Daniels Diaries. Stargate SG-1 Fanfiction by Scribe
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Scapegoat

An untold tale from Dr Jackson's Diaries

 

All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

This story is rated PG13 - Angst. If you don't like violence don't read it! Other than that - all I'd like to say is that this is my first ever fanfic so I'd be grateful for comments, especially if their constructive ones. If time allows I'm hoping to bring more untold stories from Daniel's Diary.


 

Extract from the diary of Dr Daniel Jackson

I can hardly believe my luck. After week's of trailing around behind Jack, being told that I can have ten minutes to spend on archaeological investigation, I've finally got the chance to spend two whole days on a site that SG7 found. Not that Jack is looking forward to the trip of course. He says he's going to take a couple of hockey sticks so that he and Teal'c have something to amuse themselves with while Sam and I do all that science stuff. I'm working on him though. After all the guy likes astronomy and that's a science...

"We'll see you in 48 hours." General Hammond nodded at Colonel Jack O'Neill as SG1 began to walk up the ramp towards the activated Stargate.

"And Colonel, try not to break any car windows while you're gone."

Jack grinned and fondly patted the hockey sticks that he had slung over his shoulder. "This one's a holiday," he replied cheerfully. "Right, Daniel?"

Daniel Jackson's attention was already light years away. SG7 had been through to this planet two weeks earlier and reported there was nothing but the ruins of a Mayan-style culture. Jackson could hardly believe the team had ignored an old temple that was close to the Stargate, preferring instead to check the local terrain for more modern cultures. Of course, he reasoned, that was what they'd been ordered to do. Now, however, he was itching to explore.

He had fully expected his proposal of a return mission to be rejected out of hand and couldn't believe his luck when it was approved purely on an archaeological basis. Two whole days to spend doing what he loved most in the world. Of course Jack and Teal'c were along for the ride just in case they came across any information that might help them in their battle against the goa'uld. And Sam was dying to try out some new-fangled piece of survey equipment she had recently had delivered. But in the main, this was his trip.

.....................................

Stepping through the gate on the other side of the wormhole, the team looked around cautiously for inhabitants of the new world. Despite the reports from SG7 that the place seemed uninhabited, they were still wary.

"Seems OK, Sir." Carter shrugged off her back-pack and started unloading equipment. Instead of the usual military hardware they carried, SG1 was loaded with the latest scanning equipment to help them characterise as much as possible the age and origin of the ancient culture.

"Phew!" Jack reached in his pocket for his sunglasses. "SG7 didn't mention how hot it was."

Daniel was standing to one side, his gaze caught by the huge Mayan temple that was barely half a mile away. "It's incredible," he said to no-one in particular. He shrugged off his pack, dumping it beside Sam and pulled a small video camera from his pocket.

"Daniel," Jack called as he realised the direction the anthropologist was heading. "I know this is your trip, but could we be a little bit ordered here?"

Daniel shot Jack an imploring look. "Just a few pictures. I'll be right back. Besides, it'll take Sam at least an hour to sort the equipment. I'll just be in the way."

The expression on Daniel's face was more than Jack could bear. The guy was like a small child coming down on Christmas morning to a huge pile of unopened presents. Jack sighed and waved at Daniel to go. "O.K. O.K. Teal'c, go with him. Make sure he doesn't fall down any uncovered wells or anything."

Teal'c raised an eyebrow. Sometimes he couldn't figure out the relationship between these two humans. One moment it was like they hated each other. The next Jack would be all-protective and Daniel would treat the older man like an elder brother. It was most puzzling.

.....................................

"You know you really don't need to nursemaid me," Daniel said as he circled the outside of the temple, one eye glued to the video camera.

"Colonel O'Neill ordered me to come with you, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c responded.

"What can possibly go wrong?" Daniel protested. "This place has obviously been deserted for years."

"Even so..." Teal'c turned from the temple and peered into the surrounding foliage. Was it just his imagination? When he turned his attention back to Daniel, he realised the anthropologist had scaled the steps leading to the entrance and was now standing in the doorway of the ancient temple. Cool air tempted him forward. "Wow!" Daniel exclaimed as his eyes began to adjust to the light. He took a step forward. "Teal'c, come on up, you really ought to see this."

But before Teal'c could respond a noise behind him made the Jaffa whirl round. Even with his highly trained senses he had not been aware of the ten-strong armed band that had crept out of the undergrowth. They were dressed in light cotton clothing, with breastplates of leather. Teal'c raised his staff weapon uncertain of their intention. It seemed that all their eyes were on the entrance of the temple.

"Co'marcha!" one of the band exclaimed, motioning towards the entrance of the temple. "Co'marcha!"

Hoping he was understanding correctly and that he was right to assume this band did not present a threat, Teal'c called out. "Daniel Jackson!" Daniel reappeared in the entrance.

"Whoa," Daniel exclaimed. "Where did they come from?" He started down the steps, suddenly aware that he was the focus of attention. "Hello," he said cautiously. "My name is Daniel Jackson. Teal'c and I are explorers." He paused two steps from the bottom of temple. "And you are?"

"Co'marcha!" The leader of the band indicated the grass in front of the steps.

"Co'marcha," Daniel repeated. He took the last two steps.

As soon as his feet touched the grass all hell broke loose. Three of the band pounced on Jackson, shoving him to the ground. Before Teal'c could so much as blink his staff weapon was knocked from his hand. The band was uncannily well-prepared. In a few swift seconds Teal'c joined Jackson on the ground, and both men found themselves facing the wrong end of some very sharp blades.

....................................

"Colonel?" Sam caught sight of the group of men approaching apparently with Daniel and Teal'c in their midst. O'Neill glanced up and instinctively reached for his gun. Carter did likewise, but neither took aim. They exchanged glances as the band drew to a halt a few yards away.

"Daniel?" "Teal'c?" O'Neill asked.

"They caught us unaware," Teal'c replied, shame obvious in his voice. "It was as though they came from nowhere."

"Huh-huh." O'Neill said not knowing what else to reply. From where he stood it seemed that the Jaffa was unhurt and unbound. But unless he was mistaken it looked like Jackson had his hands tied behind his back. What he couldn't miss was the fact that both his companions had swords to their backs. "So what gives?" O'Neill asked.

The man behind Teal'c pushed the Jaffa towards Jack. "You are free to return through the Contella." He pointed at the Stargate. "Or you are free to watch the Marcha."

Teal'c moved slowly to Jack's side. "You OK?" Jack asked in a whisper. Teal'c merely nodded, his eyes on Jackson.

"And our friend?" Jack casually indicated Jackson with the end of his gun. He wondered if this band knew what firearms were.

"He is Co'Marcha. He stays with us."

"Daniel?" Jack asked.

"I'm not sure what I've..," Daniel began, but as he spoke the man next to him lashed out with a fist catching Jackson hard in the stomach. The anthropologist crumpled to his knees with a groan. Immediately Jack and Sam's guns went up.

"He is Co'Marcha. He stays with us." The leader gave a quick hand signal. Two of the group grabbed Jackson arms, which were indeed tied by the wrists behind his back, and began to frogmarch him away.

"Just a minute," O'Neill shouted. The group ignored him. Carter and O'Neill exchanged another look and then O'Neill opened fire. Bullets flew over the heads of the men, shattering the peacefulness of the surroundings.. The leader of the band did an abrupt about turn. Another hand signal and Jackson was pulled to the front of the group and forced back to his knees. A tall, dark-haired man yanked Jackson's head back and placed his sword blade at his exposed throat. O'Neill blinked, stunned at the speed with which these men could move.

"Lower your weapons or we will kill him here," barked the leader.

There was a long silence as O'Neill considered his options. A single shot would take out Jackson's would be executioner, but there was at least another dozen or so within a blade length. Reluctantly Jack lowered his gun, indicating that Carter should do the same. Immediately two of the hostile group ran forward and snatched the guns from them. "Leave or watch!" the leader ordered. "Do not interfere!" Jackson was pulled to his feet again, and the group continued it march away from the Stargate.

.....................................

Jack stood motionless for a moment, too stunned to think. "Sir?" Carter finally asked. "Do we follow?" The question brought Jack back to reality. "Yes, we follow."

"We don't have any other weapons, Sir." Carter hated pointing out the obvious, but this was meant to be a simple scouting a mission. A chance for Daniel to explore some ruins and maybe, if they struck lucky, an opportunity to learn a bit more about the goa'uld. Nothing from SG7 had indicated they would run into hostile humans.

"For crying out loud," O'Neill exclaimed. He rounded on Teal'c. "I thought I told you to watch him. What the hell did he do to get them so riled?"

"I do not know," Teal'c said, accepting O'Neill's rebuke. "Daniel Jackson was exploring the temple. The next minute we were attacked."

"But they didn't seem interested in you, Teal'c."

"No they did not. It seemed only Daniel Jackson was of concern."

Jack sighed. "And this... Co-marching stuff? What does that mean?"

"I do not know. It is not a goa'uld term."

"Colonel, they're covering a fair amount of ground." Sam said. "If we're going to track them..."

"Track them nothing," O'Neill said. "You heard them. They invited us to watch the... marching. Let's move." O'Neill glanced around desperately and then grabbed the hockey sticks. He tossed one to Teal'c. "Believe me. In the right hands these are offensive weapons."

.....................................

It seemed to Daniel that he had been walking for ever. No, he corrected himself. Running. The effortless speed at which these aliens moved was incredible. While they were barely warm, Jackson was sweating profusely, his breath coming in quick painful gasps. Of course, it didn't help to have his hands tied behind him, but even unbound he doubted if he would have kept pace with his captors with ease.

The idea of throwing up was just beginning to become an overwhelming compulsion, when the group suddenly pushed through some thick undergrowth and then stepped out into well camouflaged village. Daniel sighed as they stopped, his legs trembling at the sudden relief. However, his ordeal wasn't over. Two of the group dragged him roughly towards a small circular hut. Once inside, Daniel could just about make out that the roof of the hut was supported by a single wooden post.

Finally able to catch his breath long enough to form a sentence, Daniel tried to address his captors. "Do you think we could just discuss what's going on?"

He was rewarded with back-handed slap across the face, and was pushed against the pole. The smaller of the two men produced a length of strong rope and secured Jackson firmly.

"Co'Marcha!" He spat the word at Daniel, then both men left the hut, leaving the weary anthropologist alone in the darkness.

.....................................

The rest of SG1 arrived in the village moments after Jackson and his captors. Both Carter and O'Neill were breathing heavily, their clothes soaked with sweat, and even Teal'c looked as though he'd been working out. O'Neill surveyed the village quickly. A handful of small thatched dwellings, a large building that he would put money on being a meeting hall, and what an assortment of work buildings. The warriors were no where to be seen, and neither was Daniel.

"Great!" Jack muttered. He headed towards the meeting hall, grim-faced. Before he could reach it, the door opened and one of the warriors stepped out. He bowed to Jack and beckoned him and the rest of SG1 in. "Now they welcome us," Jack murmured as he stepped through the doorway.

It was dark and smoky inside the hall, the only light coming from a small fire in the centre of the room. As Jack's eyes grew accustomed to the gloom he made out the band of men that had taken Jackson captive, and a much older man seated on what looked like a pile of animal skins.

"Greetings!" The older man's voice was smooth and deep. "You are welcome amongst us."

"Thank you, that's nice," Jack replied, his face betraying the apparent sincerity of his words. He suddenly felt rather foolish wielding a hockey stick. "Now about our friend?"

"I am Dirye, Father of the Stauffen. Please, let me honour you with food and drink."

Thank you, no." Jack was determined. "You see, you snatch our friend, drag him several miles and now..."

"He is Co'Marcha!"

"So your people said. And that is?"

As if from nowhere, women arrived with platters of food and drink. Jack glowered at them as they tried to offer him a choice of delicacies.

Abruptly the old man waved the women to one side. He rose from his seat and took two goblets. Pouring wine into both, he moved to Jack and handed the tall soldier one. He studied O'Neill's face as if looking for something and then returned to his seat.

"Co'Marcha. An offering from the gods for the gods."

"Oh well that makes it clearer," O'Neill said sarcastically.

"If I may, Sir" Sam began. "Daniel Jackson isn't from the gods. We came through the Stargate - what you call the Contella. We're explorers."

Dirye smiled at her as if at a child. "He entered the temple. Only an offering from the gods would do such a thing."

Sam gazed at the man as understanding dawned on her. "You think Daniel is some kind of gift?"

"Of course," Dirye smiled. "Every few months the gods leave us a gift. Sometimes a wild animal - a rabbit or a deer. This time... this man."

"I see," O'Neill said a sense of relief beginning to creep over him. Being a gift didn't sound too bad. All they needed to do was explain that Danny wasn't sent here by some god and then head for home. There was just one problem, however, and O'Neill voiced it immediately. "Excuse me for saying so, but you have a strange way of treating your... gift."

"From the gods for the gods. The gifts are given for sacrifice - for us to be delivered of any wrong we have done since the last offering. If it weren't for the gifts, the gods would have to punish us."

Suddenly Carter realised what the old man meant. "Like a scapegoat." Jack raised an eyebrow at her. "Ancient cultures on earth would use a scapegoat to take the blame for all their..." Now Jack caught on. He turned sharply back to Dirye. "Exactly what to you intend to do with Dr Jackson."

"What we do with all Co'Marcha," the old man replied calmly. "He will be sacrificed in the Ceremony of Atonement."

.....................................

Jack had lost track of time. He had argued with Dirye for hours, explaining to him that Daniel was an explorer, that there was nothing mystical about his arrival in the temple, and - most-emphatically of all - that Jackson was not Co'Marcha. He even explained about the goa'uld, and suggested an alliance.

Dirye had listened impassively, occasionally asking Jack a question, sometimes simply shaking his head. The idea of an alliance appealed to him, although the goa'uld had not apparently visited this planet in known memory. As a safeguard though, Dirye considered the idea sensible. He was not however interested in trading Jackson for such an alliance.

Sam too had tried to appeal to the old leader, telling him about the religions of her world. Explaining carefully that human sacrifice was no longer practised, that in deed it was abhorrent. At one point an childhood memory sprang to mind.

"You know my grandmother always used to say that the best sacrifice was a contrite heart. She got that from one of our religious texts," Sam's face creased as she tried to remember exactly what it was that her grandmother used to say. Suddenly it was there.

"She used to say this, "You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it. You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a contrite heart."

"A contrite heart?" Dirye asked.

"Yes. The best sacrifice we could offer was to be sorry for the wrong we had done."

Yet just as Sam thought she was making head way Dirye simply dismissed the idea with a shrug.

Now Jack was getting mad. "Look," he said climbing to his feet and towering over the old man. "How about we just go out into the woods and catch you a nice rabbit for your ceremony?"

Dirye glared at him. "You mock our most sacred beliefs."

"Mock...!" Jack exploded. " No! Believe what you will. But leave Jackson out of it. He isn't part of your culture or your belief system. And he sure as hell wasn't sent here by any god. Gift or otherwise!"

Dirye got to his feet and signalled that the audience was over. "I cannot do what you ask," he replied.

Sam leapt to her feet and rashly positioned herself between Dirye and the door. Immediately one of the warriors moved towards her but Dirye waved him back.

"At least let us see him!"

Dirye gazed into Sam's blue eyes, and for the first time appeared to be moved. For an instant Sam thought he would agree to her request, but then it was as though a mask shut over his face.

"That isn't possible," Dirye said. "Accept the Co'Marcha's fate. Go back through the Contella - back through your Stargate."

.....................................

SG1 slept little that night. In the tiny hut, Daniel would fall asleep, only to jerk suddenly awake as muscle cramps hit his legs. His wrists were raw and bleeding from trying to escape the ropes, and he was desperately thirsty. The dehydration had also given him a cracking headache. But above all, he was afraid. With no way to tell how long he had been held captive, his morale had vanished fast. At one point he thought he heard Jack's voice, but his attempt to call for help had come out as a parched whisper. Now, alone and in pain, despair was beginning to creep over him.

In another hut on the far side of the village, the rest of SG1 was also wide awake. Jack's attempt to scout round the village had quickly been stopped by the warriors, and despite several hours of brainstorming, the team had come up with no plan to rescue Jackson.

Jack stood by the door and peered into the darkness. "You know, he's gotta be in one of those huts."

"Colonel, we've been over and over this." Sam was so tired she could hardly think straight, and the heat seemed to have got worse when the sun went down rather than better. "You step outside the door, and three of those goons appear out of nowhere. You aren't going to get to snoop around."

"We need another diversion." Jack began pacing again.

"I do not think these people will fall for another... diversion." Teal'c raised his eyebrow clearly remembering their earlier attempt to set fire to the hut they were in. That little escapade had earned them a fierce dressing down from Dirye, and the promise that if they dishonoured the hospitality they had been shown again they would be forcibly sent back through the Stargate.

"Hospitality," Jack muttered as he too replayed the incident in his mind. He hated feeling so useless, but with no weapons, and an enemy that could move so fast, he was powerless.

"Jack," Sam pleaded. "Let's get some rest. Maybe tomorrow we can figure out some way to help Daniel. Perhaps..."

"Perhaps..."

"Perhaps I can reach Dirye. For a moment back in the meeting hall I thought I was getting through."

"No offence, Captain," Jack replied. "But I'd be a lot happier if there was a bit more between Daniel and this sacrifice stuff than feminine wiles."

"Me too," Sam agreed. "But it may be our only shot."

Jack slumped wearily into a corner and hunched over as if to nurse the emotional pain he felt. Somehow Daniel had managed to get through the tough shell he had erected after his son's death, and now the younger man was his most valued friend. After all they had been through... Memories of another time when he thought he had lost Daniel flooded his mind - the time when Nem had kidnapped Daniel making SG1 believe he was dead. Jack cursed to himself. He wasn't going to let this happen. Somehow he would get Daniel out of this mess, and safely home. Hell, he'd even brought in a pack of Daniel's favourite beer just before they set off. He sure wasn't going to drink it on his own.

.....................................

The door of the hut was flung open. The pale light of early dawn revealed two of the warriors. Stepping in side, one set down a bucket of water. He plunged a rough earthen cup into it, and then lifted the water to Daniel's lips. The anthropologist drank desperately, inwardly cursing that more of the precious liquid went down his jacket than down his throat.

The empty cup was tossed into the bucket, as the warriors released Daniel from the pole and led him outside. Blinking in the light, Daniel made out the small village and a crowd of perhaps thirty people, standing in a small circle. The warriors led him to the centre of the circle and then backed away.

The sound of movements outside roused the rest of SG1 from their uneasy sleep. Jack was first out of the door, hockey stick in hand.

"Daniel!" The relief in Carter's voice was poignant as she reached the crowd and spotted the anthropologist, but her heart sank as she took in the fact that he was still tied by the wrists and clearly exhausted. As SG1 arrived on the scene six Stauffen warriors moved to stand beside them. The largest of the group addressed Jack, making it clear to the Colonel that his hand was on the hilt of his sword. "You will not interfere!"

Jack was just about to retort when Dirye appeared from the meeting hut. The old man was dressed in some sort of ceremonial robe and flanked by four warriors wearing what appeared to be plumed headdresses. Slowly Dirye walked to the group. The circle opened silently to allow him entry, and he positioned himself in front of Daniel. The four warriors moved behind the anthropologist cutting off any retreat that he might have attempted. Daniel studied Dirye, wondering what was coming next. Behind the old man he spotted Jack. His eyes met those of the office, the appeal for help obvious. Jack took a step forward and heard the slither of steel against steel. The warrior next to him laid a cool hand against his arm. "Do not!"

Dirye began to speak, his words almost melodious as he recited what must have been part of an ancient ritual. Jack could sense the excitement rising in the crowd as the alien words began to increase in pace and volume. Then, with a suddenness that made even the Stauffen gasp, Dirye produced a wooden staff from his ceremonial robe and struck Daniel with it.

As his friend collapsed to the ground with a cry, it was Jack's turn to move. He struck out at the Stauffen next to him with as much strength as he could muster. He was rewarded by hearing the big man groan as the hockey stick shattered across his chest. But before Jack could take out the second Stauffen, the air seemed full of deadly weapons. To one side, he could see Carter had a sword to her throat, while to the other Teal'c was already surrounded. A sharp point pricked Jack's back.

Dirye turned from prone figure of Daniel and glared at Jack. "Take them to their hut and see they remain there until the ceremony is ended." Without further ado, Carter, O'Neill and Teal'c were marched away. Behind them, Jack heard the foreign chanting begin again. As the sound of wood contacting human flesh sounded again he ground his fingernails into the palms of his hands in frustration.

.....................................

It was several hours before Dirye arrived at the hut that had now become a prison to SG1. During that time the team had barely spoken - their thoughts being too painful to voice. Jack felt numb - the inability to act on Daniel's behalf more painful then any physical hurt. In his mind, he could see the relief that had washed over Daniel's face as he recognised his friend. There had been such trust there as they exchanged glances. And then... He pushed the image away. He'd let Daniel down. All the promises he'd made to himself about not losing another friend...

As Dirye stepped through the door with his usual warrior guard, Jack barely looked at him. "We'd like to take Daniel's body home."

"Your friend is not yet dead," Dirye replied. "The ceremony takes three days. There are stages..."

Even as Sam was overwhelmed with relief her sharp mind picked up the change in vocabulary. Dirye had referred to Daniel as their friend, not as Co'Marcha. She forced herself to catch and hold the old man's eyes. Jack however, was too stressed too notice anything. He leapt to his feet and, stepping between Sam and Dirye eye-balled the man.

"Stages! Stages! Just where do you get off beating up an innocent by-stander in the name of your gods!"

Dirye cut him off. "You will be returned to the Contella this evening.."

"NO!" Jack shouted. "We aren't leaving without Jackson." As Teal'c rose and placed his large frame behind the Colonel, Sam decided it was time to intervene.

"Please," she said. "We'll honour your ways. But please honour ours. Let us at least return with our friend's body."

Jack whirled to face her, his expression clearly saying that she had gone completely mad. She shot him look of appeal and then returned her attention to Dirye. "It would be a great dishonour for us to return without him."

Dirye looked from her to Jack and then back again. "Very well. But..." He turned back to Jack. "Do not try my patience further." He turned to leave, but Sam wasn't finished.

"One more request," she implored. "Let us... Let me see Daniel."

Dirye remained facing the door. "Why? If you minister to him, it will merely prolong the Co'Marcha."

Sam answered simply. "I need to see him."

For a long moment Dirye was motionless. Then his right hand motioned to one the warriors. "It can do no harm. Take her to him. Then return her here."

Sam sighed as Dirye moved away. Jack moved towards her, his expression one of bafflement. "We'll honour their ways?"

"It bought us some time, Sir. At least we're still this side of the Stargate."

.....................................

As the door to the hut shut behind her, Sam peered into the darkness. She wrinkled her nose at the strong smell of an unwashed body that hung in the hot atmosphere. "Daniel," she called. As her eyes became accustomed to the dim light, she made out the shape of the anthropologist lying on the floor against one wall, his back to the centre of the room. She went to him quickly, laying her hand on his shoulder. He groaned at her touch, gentle though it was.

"Daniel!" This time Sam was able to give into her relief that he was still alive. She made short work of the ropes that still bound his wrists, and very gently rolled him over on to his back.

"Sam?" he whispered.

"Yes, Daniel. I'm here." She watched as he mouthed another word. "Water?" she glanced around, saw the bucket and fetched some for him. Carefully she helped him to a sitting position, cursing Dirye as contours of pain turned Daniel's handsome face into a mask of agony. Daniel gulped half a cup, nearly choked himself, but still managed to mutter a few swear words between painful breaths.

"Hey, take it steady," Sam took the cup from him. Refilling it, she held it to his lips. Guessing he was dehydrated, she refused his request for more. "Give your body chance to absorb that first. Otherwise you'll be sick."

Too weary to argue, Daniel simply leaned against her.

"We thought they were going to kill you," she said. Without thinking she stroked his hair back from his face. She had suddenly realised how much Daniel had been like a big brother to her. His sharp mind often getting ahead of her own, his gently teasing of her potential admirers, his cautious protectiveness of her - acknowledging that she was capable of looking after herself yet still watching over her. Now as she looked into the pain-creased eyes, he seemed so young. Young and vulnerable. A sudden anger flared in her at the injustice of what was going on. Of all the people she knew, Daniel probably deserved this treatment least.

"So did I." Daniel croaked. "I must have passed out. When I woke up I was back here." He shuffled his weight and groaned again.

"Where does it hurt?" Sam hated to be pushy, but she didn't know how long the Stauffen would give her, and she needed as much information as possible if SG1 were going to have any chance at a rescue.

"Everywhere."

"Lie down. Let me check you over!" Carefully she helped Daniel ease himself back to the floor. As gently as she could, she ran her fingers over his chest. As she had suspected, he had at least four broken ribs. She could only guess at possible internal injuries, and was grateful for the dark. Even in the dim light she could see the huge bruises that covered his body.

"Bad, huh?" Daniel looked into Sam's blue eyes and wished that there was less concern in them. He'd already figured he was in poor shape. Even a blast from a staff weapon didn't hurt this much.

"I've seen worse." Sam tried to sound positive. "Remember that time the Colonel and I pitched up in Antarctica..."

But Daniel was in no mood for reminiscences, however well intentioned. "Why are they doing this?"

Sam sighed. "It's a long story. Basically..."

The door of the hut opened. "You must come now." A Stauffen motioned at Sam.

"Just a minute!" Sam fetched the water bucket and placed it close to Daniel. She crouched near him and whispered. "A little at a time now."

As she moved to stand he reached out and grabbed her hand. "You are going to get me out of here, aren't you?"

Sam swallowed hard. "Of course we are. When have we ever let you down."

.....................................

Jack was pacing. Ever the man of action he couldn't bear the thought of Daniel in pain across the village while he was helpless to do anything. Not only that, but the team had managed to discover what the rest of the ceremony involved. Tomorrow morning Daniel was in for another beating. If he survived that, the final act of the ceremony on the following morning would be to slash his wrists. When he'd finished bleeding to death, the village would throw a huge feast, celebrating the fact that they were once more on the right side of their gods.

Jack's stomach was in knots. Why couldn't these people see how barbaric this was? He turned to Teal'c. "O.K. Tomorrow we work together. If we all attack together..."

"I do not think that will work," Teal'c replied. "These warriors are fast and they out-number us at least ten to one."

"With all due respect, Sir," Sam added. "There is no way we are going to over-power these people. And even if we did, we're miles from the Stargate. Daniel's already badly hurt. We'd never get him there with a band of angry Stauffen on our tail." Sam was disappointed that her latest appeal to Dirye had been a failure. She had tried every argument she could think of to persuade him to let Daniel go, dredging up every memory of a hostage negotiation course she'd once attended. At one point Dirye had even referred to Daniel by name, but though he was beginning to see the anthropologist as a person rather than just a faceless gift from the gods, he had remained unmoved by Sam's final appeal. In desperation, she had even made the first move in a seduction, but Dirye had politely informed her that at his age such an approach would also fail.

"So what do you suggest, Captain?" Jack asked. "'Cos frankly I'm all out of ideas, and if we don't do anything, Daniel is going to die out there tomorrow."

"Maybe SG3?" Teal'c suggested. "It is nearly 48 hours since we came through the Stargate. General Hammond will send them to find us."

"As the Captain said, we're miles from the gate. It could take them days to locate us."

"We'll just have to try another appeal," Sam said. "You saw him when I was talking about the contrite heart."

"Yeh, just what was all that about?"

"My grandmother, Sir. She loved the Psalms - you know from the Bible."

"Yes, Captain. I know where Psalms comes from."

"She used to quote various bits to us. Kind of made up for the fact that my Dad never had anytime for Sunday school I guess. You know Colonel, the basic premise of Christianity is one of a scapegoat - Jesus dying for the sins of mankind. One life for many."

Jack snorted. "Philosophy is one thing, Carter. But we're facing one big difference, here. Jesus was a willing sacrifice. Daniel isn't. And while Dirye may have found your contrite heart idea fascinating it didn't look to me like he was about to turn Daniel loose."

.....................................

Jack guessed it was about five a.m. The conversation on religion had soon petered out, but while Teal'c and Sam slept, Jack had lain awake, toying with an idea. Something Carter had said had triggered the memory of a Bible verse in his mind too - a verse he had heard all too often at military funerals.

Jack gazed out at the village as the first rays of sunlight began to add a pink haze to the darkness. Soon a new day would begin, and for the first time since arriving on this world, Jack had a serious, if somewhat drastic, plan.

.....................................

The Stauffen fetched Daniel from the hut as soon as the sun had fully risen. Once more the circle of villagers formed, waiting for Dirye. As Jack, Sam and Teal'c left their hut, two warriors immediately approached them. Jack raised his hands in a sign of surrender. "We won't cause trouble." With an air of reluctance, the warriors let them join the circle.

All eyes turned on Dirye and his warriors as they stepped from the hut. Standing in the centre of the circle, his hands once more bound, Daniel swayed on his feet, his eyes desperately seeking his friends. Surely they weren't going to let him go through this again. Dark memories of yesterday filled Daniel's mind and he knew without any doubt that this time he would not awake in the hut.

As the circle opened to let Dirye through, Jack spoke out. "I wish to speak."

All eyes turned to him, including Dirye's. The Father of the Stauffen turned towards the Colonel. "You have nothing to say that I would wish to hear."

"I think I do," Jack said.

Dirye glared at him. "I have already..."

"Please!" Jack rarely implored anything of anybody, and he suspected that Dirye knew this. The older man eyed him carefully, recognising that granting Jack's petition would make him look good. Besides, he was curious to hear what this human would say. The woman had been most persuasive in her argument. If he had any choice in the matter he might even have given in to her request. But tradition was tradition, and his gods - although no one could remember them interfering in Stauffen life - were not to be trifled with. "Speak".

Jack stepped into the circle and took a deep breath. "You've talked a great deal about making sacrifices to your gods. Well, on my world there is a saying: 'Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.' So I have a proposal for you. Set Daniel free. Let me take his place."

"Jack, no!" The words burst from Daniel.

Jack turned to his friend. "Don't argue with me over this one, Danny. My mind is made up. SG1 is my responsibility, and that covers you fair and square. Whatever it takes to see you get home safely." Jack turned back to Dirye before Daniel could respond. "What do you say?"

The old man gazed at him in astonishment. "You would be Co'Marcha willingly?"

Jack swallowed hard, the image of Daniel's bruised face burning in his mind. "Yep."

Dirye looked from Jack to Daniel and then back again. "Bind him," he pointed at Jack. And put them both in the hut. I need to consult the ancient texts before I decide on this."

Sam and Teal'c gazed at one another in astonishment as both Jack and Daniel were led away. Dirye and his guards hurried away in the direction of the meeting hall, and one by one the crowd drifted away, their excited chatter filling the early morning air.

.....................................

"Gee, Daniel. You stink," Jack complained when the two men were alone. They were tied back to back to the post in the middle of the hut.

"Sorry, they confiscated my deodorant." Daniel tried to laugh, but the effort left him wheezing in pain. "Damn, broken ribs."

"Yeh, Carter counted four. You'll be catching up with me soon."

"Great," Daniel replied. "Now we're competing over broken bones. How many do I have to break to get one of those medals you flash on your mantelpiece."

"Ah, for those it's at least a leg."

Suddenly Daniel became serious. "What the hell are you doing in here, Jack? You know they'll probably kill us both."

"Guess I just ran out of my usual options," Jack quipped, but then he too grew serious. "I couldn't just stand by and watch them do that to you again. And that saying kept coming into my mind. We all have to go sometime, I guess I just wanted to make my death count for something."

Daniel considered Jack's words for a long moment, realising that the friendship he had with this infuriating guy had just become that much more precious to him. He smiled to himself and swallowed the emotional sentiments he had been on the verge of coming out with - those would have to keep until he'd had a few beers. Instead he retorted in his best O'Neill mimic. "Oh that's just great. You get to die the hero's death and I have to spend the rest of my life trying to make it count."

"That's about it, Danny. And don't think that naming a pyramid after me will get you off the hook."

There was a long silence, then Daniel said, "You know that was just about the first thing General Hammond ever said to me."

"What?" Jack was bemused.

"That I stink. Goat, I think it was. He complained that I smelt like a goat."

In the darkness Jack grinned. Sometimes he just couldn't figure out the way Daniel's mind worked, but at times like this, he was glad of any light relief.

.....................................

The circle of Stauffens had reformed, this time around both Daniel and Jack. Dirye, still dressed in his ceremonial robes looked from the battered face of the younger man to the stern face of the older. He had studied the ancient texts for many hours, and finally given up trying to find a solution to this dilemma. Suddenly the words that had always seemed so clear to him seemed confusing - instead of simple statements he saw vague ideas that were open to interpretation. Finally he had called for the ceremony to continue. But now, as he looked intently into O'Neill's face, he found himself at a loss. A strange man, this one he thought. So quick to anger, and so rude - yet willing to die for this fair-haired one. And the woman - she had told him some interesting tales - stories of people who took responsibility for their own actions. Even a God who had paid the price for his people himself. Dirye was old, but he wasn't stupid and he suspected that he and his people could learn a lot from these humans.

Dirye moved to stand before Daniel, his mind suddenly made up. He pulled a knife from a hidden pocket. Daniel flinched at the sight of the blade, but Dirye's intention was harmless. Spinning the anthropologist round, Dirye sliced through the ropes that bound his hand. "You are free to go. I accept your friend in your place."

Daniel turned back, rubbing at his wrists. "No.." he began to protest.

"Daniel," O'Neil's voice was one of reprimand. Like a father to an errant child. Before Daniel could protest again, Dirye moved in front of the colonel. "I believe my gods will accept your sacrifice." O'Neill drew in a sharp breath, painfully aware of the blade in Dirye's hand, but the old man turned to address the Stauffens.

"I have studied the ancient texts again. And it seems to me that there are times when our gods teach us new ways. I believe this is one of those times. They have sent this Co'Marcha," his hand indicated Daniel, "and his friend to show us a new way." He turned back to O'Neil. "I believe they accept your willingness to sacrifice yourself for your friend. But I must put it too the test." O'Neil instinctively stepped backwards believing at any moment the knife was going to strike. But Dirye once again the Stauffens. "These people have come with new ideas. You have heard them talk of the importance of what is in a man's heart. And you have witnessed with your own eyes, what is in this man's heart. So I ask each one of you to show what is in your hearts. Shall we remain with our tradition or shall we embrace a new way? Each of you seek yourselves for the will of the gods." There was a long silence. The Stauffen in the circle shuffled their feet,a few looked bemused, but most stared intently into the middle distance. Standing in the middle of them, O'Neil felt a bead of perspiration run down his face. He could sense Daniel's uncertainty as the anthropologist stood to the side, and he hoped that this wouldn't be one of the anthropologist's moments of rash action. Suddenly Diyre spoke again. "So Stauffen - what is it to be. Raise your hand for the old ways. O'Neil saw a few hands raised. He tried to count them, but realised he couldn't see those behind him. "And for the new ways."

Dirye turned a slow circle, clearly counting the raised hands. "So be it!" He approached O'Neil who swallowed hard, and then with one swift knife stroke he cut the colonel free.

Dirye once again addressed his people. "The Comarcha is complete. The new has come. The old is gone. Let us feast."

A roar of approval rang from the crowd, and people immediately began to hurry away to prepare the feast. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw Daniel sway and then stumble to his knees exhausted both mentally and physically. Quickly he moved to his friend's side, slipping an arm under Jackson's arms to help the anthropologist upright. Teal'c was on Jackson's other side almost as quickly.

"That's it then," Jack asked. "Just like that. We're free to go."

Dirye nodded. "But perhaps, when you're friend has recovered you will return. There is much we could learn from each other."

Jack looked at Daniel, who somehow managed to nod his approval. Typical Jack thought. The guy goes through hell, yet he's still willing to come back and build a relationship with these people. He smiled ruefully at his friend - perhaps Dirye and his people weren't the only ones who still had things to learn. Jack looked Dirye in the eyes. "Perhaps," he replied. "One day."

.....................................

Extract from the diary of Dr Daniel Jackson

The painkillers that Dr Frasier pumped into me on my return from PX4211 have finally worn off and I can think straight again. I was somewhat embarrassed to find that at some point during the past three days, I'd been thoroughly bathed. It's nice to smell good, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the tall dark-haired nurse that pops in and out of my room has seen rather more of me than I might have wished.

Even more embarrassing was when I asked to shave. I guess my face must be fairly bruised still because Dr Frasier seemed very reluctant to let me have a mirror. In the end the same nurse did the job. Somehow her touch brought back memories of Sha're, and before I could stop myself I found tears running down my face. Dr Frasier says it's natural to get emotional after being so close to death, and that the painkillers probably played a part in it. Even so, I could tell she was shocked. I guess she's used to dealing with tough soldiers like Jack all the time.

Ah Jack. He called by earlier. Ever the joker he brought me a can of deodorant - extra strength. After we'd kidded around about it I didn't know what say. It's not every day a guy offers his life for you. I tried to thank him but he just laughed it off. Said he actually had some other plan in mind and that it was just delaying tactics. So I played the game - made light of the whole thing. But I know deep down - he would've gone through with it. And that's really scary because I know there is more too it than just the fact that he's the commander of SG1. And that leaves the question - how do you live up to such a friendship?


 

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