Well, Janet and I just figured that you'd want to cook up whatever fish you caught, so we spent the afternoon reading." She paused for a moment, looking amused at the way the men's faces fell at her words. In a slightly more pointed tone (chastising them for assuming the women would take charge of the cooking), she continued, "And since we never bothered to figure out who would be responsible for the cooking on our vacation, we'll all just have to pitch in and make something for dinner."

Daniel looked confused by the reminder since he didn't quite realize he'd been making any assumptions, Teal'c seemed unperturbed by it since he had not been making any, but O'Neill had the good graces to look embarrassed. Sam exchanged a wry smile with the doctor at their reactions, and led the way into the kitchen. She began rummaging through the cupboards, while Janet—right on her heels—investigated the contents of the refrigerator. Teal'c took charge of the cookware, getting out enough pots and pans to make food for several hundred people. O'Neill, in his typically helpful manner, started naming off types of food, while Daniel confiscated the two remaining doughnuts and took a bite of each one simultaneously. He managed to polish them off in the time it took Jack to run through his litany of "Mexican … Italian … German … etc."

An abrupt knock at the door interrupted the process of decision-making, and caused everyone but Teal'c to jump. "I wonder who that could be," Daniel mused aloud.

O'Neill promptly set off to answer the summoning knock, saying over his shoulder, "Maybe it's the pizza delivery guy." Not that there was a phone in the cabin to call for a pizza, but why spoil a perfectly good quip with reality?

He opened the door, but the words of greeting on his lips faded away at the sight that awaited him. A man stood in the doorway, a semi-automatic weapon aimed at Jack's head. And behind the strange man, there were many other strange men, all similarly armed and aiming for the colonel's head.

Jack opened his mouth to yell a warning, figuring it was about the only thing he could do to warn his team that didn't involve him becoming target practice. He couldn't very well help his companions if his body was riddled with lots of big holes. But the other man seemed to have anticipated him, moving quickly to stifle the intended yell with a handkerchief. He pulled the colonel out of the cabin and stood guard over him, sending several of his followers into the cabin.

In the kitchen, Daniel heard footsteps and didn't bother to turn as he asked, "So Jack, was it the pizza guy?" By way of response, he got a gun barrel in the back of his neck and was pulled off his stool. He didn't bother to struggle, seeing it as an exercise in both futility and certain death or maiming, but he had an excellent vantage point to see all hell break loose.

Sam, Janet, and Teal'c had just enough warning to put up a spirited fight against their would-be captors. Teal'c was calmly and methodically wrestling the guns out of the hands of any who dared approach him; Janet had a skillet that she wielded with precise skill; Sam was lobbing canned goods across the kitchen as casually and accurately as if she were tossing softballs. Idly, Daniel wondered why no one had fired even so much as a warning shot.

As if his thoughts had been spoken aloud, a shot was fired from somewhere behind him (presumably into the ceiling), freezing the fighters. And a very annoyed voice shouted, "Get them, you fools."

Daniel was yanked backwards by his captor and dragged toward and then out the door, but not before he got a glimpse of the armed and rather peeved intruders descending on Carter, Fraiser, and Teal'c like a proverbial swarm of locusts. Almost before he could take in the sight of Jack kneeling on the ground with his hands bound behind him, he felt his own wrists being tied and he was shoved over and positioned next to the colonel.

"You okay, Daniel?" came the expected question.

"Fine. They didn't hurt me. You?"

There was a vaguely confused tone in Jack's voice as he stared towards the cabin and said, "I'm fine … not a scratch."

Daniel followed the line of the older man's sight to see the rest of their companions being dragged out the door and looking considerably worse for wear. He knew exactly why O'Neill seemed so off-kilter—usually Carter and Teal'c remained mostly unscathed during missions while the other two seemed to run into the sharp end of every stick. And the doctor was nice and safe in her infirmary. Some might call this turn of events a perverse sort of justice (conveniently ignoring the fact that there were reasons why the two men seemed to attract injuries like light attracts moths), but at the moment, the dark humor of the situation was anything but amusing.

Sam looked up to see the puzzled look in the colonel's eyes, and she mustered up a brief, grim laugh as she deciphered it. The sound earned her another hard elbow to the head, and she bit her lip to keep quiet. Their captors were not pleased about being bested—albeit momentarily—by three unarmed people, and they'd taken that pique out on them.

As their hands were bound behind their backs, she spared a glance at the doctor, who was right next to her. The smaller woman had been hit pretty hard and Carter was worried about her friend, since the doctor was not exactly used to the whole "being knocked around while taken prisoner" thing as part of her daily routine. Janet seemed to feel the scrutiny, turning her head to look up and offer a wry smile. Sam smiled in return, feeling a sense of relief that the other woman was obviously not doing too badly if she was able to see the irony in the situation.

The strange, and yet oddly familiar, man who seemed to be in charge of things, left O'Neill's side and stood in the center of the semi-circle formed by the captives. "You are our PRISONERS," he informed them, in case they'd somehow missed the point.

"No kidding," muttered Jack in his best insubordinate tone. He braced himself, expecting the usual elbow to the ribs or gun butt across the face as a reward for his quick wit. In fact, though masochism was not a proclivity he'd ever been accused of, he was actually looking forward to taking the blow, if only because it would shift the rough attention away from his people and onto him. Instead, he heard a soft grunt as Carter got the gun butt across her temple, knocking her face first into the ground.

Both Jack and Daniel swore aloud in protest; Teal'c muttered ominously, "Enjoy your SMALL VICTORIES while you can;" and Janet shook herself free from the hands holding her to bend over her friend. One of their captors unceremoniously hauled Sam up by the hair (forcing the doctor to rear back suddenly to avoid knocking heads with Carter), and she spat the dirt out of her mouth, twisting angrily in the man's grasp.

"Now, where was I?" the strange man called out thoughtfully. He looked expectantly at the captives, who—not surprisingly—chose not to answer. He stroked his thin beard, as if he were a really bad actor trying to look intelligent and philosophical. "Oh yes. You are our prisoners. You are our ENEMIES."

He said a whole lot more than that, but it was all essentially redundant, as there are only so many ways to tell someone they are captives when the words used are three syllables or fewer. Finally, he paused for breath, and looked expectantly at his profoundly bored and irritated audience. The silence stretched until Daniel—irrepressible as always—broke in. He spoke cautiously and slowly, looking warily around to see if more of his companions would wind up suffering because he dared speak. "I think we have a pretty good grasp of the fact that we are your prisoners."

Seeing no adverse response on the part of the not terribly bright looking guards, and seeing the way the leader's face lit up as if Daniel was indeed very perceptive to have understood this important detail, the archeologist felt bold enough to continue. "I'm just really curious to know … well … who are you? You look really familiar to me. And why have you taken us as your prisoners?" For someone as curious as Daniel, there could have been a whole lot more questions posed, but he thought perhaps it was best to start with the basics.

The strange man smiled indulgently, and Daniel barely heard the colonel's sarcastic snort at the gesture. Instead, he looked around to see the rest of SG1 and the good doctor. Teal'c was watching the interaction quite intently; he offered the barest of nods to Daniel, which suddenly made the archeologist feel safer somehow … well as safe as he could feel with his hands tied and an alarmingly high number of guns trained on him. Janet was keeping one eye on the leader and one eye on Sam, her expression alert and attentive. And for her part, Carter—despite the blood trickling down into her right eye—was watching things with the same intensity as Teal'c.

"Ah, so you do recognize me," the man addressing them said in a sudden English accent that had all the captives, save Teal'c, coughing as they tried to keep from bursting into ill-timed laughter. No one else seemed to get the joke, and the English accent droned on, periodically slipping into Irish and Scottish.

"I am Lt. SETH Lazarus. I have worked at the SGC for several months. I am the leader of this group. We are THE FIFTH RACE, THE CHILDREN OF THE GODS. It is our destiny to colonize the earth, to take over this pitiful species known as humans, and rule this planet. We will DIVIDE AND CONQUER, we will leave behind nothing but SCORCHED EARTH, and then we will remake this planet and its people in our image. We will rule like the gods we were born to be! Our ASCENSION to THE LIGHT of godhood will be the greatest achievement this galaxy has ever seen. We will have ABSOLUTE POWER over every creature in this galaxy; we will destroy our enemies and we will rule the universe!"

The five captives shared a glance as the man finished with a triumphant flourish that fell far short of actually being impressive. "Megalomaniac," muttered Daniel; "But he's not an alien, he's definitely human," Janet said in confusion; "A most unusual NEMESIS," observed Teal'c; "Is it just me, or is this guy nuts?" was O'Neill's typically sardonic contribution. Carter alone remained silent (not really wanting anyone to have another reason to hit her), but her lack of commentary didn't seem to matter—her captor gave her another smack with the butt of his gun, knocking her into Janet, sending them sprawling helplessly together on the ground.

"Excuse me," Jack spoke up, a thread of anger winding around his words. "Why does he keep doing that? The usual format is that whoever mouths off is the one who gets hit." At least, that's how it would be in a just world. O'Neill knew better than anyone that his mouth tended to be off and running before his brain had a chance to shut him up … and he didn't like seeing anyone else suffer the consequences of his actions. It wasn't fair … and if O'Neill prided himself on anything, it was on his basic sense of fairness.

Lazarus smiled. It was not a pleasant sight. "Those are the RULES OF ENGAGEMENT followed by mere humans. We are gods. We make our own rules."

None of the armed men moved to help the two women out of their tangled pose, so they remained where they were. Janet squirmed around until she was lying on her back; it wasn't the most comfortable position in the known universe, but given her limited options, it seemed the best one. At least she could still see what was going on around her … couldn't do anything about it, but at least could know what was happening.

Sam shifted slightly until she was lying on her side with her head resting on the doctor's stomach. She tried to lie as still as possible, since the world was having an unfortunate tendency to spin whenever she moved. Probably didn't help that her head was bleeding again, and she noticed Janet's concerned eyes on her. She offered a thin smile in return, trying to reassure her friend that she'd be okay. The last thing anyone needed was to be worried about her, rather than worried about how the hell they were going to get away from these … people.

Daniel had taken over the question and answer session for the group. "Um … okay … so you're actually gods. That's really fascinating, but I'm just a little confused about why you're here and what this has to do with us."

The Lieutenant took a deep breath and resorted back to the shifting accents. "Our success in conquering this planet will only come if the people do not believe that aliens exist. You have traveled to other worlds and know that aliens exist, so you are therefore a danger to us. When you tell people what you know, it will make it more difficult for us to carry out our task."

O'Neill gave a quick headshake in pure disbelief and blew a brief whistle out the side of his mouth—speaking without thinking. "Ok, now I know it's not just me … this guy really is nuts."

The man who seemed to think Sam's head was part of a contact sport moved towards her at the words, and Daniel jumped in quickly to try and verbally deflect the blow, since Jack's usual sarcastic asides weren't proving to be their usual effective distractions. "But we don't tell anyone about what we do." Seeing that his ploy was working (as the man froze in mid-swing), the archeologist continued, genuinely interested in the topic. "The public doesn't even know there's a Stargate, they have no idea that we've traveled to other worlds, and we can't tell them that. We aren't able to correct the prevailing views on the Egyptian gods because that would reveal the existence of aliens; we can't tell our friends and families what we really do in our jobs; we can't even use alien technology to make UPGRADES to earth's weapons technology because we can't reveal that we have access to alien technology. We pose absolutely no threat to you … to your … um … people."

With an astuteness that no one would have given him credit for, given his previous ranting, Seth said quietly, "As long as the knowledge exists, it is a threat."

There was really nothing to say to that, so no one bothered. Even Daniel, who was well noted for his ability to talk practically non-stop, couldn't think of a single, suitable response.

After a really, really long moment of silence, Seth called out to his men. "There is but a BRIEF CANDLE of daylight left and we must be inside before night falls. We must take our prisoners to THE TOMB … quickly."

Jack—who was trying hard for Sam's sake to keep his mouth shut, but failing miserably because of his inherently irreverent nature—could not resist quipping, "Sounds like a lovely place, but there's really no need to hurry on our account."

He winced the hardest of all of them at the predictable response to his words.

Scant minutes later, SG1 and Janet found themselves being herded down a rough trail. Oddly enough, the five of them were walking together—Teal'c in front, Jack and Daniel next in line, and Sam and Janet bringing up the rear of the captive procession. There were armed men in front of them, to the sides of them, and behind them, but no one seemed to be paying all that careful attention to them. Of course, it also wasn't like there was any way they could get out of the cluster of armed men surrounding them, especially since their hands were still tied.

Still, mindful of his role as leader, Jack spoke quietly and earnestly (and with more than a trace of unconscious irony). "Ok, we're in a bit of a bind at the moment …"

Janet and Sam, in perfect synch and reveling in being able to imitate the colonel, chorused, "No kidding."

Jack bit back the smile that threatened to emerge at the momentary diversion from darker thoughts, replaced it with a scowl, and continued undaunted. "THE FIRST COMMANDMENT for a situation like this is that if anyone sees any WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY to get free and escape, you do it. No questioning, no looking back, just get the hell out of here and try to get help."

Daniel looked like he was about to argue, but the look on O'Neill's face silenced him and he nodded, even though everyone knew that he would never actually follow that particular order. The two women exchanged glances with each other, knowing as well as anyone that those left behind might be killed out of vengeance before help could arrive, but nodded in agreement with the colonel's instruction. They were career military; they knew the stakes involved in being taken captive, and knew what their responsibilities were.

Teal'c didn't even bother to dignify the colonel's comment with a response since he knew perfectly well what his duty should be. He asked quietly, "So what is the second commandment, O'Neill?"

Jack shrugged the best he could with his hands tied behind his back. "Beats the hell out of me. Usually it's hard enough to get that far." In fact, maybe there was only one commandment after all, since O'Neill couldn't think of any other rules, no matter how hard he tried. In fact, that was the only thing that really seemed relevant, other than not revealing any incriminating information, and even that was a moot point most of the time with the type of foe faced by the SGC. Their usual enemies either had mind control devices or simply didn't consider humans important enough to have any useful information. And in this particular case, their captors already knew the relevant and crucial pieces of information.

Daniel, concentrating hard on not tripping over assorted tree roots in the path, and more interested in motives than tactics, asked Janet, "I know I've seen this Seth guy around, but where does he work? I mean, what does he do at the SGC?"

Fraiser racked her brain for a moment, surprised that she couldn't exactly remember. "I don't actually know for sure. He's one of the rare people who only seems to come to the infirmary on days and shifts when I'm not there, which is a pretty hard thing to do, given the hours I keep. I think he works in Purchasing, but don't hold me to that."

"So where's he get the delusions of grandeur?" Not surprisingly, the sarcastic voice belonged to none other than O'Neill.

Janet figuratively shrugged. "Beats the hell out of me. I'm a medical doctor, not a psychiatrist." Of course even if she were a psychiatrist, not having had any interaction at all with the man, she still wouldn't have any better answer to the question.

Carter, who had been uncommonly quiet since the captivity began, offered thoughtfully. "Maybe he just snapped one day. We deal with some things that most people are just not able to handle, and all the psych tests in the world can't predict how people will respond for certain when they're faced with something they never would have imagined." She stepped agilely around a fern that for some reason had decided to grow in the middle of the trail, only half seeing it, still focused intently on what she saw in her mind's eye.

As if she was reading Sam's mind, Janet mimicked the agile side stepping around the plant life, and jumped in to finish the thought. "It's THE CURSE of having an unconventional job … there will always be people who can't handle what they see or what they find themselves doing IN THE LINE OF DUTY. Most of the time, it's the people on the front lines who break down, and we notice it quickly and are able to help them. But in a case like this …"

It was Sam's turn to finish the thought. "No one realized he was becoming delusional." She shivered unconsciously at the thought that a man had gone so far around the bend without anyone noticing and being able to help him. Not a pleasant thought at all.

Daniel's voice was quiet and reflective, a murmur scarcely louder than the whisper of the evening breeze through the trees. "THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD go I."

O'Neill's voice dripped with annoyance, eyes rolling back in his head at the way the younger man always seemed to think he was susceptible to doing the worst things in the world (almost like an ethical hypochondria). "Not hardly, Daniel. You're made of a lot tougher stuff than that."

Despite their predicament, the younger man beamed brightly, his attention focused on Jack to the point where he was in danger of tripping or walking into a tree or running into Teal'c, which would have roughly the same effect as the tree. "Wow, I think that's the best compliment you've ever given me."

The colonel offered a tiny, embarrassed shrug—overt displays of affection or emotion not really being his thing. From behind, the two women noted the gesture, turned to each other, and shared a bemused look … since Daniel looked like an overly eager puppy and O'Neill looked like he was a cat who had just been discovered befriending mice. Ironic, really, that the two men actually were friends. Sam, at least, couldn't think of two people who were a better example of the Odd Couple … well … except maybe herself and Teal'c. Nah, even they had more in common than the old-fashioned soldier and the new-age archeologist.

Janet smiled at the note of pure happiness in the archeologist's voice, since—as his doctor—she knew as well as his teammates that he had depressive tendencies, and keeping him focused on the positive was always a good thing. But she effectively turned the conversation back to the topic at hand. "I just wonder whether there was one particular thing that caused him to snap, or whether it was more of a cumulative effect."

Sam, easily following her friend's lead and back to playing verbal 'tag-you're-it' with the doctor, supplied smoothly, "And where do these other people come in? I don't recognize any of the rest of these people … so why are they caught up in the same delusion as Lazarus? Or are they also people who have worked at the SGC and we just never knew they were there?"

Jack, glad for the shift in topic away from the more mushy side of things, snorted his disagreement with that train of thought, kicking a pebble as if to emphasize his point. "That's an awful lot of people to have gone nuts. If it were one or two, maybe I could buy it. But not this many."

Next to him, Daniel stepped deftly around a rock. His attention still on the ground, he muttered, "THE ENEMY WITHIN the gate is a more threatening foe than the enemy outside."

The colonel looked sideways at his teammate, easily deciphering Daniel's disagreement in the words of the textbook quote. "Yeah, that's true. But I seriously doubt any of these people have ever worked at the SGC … despite the popular misconception of the brainless, semi-literate soldier, you do have to have at least a few working brain cells to get into the military and work on classified projects. And I don't believe for a second that there's some vast fifth column at the SGC who is in cahoots with this guy. I think we're dealing with one lone wacko who's somehow convinced a bunch of dumbasses that they're the descendants of THE FIRST ONES."

Janet inserted quietly, "Which still leaves us with the question of what happened to cause Lazarus to become delusional …"

"… and how he convinced these other people to follow along with his delusion," Sam finished neatly, her tone quiet as well.

Daniel sighed heavily, his attention still on his feet as he deftly stepped over a rather large root protruding from the ground. "Well, until we know what's going on BENEATH THE SURFACE in his mind, it'll be hard to figure out what's going on with the others." A short pause, and then, "They certainly don't seem to be the brightest bunch around."

Jack interrupted him, apparently eager to correct the younger man. "Don't you mean under the surface instead of beneath the surface?"

Sam made a hasty choking sound, as did Janet—both of them trying hard to swallow their amusement. It was an admittedly weird time to be focused on the pedantic, especially since it was not even close to O'Neill's usual outlook on the universe. The men seemed oblivious to their stifled reaction, with Daniel pointing out patiently, "Same difference."

The colonel's response was an eye roll and the softly uttered, "Whatever."

Teal'c broke in abruptly, his voice easily carrying back to their ears. "I am beginning to feel like something of THE FIFTH MAN here." There was just the faintest tinge of reproach in his voice.

Janet, always one to be helpful when possible, spoke quickly, before anyone else could comment. "Don't you mean a fifth wheel, Teal'c?"

"Whatever." The big man continued as smoothly as if her interjection had not taken place. "The point remains that rather than wasting energy and breath on determining this man's mental state, we should be concentrating on a means of escape from him." Really, spending so much time talking was simply wasting energy they could otherwise be hoarding for their eventual escape attempt.

Daniel, who had a penchant for odd phrasing and an annoying ability to have an opinion on everything, argued, "But it's far easier to fight back against THE DEVIL YOU KNOW than the devil you don't know."

Teal'c actually stopped in his tracks, turned around to face his companions, and quirked his eyebrow in confusion. "These men are not DEMONS, Daniel Jackson."

Used to exchanges like this, Sam explained in a patient voice, "It's a figure of speech, Teal'c. It means that the more we know about an enemy, the easier it is to defeat him."

His response was softly spoken, but the practical words had the effect of a shout. "In general, I would agree. But a delusional man does not act in predictable ways, no matter how much you understand of him."

Now that qualified as another conversation stopper, and in some ways it was a good thing, as the sun was beginning to set and it was becoming harder for the group to walk and talk at the same time, since the downward slope was steep and the trail was actually getting rougher and more inclined to have unexpected obstacles than it had been higher up.

After what seemed like forever, they were finally at the bottom of the trail and in the valley. Then they got to climb another, smaller hill and take a wildly twisting path … to the point where Sam (who usually had a good sense of direction) couldn't even tell where they were in relationship to General Hammond's cabin. She fervently hoped that the colonel or Teal'c had managed to keep some kind of mental map on the off chance they could escape … since the archeologist was hopeless with directions anywhere but in landscapes that looked like Egypt (which this most definitely did not) and the doctor was hopeless with them anywhere but the safe confines of a city. Finally, just about the time both Daniel and Janet were panting with exertion and allergies, and Sam was feeling on the light-headed side herself, Seth held up a hand, effectively calling a halt to the hike.

In the falsely jovial tones of a tour guide, he gestured to a rough looking log cabin half hidden in the trees and informed them in his best menacing tones (which were anything but, since he sounded like Vincent Price on helium), "This is the tomb … it will be your home until we have chosen the method by which we will kill you."

For a long moment, no one said anything, and this time Sam offered the quip, figuring that if she was going to get hit anyway, she may as well get to have the fun of mouthing off. "Isn't a tomb usually where you put people after they're dead?"

The response was predictable and no one bothered to answer the very valid question. Janet felt a stab of concern go through her as she looked at Sam, who had fallen to the ground and was struggling back to her feet as best she could without the use of her hands. That she managed it at all was mighty impressive in the doctor's book, let alone managing it with all she'd been through. The men were being shoved into the cabin, hands still bound, Daniel complaining that he was hungry and Jack complaining that he was thirsty. Janet made her way quietly to her best friend's side, only half-hearing Seth say that he might allow them to be fed if they behaved but that they were not going to be untied and that they would each be tied to a separate iron ring on the wall so that they could not untie each other.

"You okay, Sam?" There was real concern in her voice, not only for medical reasons, but because she hated being helpless and watching her friends suffer.

The blonde woman's face was crinkled in pain, but she met Janet's gaze squarely. "I'll be fine," she answered reassuringly, before a tiny, teasing note entered her voice. "Just got a bit of a headache for some odd reason."

Janet smiled, seeing a tiny grin flit across Carter's face. And then out of the blue, she was struck by a thought. "I wonder … if they think …" Sam turned confused eyes on her friend, but before she could ask the obvious question, Janet whispered, "When they take us into the cabin, pretend to pass out and don't 'wake up' until I tell you it's ok."

Sam raised an eyebrow, having absolutely no idea what purpose that would achieve, but nodded, trusting that her friend had a plan. Before Janet could explain further, the guards seemed to finally notice that the inside of the cabin was two prisoners short, and they came over, grabbed the women, and pushed them through the door.

With a performance that Janet thought was truly Oscar worthy, Sam staggered for a moment, and then fell—managing to land on a flimsy, elf-sized dining room table and break it into kindling before crashing dramatically to the floor of the cabin.

Assorted shouts of concern filled the air and Janet immediately dropped to her knees beside her best friend. She could hear O'Neill swearing inventively and Daniel repeating Sam's name over and over like a mantra. Seth appeared beside the doctor and stared down at the unmoving woman.

"What's wrong with her?" he demanded, his tone haughty, but with an underlying emotion that couldn't quite be named.

Janet felt a surge of anger at the whole, stupid mess they were in because of the man-who-would-be-god standing beside her. She didn't even bother to suppress the emotion when she spoke. "Why do you care? You're just going to kill us anyhow."

His eyes flashed with a dangerous light, reminding her that whatever else he might be, he clearly was not entirely sane and pissing him off was not probably the brightest thing in the universe to do. Arrogance flooded his voice. "Yes, we will. But I want you all conscious and aware when that happens … to know how powerful your new gods really are … it will be a PROVING GROUND for the loyalty of my followers before we conquer the rest of the world. Now, what's wrong with her?"

She offered a bitter laugh and shrugged helplessly, the words coming out of her mouth before she could think better of them. "How the hell am I supposed to know? I can't exactly examine her with my hands tied behind my back."

She winced, much as O'Neill had done earlier, afraid she'd pushed just a little too far. But much to her surprise, rather than smacking her (or, as was more likely, Carter) for being insolent, he jerked his head at one of the guards and the man came over and untied the thick ropes. She rubbed her abused wrists thankfully, and Seth grabbed her by the hair and whispered in her ear. "You can examine her, but don't try to escape or attack. I'm not a stupid man and I know all the tricks you might try."

She simply nodded (since she figured it wouldn't help matters to tell him exactly how stupid she thought he was) and he released his grip and stood beside her as she cautiously began to examine her friend. She rooted around in her pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. Looking up at Seth and doing her best to look completely distraught, Janet asked plaintively, "Could I get some water to wet this with? I need to get this blood cleaned off so that I can see what the extent of her injuries are."

There was a definite greenish cast to the man's face and he swallowed convulsively. Without a word, he turned and made his way over to what passed as a kitchen, filling a clay bowl with water. She thanked him as he handed it to her, and then dipped the cloth in the water, dabbing gently at her friend's temple and cheek.

She wanted to laugh as Seth desperately tried to cover his revulsion at the sight of blood. Seeing it up close and personal like this was a far different matter from seeing it at a distance while he and his men were busy herding their prisoners. He couldn't quite look at Janet as he said, "I need to check something outside. But don't try any tricks, my men are watching you."

He didn't seem to expect a reply and she didn't think it was necessary to offer one, since the only ones she could come up with rivaled the colonel's for sarcasm, and somehow she just didn't think that would help matters in the slightest. O'Neill and Daniel were more than making up for her silence, alternating between calling to Sam to wake up and furiously telling their captors that they would not get away with this. Janet glanced around, seeing that the guards were either busy in a battle of half-wits with Daniel and Jack or were studiously looking anywhere but at Sam and her bloody temple.

As unobtrusively as she could, Janet quickly rolled Carter onto her side. She took another quick glance around, saw that only Teal'c was paying any attention to her, and slid her hand into her pocket, palming her pocketknife. She then slipped it into Sam's right hand, and she could feel the other woman's start of surprise. For an unconscious woman, she was quick on the uptake, and closed her fist around the doctor's gift.

Janet glanced up at Teal'c, and the nearly imperceptible nod of his head was enough to tell her that no one else had witnessed the transaction. With a huge sigh of relief that her ill-formed idea had actually worked, she rolled Sam onto her back again, and set back to work at her original task of cleaning away the blood.

And just then, Seth re-entered the cabin and the lame arguing between captives and captors stopped. Lazarus stepped to Janet's side and asked, "Well?"

Obviously patience wasn't one of the man's virtues. Janet sighed melodramatically and made one final swab against Sam's temple. "I think she'll be okay, but I just don't know. She clearly has a major concussion and I'm worried about a possible skull fracture." She almost couldn't keep a straight face then, knowing that anyone with an ounce or two of common sense would know better about the likelihood of a fracture. Given the look on his face, he was taking her statement as unquestionable gospel. Apparently she'd found another of his non-virtues.

She reached out and gently caressed Sam's cheek, speaking in her best coaxing doctor's voice. "C'mon, Sam; wake up, hon. We're all really worried about you."

And right on cue, Carter was off on another Oscar worthy performance as she pretended to regain consciousness, her moans and pained whispers almost believable. Janet spared a quick glance at their companions, afraid that Jack and Daniel would be beside themselves with worry. But Sam's extremely obedient response to the doctor's words seemed to have tipped them off that the women were up to something: Daniel's eyes were full of avid curiosity and O'Neill looked suspicious … intently interested, but suspicious.

The doctor turned her attention back to soothing her patient. "He-ey there, Sam … welcome back. How do you feel?"

A tiny moan and then a theatrical whisper. "It's like I've got a CRYSTAL SKULL that's about to shatter into a million pieces." She opened her eyes and blinked hard against the light.

Janet was about to say something else to further the act, when she was shoved aside by Seth, who had his hand tangled in Carter's shirt and was pulling her to a sitting position. Genuine outrage flooded the doctor, since the part about the concussion was unfortunately true. "What the hell are you doing? She's in no condition to sit up like that!"

His eyes hard, the man glared at Janet. "Even though she is hurt, she could pose a threat to us. She must be tied up." After a beat, he seemed to remember that the doctor was untied as well. "Oh yes, you must be tied up too." Without further ado, the two women were dragged over and tied to iron rings in the wall, imitating their comrades. Seth did seem to take a bit more care with Sam than his lackeys took with Janet … though he was not precisely what you would call gentle. Carter, for her part, pretended to pass out again.

At least the doctor hoped she was pretending.

Fifteen minutes later, when they were finally alone in the cabin (Seth and his men had taken an extremely long time to tell the group that they would not escape … as if SG1 and Fraiser had failed to notice that point before), Sam opened her eyes and smiled at the rest of the group. She could see the relief on Janet's face, and she felt a bit guilty about playing her role with such enthusiasm. Teal'c offered a nod of the head—his version of an enthusiastic greeting, and the colonel and Daniel both looked as pleased to see her as if she'd been gone for a week.

O'Neill was the first to speak, getting right to the point. "So ladies, mind letting the rest of us in on your SECRETS?"

Daniel was only half a pace behind in opening his mouth, though several steps ahead in the loquacious department. "Yeah, um … what's going on … I mean, are there any REVELATIONS you have to make … about what you're up to … that is, assuming you're up to something … I mean, it seems like you're up to something … I mean, I thought Sam really was hurt at first … but then … well, I mean, I know you're hurt … but not hurt hurt like I thought … and it's not that … I mean, I don't mean to make light of your head … I know it must hurt like hell … but …"

"Put a sock in it, Daniel," was Jack's less-than-patient response to the stream of words. The younger man blushed crimson, but didn't bother to either argue or apologize. O'Neill smiled at the archeologist to show that he wasn't really all that annoyed before turning his attention to the two women. "So," he drawled casually, "mind telling us what's going on?"

Sam smiled widely. "Well, sir, I have a pocketknife."

Jack smirked. "Good one, Carter. I've got a pocketknife too … and it's in my pocket, which makes it something of a moot point." Just what he needed … his second in command starting to imitate him in the sarcasm department.

Janet's smile matched Sam's, and for a disconcerting moment, they looked like a pair of Cheshire cats. "Actually, colonel, she has a knife in her hand." Pausing for effect, and enjoying the surprised looks on Jack and Daniel's faces (and the smug look on Teal'c's), the doctor finished, "I gave mine to her when I was examining her after she pretended to pass out." She felt a surge of pride as she spoke, quite pleased with both her hastily formed plan and the successful execution of it.

Jack actually looked impressed at her actions, but—true to form—quickly squelched the expression and complained, "You could at least give a guy some warning. I thought for sure Carter was in trouble."

Janet didn't even bother to try and hide her sarcasm, figuring that the colonel should get a taste of his own medicine from time to time. "Of course, sir. Would you like me to yell through a bullhorn next time so that everyone knows what's going on?" Really, the man was too much sometimes.

Suitably chagrined, he simply rolled his eyes, leaving Teal'c to ask Daniel, "What purpose would it achieve to yell through the horn of a bull? And in our current predicament, where would we acquire such a creature?" Daniel opened his mouth, but the question actually left him momentarily speechless.

Sam, meanwhile, was squirming around the best she could in her restraints. She'd managed to get the blade of the knife open and was trying to find an angle that would cut the rope in strategic places without causing her to bleed to death in the process. Carefully, aware of Janet's anxious eyes on her, she started to saw through the thick ropes.

An hour later, she was still sawing.

"For cryin' out loud, Carter, aren't you done yet?"

Sam frowned at her CO, but said nothing, not really in the mood to be called on the carpet for insubordination … even if they weren't exactly on a mission. Daniel, being a civilian, had no such qualms. "Jack, try and have a little patience for once. If she cuts her wrist doing this, it won't help us escape."

Feeling the need to speak on behalf of his teammate, especially given how well she had performed the subterfuge necessary to enable her to have the knife, Teal'c chided, "Indeed. If she injures herself in this endeavor, our enemies will be able to track us following her BLOODLINES."

Janet tried to stifle a laugh. The colonel didn't even bother to hide his amusement. Sam's frown simply deepened. Teal'c looked at them blankly, confused by their reactions.

Daniel spoke gently. "Uh, Teal'c, I think you mean they could follow her trail of blood. Um … bloodlines are what are passed down genetically … like ancestry."

The big man remained unperturbed, adamant about his stance. "Whatever. The point remains that if Major Carter injures herself, we are all at risk."

Janet shot a questioning look at the woman who was the centerpiece of the discussion. Jerking her head towards Teal'c, the doctor muttered, "When did he start saying 'whatever'?" Granted, she wasn't around SG1 all that often, but it did not sound like the usual overly formal way the man talked.

Sam shook her head minutely, to avoid setting the world spinning, and whispered back, "I have no idea. I think maybe he's been spending too much time with the colonel." Now that she thought about it, his use of the word was a completely new development.

Jack, apparently overhearing the conversation, called out grumpily, "It's all in your POINT OF VIEW. Personally, I think I'm having a good effect on him." After all, he was the one who invited the Jaffa over to watch sports and was teaching him about beer and trying to find out what … er … assets Teal'c found attractive in women. Nothing but good things, in his less-than-humble opinion; he was helping the alien get acclimated.

Both women were, unfortunately, aware of the things O'Neill was teaching the Jaffa, since Daniel had told them one night when he was confined to the infirmary and doped up on morphine, which had an effusive effect on the man. But fortunately, the duo was saved the trouble of coming up with a suitable response that didn't overtly accuse him of being a very bad influence when Sam triumphantly pulled her arm free from the rope. Scant seconds later, her other arm was free.

"Alright, Carter," the colonel exclaimed, forgetting that moments before he'd been annoyed. "Now we're getting somewhere."

The major made her way over to Janet, since she was closest in line, and proceeded to free her friend from her bonds. Once the doctor was rubbing her wrists gratefully, Sam turned her attention to Daniel, since he was the next closest. Once he was free, the blonde turned the pocketknife over to Janet. Seeing the concerned look the brunette gave her, she hastened to explain, "I'm ok, really. Just a little shaky."

Janet frowned, not exactly buying the stoic act, but turned her attention to cutting O'Neill loose, figuring that the sooner they were all freed, the sooner she could have a couple minutes to check on her friend. Daniel got up and wandered over to a tiny refrigerator. Apparently he was still hungry.

But before he could open the door and see what culinary delights lay in store for them, the cabin door opened, and Seth and a guard entered. "How did you free yourselves?" bellowed the leader, as if he truly expected an answer, and as if he was blind to the sight of Janet working on freeing O'Neill.

Without waiting for an answer, he rushed at Daniel, gun raised as if to strike the prisoner, and the guard rushed at Carter, his gun in similar position. Daniel tried to back away and tripped, which saved him from getting his face bashed in. It also caused Seth to trip over him, carried by his own momentum, and they rolled together on the floor, each trying to subdue the other. Sam, for her part, ducked under the clumsy swing the guard sent her way. She landed several blows on him, to the point where it was about all he could do to block her fists … he couldn't even manage to get the gun into a position where firing it might be a threat to anything other than his own feet. He was clearly no match for her, but then the rolling fighters crashed into the back of her legs, causing her to lose her balance and have to struggle to remain standing, and the momentary distraction was enough for the guard to finally get his bearings back. He swung his gun around and pure luck caused him to hit the most-tender spot on her temple, and this time it was no act when she collapsed.

He raised his gun to strike her again, but before he could do any more damage, Janet was there, and her knee connected with the most-tender spot of his anatomy and he collapsed on top of Sam, who had herself landed on top of Seth and Daniel. Somehow, the guard's gun missed the archeologist's head and connected with his own leader's head with a hard smack, which no one in the room saw as anything other than poetic justice.

Janet, stronger than she looked from handling dead weight patients, hauled the moaning guard off of her friend, and shoved him aside, letting him curl up in agony on the floor. She then started checking pulses and eyeing the damage done, her attention centered on Carter.

Jack, straining against his loosened bonds, his voice thick with aggravation at still being tied up and missing a good fight, asked, "So how are they?"

Janet allowed her own frustration with the entire experience to come out in her tone, her voice catching unprofessionally as she took in the fresh injury to Carter's head. "Sam is unconscious … I need to get a better look at her … see how bad it is."

O'Neill heard the emotion and understood its cause, and his voice gentled as he prompted, "And the fruitloop and Daniel?"

Distractedly she answered, "He's out COLD … LAZARUS, I mean. The guard is still conscious, and so is Daniel."

As if to punctuate her words, the archeologist waved his one free hand in the air and spoke from his position on the bottom of the pile. "I'm fine, Jack. I just want to get these people off of me."

The plaintive note in his voice pushed Janet back into her best doctor mode. Gently she slid Sam off of the pile of bodies, then grabbed Seth by the collar and dragged him over to where the guard was regaining his senses. A sudden surge of anger flowed through her and she elbowed the guard, knowing from her medical training exactly where to hit to knock him out.

Daniel picked himself gingerly off the floor, while Janet turned to examine Sam. He paused beside the doctor, looking down at his teammate, and then was quickly recalled to duty when Jack said calmly but urgently, "Daniel, finish getting these ropes off me and then we need to free Teal'c. It's only A MATTER OF TIME before someone notices these two are missing and thinks to check in here."

"Right." Daniel moved over to the door and shut it, then quickly cut through the remainder of Jack's bonds before turning his attention to Teal'c's, moving with considerable haste and a lack of caution that made even the unflappable Jaffa grimace slightly.

Meanwhile, Sam was stirring under Janet's lightly probing touch. She looked up to see concern sketched on the face of her friend. "Hey, Janet," she said softly. Wasn't much of a greeting, but it had the effect of lighting the doctor's face like sunshine. She lay perfectly still as her friend continued to look her over … more than content to just rest for a moment or twenty. This definitely didn't qualify as the best vacation she'd ever had. Considerably less than the best, actually.

Several minutes later, Sam was upright and as good as could be expected under the circumstances, and Janet was looking relieved at that fact; Teal'c was free (and miraculously unharmed given the archeologist's enthusiasm for his task), and Jack was looking relieved at that. Seth and the guard were gagged and tied securely to the iron rings in the wall, and Daniel had finally gotten to open the refrigerator in search of food. He was disappointed in his search, since it revealed only some energy bars—which were rock hard from being kept cold. O'Neill grabbed a handful of them anyhow, saying that they would need to eat sometime.

O'Neill started to lead his team out of the cabin when Daniel cleared his throat nervously. "Uh, shouldn't we take their guns with us or something? You know, in case someone comes after us … so we can defend ourselves?"

Janet stared in shock for a moment at the normally pacifistic civilian and then whispered to Sam, "When did he start getting all macho and weapons happy?" The idea of the man actually wanting to have a gun close by was such a foreign one that it almost did not compute.

Sam shrugged somewhat helplessly, her blue gaze focused on her teammate as if he'd suddenly morphed into someone else. It was about the last thing she'd expected to hear him say. Unable to formulate any other response, she settled for the quiet, "Beats the hell out of me."

Once again, Teal'c spoke while O'Neill was still trying to figure out what—exactly—he should say. "We are significantly outnumbered, Daniel Jackson. Having two weapons with us would do nothing to protect us from twenty men armed with weapons. We could barely be assured of killing half of our enemies before we were out of ammunition and then we would most assuredly all perish as well."

Daniel's face fell and he looked like the big man had run over his puppy. Jack patted his arm clumsily and shot a glare at the Jaffa. "You're a big help," he said acidly. "Why'd you have to bring up the whole death theme?"

Teal'c's eyebrow rose slightly—a dramatic display of annoyance. "I was unaware that you wished for me to tell lays, O'Neill."

"Lies, Teal'c … you tell lies … fibs … untruths."

The big man seemed unperturbed at the lesson in grammar tenses and semantics. "Whatever. The point remains that I am simply speaking the truth. It will do no one any good if I act as though two weapons will effectively protect us when they will serve only to assist in our destruction."

Sam and Janet both stepped forward, the sudden motion effectively breaking the uneasy tableau. Carter's voice was quiet, but full of much needed practicality. "We can argue about this all we want once we're safely out of here. Right now, the best thing we can do to help ourselves is to get as far away from these guys as possible."

O'Neill wholeheartedly agreed with that sentiment. He turned to Daniel, who still looked a little stricken by Teal'c's cheerful assessment of their situation. "We're better off not taking their guns … if they catch up to us, we'll have a much better chance if we surrender than if we start shooting." The archeologist looked a little happier as he heard his usual philosophical stance being quoted by a military colonel, and complacently allowed the older man to lead him out of the cabin, Teal'c—shaking his head slightly in either amusement or disbelief, it was impossible to tell—following right behind.

As the women followed in their wake, Janet tugged lightly on Sam's sleeve and stretched up to whisper, "Is it just me, or does this whole experience just keep getting more and more surreal?" A low, affirmative chuckle came as a response.

Stealthily they all made their way away from the cabin and the guards, moving slowly and as quietly as a group of five people can move on unfamiliar terrain in the dark. Once they reached a place where Jack thought they were out of earshot, he skidded to a halt.

Before he could open his mouth, Daniel's was open and moving. "So, what's the plan?"

Jack jerked his thumb over his shoulder and gestured to the steep hill behind them. "We're gonna have to go back over this hill to the valley and then backtrack from there and climb up the hill to get to Hammond's cabin. We've still got the van there, so once we get to the cabin we'll be able to get the hell away from these psychos and get word to the SGC about this Lazarus guy."

Daniel chewed his lip nervously. "It's a nice plan … really. But there's one thing you've forgotten." Jack shot him a quizzical look, so he elaborated. "The trail we took from Hammond's place to this place is on the other side of the cabin, not on this side."

O'Neill couldn't resist a smirk. "I know that. Obviously we aren't going up the trail." Dead silence greeted that statement. "Think about it. We can't go back that way or they'll see us. They won't think that we've climbed up this way … through the trees … in the dark … without a trail … or flashlights. It'll give us enough time to get away and get to safety. Besides, it's shorter to go back up to the cabin from this side, rather than taking the trail." Before his companions could shake off their shock and think of anything to say, he added in his best persuasive tone (the one he used when the situation was really desperate and he was trying to keep everyone calm), "Relax … it'll be fun. Trust me."

Janet—as quick with a quip as the colonel—was the first to recover her wits. "Fun? Are you absolutely insane?" she whispered in annoyance, O'Neill's attempt at being reassuring obviously not having that effect on her at all. "All it would take is ONE FALSE STEP for someone to break an ankle and then we wouldn't be able to escape."

Daniel jumped in again, his whisper equal parts incredulity and worry. "And what if someone trips and falls? They could bump someone else and cause them to fall as well … it would be a CHAIN REACTION and we could all wind up injured and in a heap against a tree or at the bottom of the slope."

Sam's voice was hesitant … she didn't like the idea any more than her companions, but she didn't have a much better plan to offer, and the lack of one made her reluctant to second guess her CO. "Colonel, why can't we just go subdue the guards and tie them up and then make our way back up to the cabin?"

Teal'c—taking his turn to speak, but also speaking out of turn since the question was to O'Neill—replied calmly, "We do not have any more rope with which to bind the guards, we are vastly outnumbered and may not be able to avoid recapture, and we may well be injured in the course of a fight."

O'Neill shot an annoyed look at his friend for interrupting (since it seemed to him he was getting interrupted an awful lot), but merely echoed, "What Teal'c said." He used his best persuasive voice. "Look, I know it seems like I'm taking DESPERATE MEASURES here, but this guy is out to kill us, so the faster we get out of here undetected, the better off we'll be. URGO, we go up the back way."

Despite the gravity of the situation, three human voices whispered in perfect synch, "It's ergo."

The colonel didn't even bother to dignify that with a "whatever." Instead, he continued on his original train of thought. "It's the best shot we've got at getting out of here. Besides, I'll take the lead and blaze the trail and Teal'c will be last in case anyone needs help."

Janet knew she was playing with fire, given the underlying note of steel in O'Neill's voice, but she couldn't just leave it at that. "Sir, I know our options are limited, but I'm worried about Sam." She realized that there wasn't squat either one of them could do about it and that escape took precedence over non-fatal injuries, but she was a doctor through and through and had to at least voice her concern.

Predictably, the woman in question argued, "I'll be fine, Janet, really." Actually, she wasn't feeling all that great and the world was having an unfortunate tendency to spin at the most inopportune times. But she knew they needed to escape and she was bound and determined not to slow them down … and if there was one trait that Sam Carter had in spades, it was determination.

O'Neill rolled his eyes impatiently, but his tone was kind. "Look, doc, I am too. But we really don't have much choice. We need to get up over this hill and get to the next one so we can reach the SUMMIT, since that's where Hammond's cabin is, before these idiots figure out where we are. We'll all help Sam and we'll work together so that no one else gets hurt. But we need to get a move on it."

Janet opened her mouth as if to argue some more, then shut it abruptly and conceded with a one shouldered shrug, knowing they really had no choice. Knowing it didn't make her like it any better, however. O'Neill nodded and mouthed "thank you" and then without another word, led the group into the dense underbrush, moving with as much care as his haste would allow.

"Why do I feel like we're the Israelites on the EXODUS out of Egypt?" Janet quipped to Sam in an attempt to bolster her own flagging spirits.

The blonde woman smiled as she turned to follow her companions, deliberately keeping her tone light. "It's a good analogy, only I don't think the colonel makes a very good Moses."

The man in question turned around, a suspicious look on his face as he tried to decide if they were complaining, and if they were, whether they were going to continue it for the entire journey. With his eyes focused on the duo, the whispered exchange was effectively silenced, and O'Neill turned his attention to the task at hand as he led his people into the wilderness.

Daniel was right on Jack's heels; another inch closer and he'd be actually stepping on the older man's feet. Sam followed him, with Janet trailing close behind to keep an eye on her friend, figuring the middle of the group was probably the safest place for the wounded woman. Teal'c kept a respectable distance behind them, his ears perked for the slightest sound of pursuit, and his eyes focused on his companions to be watchful of any difficulty with which they might require his assistance.

After what seemed like years but was probably only an hour, O'Neill called a halt. He turned to Teal'c. "Any sign that they're behind us?"

The Jaffa spoke with certainty, even though his eyes were busy scanning the dark landscape. "To the best of my knowledge, they are not following us."

Daniel's voice was laced with uncertain hope. "Out of sight, OUT OF MIND?"

Jack laughed, running a tired hand through his hair, ruffling it. "Sorry, Daniel. I don't think they've forgotten about us this quickly. They're stupid, but not that stupid."

The archeologist snorted at that. "Oh, I don't know … they're definitely on the bottom of the LEARNING CURVE." He paused for a moment, rubbing his arms in an effort to ward off the chill. "They're probably stupid enough to build a bomb and set it so that it can only be detonated with a DEADMAN SWITCH, rather than by some kind of remote."

Jack choked with laughter at this point, no small bit of smugness in his tone as he got to correct the younger man. "Uh, Daniel … deadman switch is an old railroad term … it was a way to stop a train if something happened to …"

Before O'Neill could explain any further, the archeologist made a dismissive gesture with his hand and pouted, "Whatever. They'd still be stupid enough to do something like that … to build something they had to detonate themselves." He didn't care if it was exactly the right term or not … it sounded perfectly good to him.

The colonel's eyebrows twitched in a sign of his amusement and he coughed to hide his continued chuckles; Janet bit her lip to keep from laughing aloud, not wanting to hurt Daniel's feelings; and Teal'c simply shook his head ever so slightly at yet another mystifying conversational twist. Sam, taking pity on her teammate though her eyes were twinkling suspiciously, added with forced brightness, "Or they'd build a bomb to not detonate if something mechanical fails and call that a FAIL SAFE."

Teal'c cocked his head to the side, not following that logic in the slightest, and feeling safe enough from pursuit to indulge his curiosity. "Why would that be incorrect? Is not a fail safe a prevention of action if certain conditions are met?"

Janet, beating Sam to the response, said, "That's one meaning. But it also means a way of ensuring that a device continues to work in spite of mechanical failure."

Daniel, apparently recovered from his momentary sulk, threw in his two and a half cents. "It's a word that has more than one meaning and where the meanings may appear to be contradictory."

Teal'c shook his head slightly again, a gesture which spoke volumes on him. "Your language is indeed most strange. It is most amazing that you are able to effectively communicate with one another at all."

Before he could pursue that subject any more, O'Neill passed out the stolen energy bars. "May as well rest for a few minutes and get our strength back." He looked back over the path they'd just blazed, though he could see only darkness. Everyone but Tealc' sank gratefully to the ground, needing a moment to catch their breath and regain their strength. The sound of tearing foil wrap filled the night … followed in quick succession by the sounds of chewing … and chewing … and chewing.

"FIRE AND WATER," Daniel mumbled indistinctly, his mouth full of the never-ending-energy-bar-bite.

Sam, her own mouth still full, contented herself with the hastily murmured, "What?"

An audible sound of swallowing, and then the archeologist was able to reply clearly, leaning back against a tree trunk. "I'm cold and thirsty and was just thinking how nice a drink of water and a blazing fire would be right about now." Not to mention a change of clothes and a nice hot bath and an evening spent with nothing more menacing than a history book.

Jack, who somehow had eaten his entire bar in the amount of time it took the others to get through the first bite, automatically contradicted his friend. "It's not cold, Daniel."

"Yes, it is."

"No, it isn't."

"Jack, it's so cold I'll need to sit BETWEEN TWO FIRES in order to warm up."

"It's not cold, Danny-boy. If it was cold, I'd be able to see my breath."

"It's too dark to be able to see your breath … and it's still cold."

Janet opened her mouth to interject her three cents worth, only to be quieted by Sam's hand pressing over her mouth. She took the hint and remained quiet, while the debate raged on with an intensity suggesting it was as important an issue as whether the toilet seat should be left up or down.

Finally, a subtle note of exasperation in his tone, Teal'c said decisively, "This conversation is significantly hampering our escape." There were times when he thought he would never understand the point of pointless arguing.

Sam chirped ironically, "And it's giving me a headache."

Janet said … nothing. There were several things she wanted to say, but all of them were guaranteed to set the men off again, albeit on an entirely different sort of argument … one that involved her. And at this point, that idea was about as enticing as a root canal without anesthesia.

Jack sighed loudly, not liking the thought of a forfeit, but knowing that escape would—at the very least—allow for a rematch. "He's got a point. We need to get moving again. I really don't have the slightest bit of interest in seeing those guys again."

At that, Sam shrugged herself off the ground, helped by Janet, who had managed to stand up more quickly. Daniel unfolded himself like a long legged pretzel, and O'Neill jumped energetically to his feet. Teal'c waited patiently. Without a word, they all fell into the same formation they'd been in before, following O'Neill into the underbrush.

The group moved slowly, single file, the harsh sounds of their breath and the slight rustle of fir needles and rocks under their feet the only sounds in the crisp night air. O'Neill somehow seemed to know where they were going, but to Janet's eyes, the night covered trees and steep inclines all seemed to look the same. She suspected Daniel was as lost as she was, and given the way she could see Sam was having to concentrate on just putting one foot in front of the other, she rather thought the other woman didn't know where they were in the hills either … or more likely didn't have the energy necessary to care. After a while, they came to an abrupt break in the trees. Janet looked up reflexively and sighed in relief. She could just barely see the semi-familiar outline of the cabin's balcony at the top of the steep slope of dirt and rock.

Before Jack could say a word, Daniel said, gesturing to the slope in front of them, "You can't be serious."

O'Neill didn't have to ask to what the younger man was referring. "It looks worse than it is. It's really an easy climb. The dirt is packed hard and the big rocks are stable … like they're cemented into the side of the hill. We won't have any problem getting up it."

Janet shot a sharp look at the colonel, not quite believing that he was serious about going up that way, and not at all liking the idea of participating in the sport of mountain climbing (well, hill climbing, anyway) without any actual climbing gear. "And you know this exactly how?"

Even in the pale glow of the moon, she could see a flush settle over his face. "Well … uh … the last time I was here … lost a bet … had to go up this way …" He cleared his throat, then spoke defiantly as if daring anyone to contradict him. "It's really not a bad climb and once we get to the top, we can grab hold of the balcony edge and lever ourselves up. Use each rock as a FOOTHOLD and it's as easy as climbing a tree."

Sam walked over to the slope, reached out a tentative hand, and felt the dirt of the area in question. "Are you sure it's stable, sir? It feels almost like this is NEW GROUND … it's moist and crumbly … and it hasn't rained here in several days."

O'Neill turned his patented glare on her. "I know you're a PRODIGY, Carter, but since when have you been an expert in soils and climate … or meteorology, for that matter?" It was bad enough that she was always contradicting him about scientific stuff, but this wasn't even close to her area of expertise and this time he knew perfectly well what he was talking about.

She bit her lip, self-conscious under the abrasive words, and became intent on studying her feet. Janet moved next to her friend and placed a light hand on Sam's back in a gesture of support. Turning her own patented glare on O'Neill, the doctor spit acidly, "And I suppose you've got a PhD in all three subjects?" Fraiser liked the man, even got along with him when he wasn't in the infirmary, and she knew he was a good leader. But it bothered her to see him upbraid Carter when he didn't like what she had to say, especially since she knew the other woman tended to be sensitive to that sort of thing.

Jack didn't even bother to hide his exasperation, both with her challenge and with Carter's question. "No, but I have the practical experience because I've actually climbed the damn thing. Look, I'm telling you it's no big deal … it's like climbing a tree."

Daniel, indulging his need to share his opinions on everything, jumped in. "I think he's right. The rocks are really close together and I don't think it will be hard. I mean, I'm sure I can do it, and if I can do it, anyone can, right?"

The women looked at each other, sharing a look of profound discomfort. Sam screwed up her courage and tried again. "Sir, with all due respect, I understand that we're in a hurry. But it would be too easy for someone to fall and then we'll be in a very vulnerable position if Lazarus and his men are following us. Why is this faster than simply going up through the trees to the left? Is it really worth the risk?"

Surprisingly, Teal'c had the answer to the first question. "Because this is where two hills separate. This is the bottom of the hill that leads to the general's cabin, whereas if we go left and climb up through that tree line, while it appears we are on the same slope, we will find ourselves on the top of a different hill and we will have to then climb down it and then go up the correct one."

Jack said triumphantly, "Thank you, Teal'c. And before you ask, yes, we could go across this patch of dirt to the trees on the right side and be on the right hill, but there are so many rises and hollows in that whole area that it would take three times longer to get to the top." He paused briefly, just the very faintest touch of hurt in his voice when he continued, "And Carter, I wouldn't suggest it if I didn't think it was worth the risk."

She offered her CO a tiny shrug—the gesture equal parts embarrassed and apologetic. Still uncomfortable with the situation, she shared a long look with Janet, apparently hoping the other woman had a better argument than she'd presented. The doctor simply shrugged, not able to think of a single thing to say. Jack took their silence as agreement and instructed, "Ok, Daniel, you go up first and I'll be right behind you in case you need help. Carter and Doc, you come next, and Teal'c, you keep an eye on all of us." Pleased to have won the argument and convinced he was right in the first place, he couldn't resist a smirk as he added, "Don't worry so much, Carter, Fraiser. Relax … it'll be fun. Trust me."

As the boys started up the slope, Janet said in a low whisper for Sam's ear alone, "Fun? He's nuts." Then, more bitingly, she continued, "That man is the BANE of my existence."

Much to her surprise, there was an exasperated snort of agreement from the blonde. "Mine too," she commiserated glumly.

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."

The End

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