Pure of Heart
Part Four


Daniel dreamed.

In a place far away, in a world where nothing else mattered except he was free and Jack was with him. Daniel knew it was a dream and yet it was real. Jack was real. His strength, his love, Jack was a force filling him, steadying him, empowering him. Though he knew this only through feelings, sensations, gradually Daniel began to understand what was happening was - actually happening. It really was Jack he was feeling. Jack's emotions - his concern, his desire to help, his unflagging support and strength. Somehow Jack was trying to reach out to him, help him, the only way he could. Somehow - he was able to.

Daniel stirred slightly and smiled in his sleep. He had - a weapon. A shield. A buttress against the pain and fear which had been threatening to crush him. He had a way to fight back, to hold onto himself, to get himself through whatever horrors might be ahead of him. He had all of these things, and his name was Jack O'Neill.

Guided by an instinct he didn't understand Daniel reached out toward the comfort flowing into him, trying to tell the man who surrounded him with his love he understood. What was happening, what he was trying to do.

Got it, Jack, I got it. You're coming through loud and clear. Thank you..

Reached out and felt an answering thrill - a response of leaping, pyrotechnic joy. Jack knew he knew... He knew.. Jack would be there, no matter what happened. Jack knew he understood, knew he wasn't powerless. Neither one of them were. Not any more. He was going to be all right now.

A voice cut through his triumph. Someone saying his name, shaking him gently.

"Daniel? I'm sorry to disturb you, but I have to leave now."

Daniel opened his eyes to see Nah'tak's kind face leaning over him. Awake, but Jack was still with him. Could still feel him. Just like in the dream. Not a dream, really was Jack. Really was Jack..

Hugging his secret close to his heart, Daniel struggled to still his fierce excitement and focus on the man addressing him.

Daniel sat up, rubbing his eyes, automatically punching the bridge of his nose with his index finger to push back up glasses that weren't there. Oh - he forgot. He hadn't seen them since he'd lost them in the struggle with Delios' men. Had no idea what had happened to them. Been a bit much on his mind since then to think about asking about them. The way things were, he rather preferred them a little blurry anyway..

Ah, not blurry enough. Even without his glasses Daniel could not help but notice Nah'tak was not alone. He'd brought company. The woman he had never seen before. The man - not the same story. Unfortunately.

Delios. His number one fan. Oh joy. Judging from the look on his face, he was itching to have another go at trying to drown him in the pool across the way. Daniel looked at the elegant and haughty lesser Goa'uld shooting loathing at him.

He felt suddenly reckless, and more than a bit dangerous. Like he suddenly didn't care how much Moppsy hated him. Like he almost wished the braided, overdressed Q-Tip would try and take a crack at him. He let his insolent disregard for the other man's disdain spill out all over his face and assume the shape of a challenging, rakish grin which he levelled full at him - high beams and all.

Go for it, tough guy, you look like you could use a reality check. I'll even endorse it for you.

Daniel suddenly realised he was reacting an awful lot like Jack would...

Definitely more than going with the flow Daniel pushed himself to his feet.

"I must leave you now, Daniel," Nah'tak addressed him kindly. " Chronos desires you be escorted back to your room. He instructed Delios to bring your attendant to you. She will accompany you, and see to your needs. Whatever you desire in the way of food or drink she will supply you."

The First Prime paused, looking at the openly smirking First Maintainer, then back at Daniel.

"You will be all right?" he asked Daniel, intrigued by the aggressive, challenging look Chronos' Favoured was hurling right back at Delios.

"Yeah," Daniel nodded, never taking his eyes from his opponent. "Yeah. I'm good. I'm fine. Don't worry. I can handle this clown."

I do believe you can.

Carefully marshalling his own smile, Nah'tak bowed to Daniel and walked away. Somewhat reluctantly - he had every confidence he was leaving behind what doubtless would be an extremely interesting encounter.

As soon as Nah'tak was safely out of sight and earshot Delios put an arm around the petite, auburn-haired woman standing beside him. Nuzzling her hair while smirking at Daniel he addressed her in a falsely contrite voice.

"I am sorry my dear, for inflicting this demeaning task upon you but alas, I could spare no one else. I can only hope you will not find it too repulsive to have to pander to this - " he waved a disparaging hand at Daniel, wrinkling his nose as he groped for a suitably unflattering epithet.

" - this - this - human."

"That was clever!" Daniel snorted. "Mr. Trebek, can I have 'obvious insults of more than one syllable for two hundred dollars' please?"

Delios stared blankly at him, not understanding the rejoinder. Daniel pressed his advantage; aware the woman was watching him closely, with a keenly assessing look on her face not at all in keeping with the demeanour of a supposed servant. Interesting..

"What's the matter, don't get cable this far out? Maybe you should try and talk Chronos into springing for a satellite dish."

The First Maintainer was beginning to become irate, as it began to dawn on him he was more than slightly losing ground. Took him long enough...

Come on come on - try and take a poke at me!

"What's the matter, tough guy? Only like to pick on people who are tied up and can't fight back?"

"How dare you speak to me like that!" Delios blustered.

"Ooh! Another cliché!" Daniel jeered at him. "Hope you can fight better than you can posture!"

The First Maintainer howled and lunged at him, clumsily confident in his superior strength. Daniel neatly side-stepped the charge, coming up quickly behind him and grabbing him in a headlock before he had a change to realise what had happened. Daniel held him, bracing himself against the struggles of the enraged man, feeling an enormous sense of satisfaction surge through him as he slowly, resolutely tightened his grip.

Delios was panicking now, his struggles becoming more frantic, the gurgling noises he was emitting growing weaker.

It would be so easy just to keep on squeezing.. Would feel so good..

"Surprise!" Daniel hissed into the ear of the slowly suffocating man. "I'm not tied up now. Had to fight for my life more than once - picked up a few things along the way. And I've had a pretty good teacher. Now, you listen to me you puffed up, overdressed asshole - not only can I take you - but in case you hadn't noticed, I'm the one your boss is chasing around the bed every night, so I think that puts me one up on the totem pole, don't you? I 'm going to let you go now. I'll do what I please, talk to you anyway I please and if you give me any more grief - next time I'll keep squeezing till your eyes pop out! You GOT that?"

With a snort of disgust Daniel released him and pushed him roughly away from him. Delios gasped, stumbled and fell to the ground where he remained for several minutes, chest heaving in panic, struggling to regain his breath. Finally he somewhat recovered himself, sparing one brief second to cast a baleful, hate-filled glance back at the man who had humiliated him in front of the woman who had silently witnessed the entire scene. Then he scrambled to his feet and scurried away after flinging something which sounded vaguely like 'you'll pay for this Tau'ri pig' back at Daniel.

"Ah - your MOMMA!" Daniel mocked him as he fled.

Daniel was trembling with exhilaration and excitement. As he carefully held the item he had lifted from Delios' belt up against his wrist, its cold length concealed within his long sleeve he felt an exultant whoop building within him, rising up, needing to break free, so he happily obliged it.

"GOD - that felt GOOD!" he yelled! "Yes!"

"Maybe so," the woman spoke for the first time, he voice distinctly human. "But you have to know it wasn't very smart. Delios isn't going to forget. I'd watch my back from now on, if I were you."

Daniel turned his attention to his companion. She was a very tiny woman; small, exquisitely proportioned, with a pale, delicately featured face dominated by enormous hazel eyes. Cascades of auburn hair were painstakingly arranged in the elaborate coif seemingly favoured by most of Chronos' servants, although she wore the same type of simple, unadorned sleeveless white gown of the servants of the night before.

"So who are you?" he regarded her with a slightly challenging look. "My latest keeper? What's to stop me from flattening you too, and then getting the hell out of here?"

Hazel eyes flashed golden at him as the woman smiled. "Daniel - I'm shocked!" the Goa'uld voice was playful. "Selmac told me you were a gentleman!"

Daniel gaped at her, then staggered a few steps backward as the shock accompanying the realisation hit him.

"To - Tok - " he stammered as the temporary euphoria of the adrenaline rush drained away from him, leaving him feeling suddenly weak and bereft.

The Tok'ra woman grabbed his arm, and began to lead him over to the pond and the small artificial waterfall which cascaded there. She made him sit on the grassy bank, put his head down between his knees, and then sat beside him, waiting until his colour started coming back.

"Whoa," he smiled ruefully at her when he finally was able to lift his head and look at her. "Guess I'm still not completely back from what that bastard did to me last night."

"It usually takes several days to full recover from injuries as severe as the ones inflicted upon you healed only by the device. You are doing remarkably well - you should not even be able to stand."

"Never mind taking on the school yard bully. And handing him his head."

"He had it coming," the woman smiled at him. "I haven't much enjoyed letting him paw me in order to stay as close to Chronos as I have. Still," she paused, looking at him, a compassionate flicker in her eyes; "there are worse fates.."

"Well, we'll just leave that one alone, shall we?" Daniel shifted uncomfortably at the reminder. "Tok'ra - I presume?"

"You are correct. I am Kirma. My host's name is Maya. We can't talk long - not here. Too dangerous. Every place on this ship but Chronos chambers is constantly surveilled. We have contrived to be assigned as your personal attendant, so there will be more opportunities for us to communicate safely. We're here to help you, Daniel. You're not alone."

"That's great," he breathed fervently. "I could use some. What's the plan? How long - I mean - can I expect - when are my friends coming for me? Do you know anything about it - what? What is it? What did I say?"

Kirma's eyes were heavy with regret. The look on her face was starting to scare him.

"Daniel - your friends are not coming for you."

"What - what do you mean - not coming for me - of course they're coming for me, they wouldn't - wouldn't just .. LEAVE me here.." Daniel hoped his voice wasn't as scared as it sounded.

"They have no choice. Your government has chosen to abandon you. Chronos sent them an ultimatum - if any attempt was made to rescue you, he would revoke Earth's Protected Planet status. Colonel O'Neill recommended to your government no attempt be made to rescue you, because of the threat which existed to Earth. Your President agreed with him and issued the order. They're not coming for you, Daniel."

"No." Daniel stammered. "No - no - Jack - wouldn't.. He wouldn't do that.... He wouldn't - leave me. Not true.. Can't be true. not - Jack..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As two very worried friends anxiously watched his every movement, Jack restlessly paced the floor of Daniel's office like a caged, frustrated jungle cat. He would punctuate his tireless back and forth transit of the floor with abrupt stops, when he would stand rigidly in place and with clenched hands and closed eyes grit his teeth and shake with the force of some new terrible sensation which tore through him at the same time as it was being experienced by the distant man Jack was linked to.

Jack stopped again. He held his breath, the expression on his face both pained and frustrated.

"Shit!" he barked through clenched teeth. "Goddamn it! Ah - JE-sus!" he groaned, clutching his middle, falling to his knees. He hugged his arms to himself as his hunched body began heaving in sympathetic resonance to Daniel's immediate physical activities.

"Sick," Jack moaned, looking a little green himself. "He's sick. Oh momma, this is bad."

Luena knelt down beside him, putting a comforting hand on the small of his back.

"Pull away, Jack," she said soothingly. "Like I showed you. You can distance yourself from it - you don't have to go through it."

"No?" Jack flared at her, eyes snapping with anger. "Well HE does! He can't 'pull away' from it! Damned if I'm gonna go easy on myself and leave him to go through this crap by himself. Not going to happen."

"Jack!" she said sternly to him. "Getting caught up in this isn't going to help him! He doesn't need you to suffer with him; he needs you to help him get through it! You can't do that if you can't focus because you are being pulled down by what Daniel is feeling."

Jack set his jaw and stubbornly shook his head. "Won't let go of him," he grunted.

"Men!" The Telshar woman spat out disgustedly as she balled the hand resting on Jack's back into a fist and thumped him roundly on the back with it. Nobody's ASKING you to - shit-for-brains! Stop trying to show us how tough you are! Start pulling back and getting yourself under control or so help me I'll give you something to really cry about!"

Shuddering Jack meekly nodded, then closed his eyes, and started to take long, regular, slow breaths. As he continued to breathe deeply the trembling in his body started to gradually subside. He began to unclench from the hunched ball he had formerly been assuming, shifting himself over until he was sitting cross-legged on the floor, still breathing deeply, his eyes still closed, a look of deep concentration on his face.

"Okay," he murmured. "It's getting better now. He's feeling better. Me too." He opened one eye and used it to glare accusingly at the woman sitting beside him. "Gonna have a bruise now," he said in a slightly petulant tone.

"Consider yourself lucky that's all you got," she returned, her voice anything but contrite. "I've killed bigger men than you for less."

Jack gulped as he looked across the room to catch Teal'c's eye. He could swear the Jaffa was grinning from ear to ear behind his carefully neutral expression.

"Ya know - I believe her!" Jack mugged.

"I believe that would be wise," Teal'c nodded.

"Thanks," Jack smiled ruefully at her. "It's just so hard - knowing what is happening to him - not being able to stop it. Makes me a little crazy." His eyes grew bleak as memories of what he had recently felt returned to him. "God. Plenty of stuff for the daily report already. It's not even ten thirty yet."

Jack closed his eyes against the eruption of his own sorrow, burying his face in the shoulder of the woman who came forward to meet his need, her arms surrounding him as he began to shake with the force of his own grief.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You SEE! I TOLD you it was too much all at once! Trying to turn him against O'Neill as well - right from the start!

All right - all RIGHT! Honestly, you are the most insufferably smug human I have ever had the misfortune of being blended with! Fine, we'll do it YOUR way then. Pull back a bit, but remember, we must turn him against all of his friends. He has to trust us, look to the Tok'ra as his only friends and allies.

I know - I'm not stupid! Now, just keep quiet and let me do the talking for a little while.

Maya inwardly laughed at the uncomplimentary parting epithet her symbiote thought at her and turned her attention to the man at her side. Man who used to be at her side - Daniel had hurriedly scrambled away from her - driven to distance himself from the messenger by the force of his horror and disbelief at the contents of the message.

He squatted on the ground several feet away from her, his face white with shock, vehemently shaking his head as he muttered over and over, "No - no - not Jack.. Not Jack."

She knew she had to get him out of here before he completely fell to pieces before her very eyes. The state he was in he could literally say anything. Too many eyes watching, anyone could come in at any time...

She went to him, knelt beside him, took him by the arms, made him look at her.

"Shhhh! Daniel, you must calm down!" she said soothingly. "I'm sorry - Kirma shouldn't have said that to you. The report we received was - sketchy - we could be wrong about the colonel. I'm sure we are. It's all right; it'll be fine. You still have friends."

She continued to speak to him in calming tones, mouthing the same reassuring platitudes in a carefully modulated voice, rising and falling in a deliberately hypnotic cadence. Doing what she had been painstakingly trained to do, and doing it effectively, if Daniel's reaction was anything to go by.

He began to calm, began to nod slowly as he listened to her, started to echo her words.

"Wrong. You're wrong. Wrong about Jack.."

"Yes, Daniel," she continued softly, stroking the side of his face. There now, it's all right. It's all right. That's better, now, isn't it?"

He nodded slowly, but the eyes which looked at her were still clouded with uncertainty. Well, at least he wasn't panicking anymore. It was good enough to get him back to Chronos' suite and then they could go back to work on him again.

"Daniel, I need you to come with me now. You have to go back to your room. Can you do that for me?"

His eyes swam with regret; deep reluctance tinged his features. "Do I have to?" he said in a small, imploring voice, darting his eyes about the garden around him as if desperately seeking some avenue of escape.

"Yes," she replied, in that instant feeling genuine sympathy for his unhappiness. In that one fleeting interval she didn't see a tool it was her job to bend to the uses of her movement, she saw a lone, vulnerable, desperate man who only wanted to go home.

In that moment all she wanted to do was help him get away.

Then the moment passed...

"Come now, Daniel. I'm sorry, but you have to come with me. We have to go now. You don't want to make Chronos angry at you, now do you?"

Fear blazed brightly in the deep blue eyes. Daniel said nothing, quickly pushing himself to his feet. So - that was one way to get him to move. Have to remember that..

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel sat curled on the couch in Chronos' suite, his body deliberately positioned so he could not see the bed. His attention was fully devoted to the second mugful of the coffee he had requested, refusing anything else. Maya/Kirma sat quietly on the other side of the couch, their experience telling them it was wisest to wait in silence for a little while longer, waiting for him to begin to speak when he was ready.

Still resolutely clutching the mug with one hand, he began to irritably finger the thick, heavy gold collar inset with a large, deep blue crystal sitting at the base of his throat. As he continued to pull at it he looked up, seeing her watching him.

"My dog collar," he explained in a bitter voice. "So I can come when my master whistles and he always knows where to find me. Nice, huh? Even goes with my eyes. Or so I'm told.."

He looked away from her, set the mug down, and buried his face in his hands.

"Jesus," he exclaimed, the hysterical edge to his voice barely muffled by his hands. "I still can't believe this is happening. Still hoping this is some kind of bad dream and any minute I'm just going to - wake up."

He drew his knees up to his chest, pressing his forehead to them as he wrapped his arms around his folded legs.

"I have to get out of here - have to get away from him." His diffused voice dripped with anguish. "You don't know what he did - what it felt like to have him... I - I can't stand it. Even having him just look at me makes me sick. He won't leave me alone - always - always.. Touching me..."

Maya moved toward him, placing a comforting hand on his head.

"Listen to me, Daniel," she said in a strong voice, trying to sound as supportive as possible. "We're working on it. Your government may have abandoned you, but you have friends in the Tok'ra. You're an ally, and we don't turn our backs on our own. We're working to get you out of here, but it won't be easy, and it's going to take time. It'll happen faster if you help us."

Daniel's head came up, eyes shining brightly with hope and unshed tears.

"What? What can I do?" His brow knit with confusion as he posed the question. He obviously didn't understand the power of his position. Time to enlighten him, and get him started on his new tasks...

"It would be easier to plan your escape it we knew certain things. Things you are in a position to discover for us. Where Chronos is going. Who he sees. His plans. Things like that, other things we'll ask you to find out for us - so we can know the best and safest way to get you out."

Daniel looked at her, still puzzled. "I don't understand - how can I - what good would I be to you in this?"

"Think, Daniel," she gently cued. "What did you do today? What did you hear Chronos say? What did Nah'tak tell you?"

"We - walked about the ship for awhile," Daniel began with a reflective look, licking his lips as he cast his mind back, trying to remember. "He gave me a bit of a tour. It's so big.. We went to the bridge - ah - peltak. Nah'tak made - a course correction. Put us on another leg of the trip.

"Everyone thinks we are going to Anderas - at least that's what Chronos has told everyone, but we're not... We're going to some place called - Utal - I think that's what Nah'tak said. He and Chronos are the only ones who input the courses and make any navigational adjustments. Nah'tak told me they never divulge the true destination, and never go anywhere directly. Make constant course changes and corrections and kinda - zig zag their way there. That way no one ever knows for sure where they are, where they are going except for Chronos, Nah'tak - and - "

Daniel's eyes widened as the realisation dawned on him. " - And - and me! Omigod!" he looked at her excitedly. "I know where we're going! Okay, okay - I see where you are going with this, what else did we do, what else, what else what else - OH!"

Maya stifled a triumphant smile as she watched Daniel surge to his feet and began to restlessly pace with the force of his excitement. This was going to be a lot easier than she had dared to hope..

"We spent most of the time in his - war room. He was mostly talking with his advisors - can't remember what he called them, didn't really pay a lot of attention to what they were saying, just got bits and pieces - didn't really want to hear anymore after I heard what they were planning to do to - what was the name of that place - oh - sorry, head is hurting, hard to remember - I'll get it in a second - what was it - Drasha! That was the name - Drasha!"

"What about Drasha, Daniel?" Maya cut in quickly, trying not to sound too curious or anxious.

"Oh - " Daniel blinked several times, momentarily confused by the interruption of his stream of consciousness delivery. "Drasha - ah - uh - they're - they're gonna kill everybody there. Some kind of internal civil dispute has been going on there for ages. The fighting is interfering with production of some kind of - something which Chronos can't get anywhere else - anyway, he's warned the natives to stop fighting - they won't listen to him and he's had enough. Figures it is easier just to wipe them all out and put his own people in there to take over the operation. So that's what he's planning to do. Just - kill them all because they won't listen to him." Daniel stopped talking, his expression desolate. "I - I didn't want to listen any more after that..."

You HEAR that! He's finally going to do it! We have to inform the Council - we might be able to use this - the massacre might finally tip the balance, convince the Inkava to join forces with us. Especially with the way Heru'ur has been encroaching on their area of space.

I hear - I hear! Be quiet!

"Anyway," Daniel continued, a little more subdued. "Chronos - I - I - guess he could see I really didn't want to be there anymore - he thought - listen, is there a terminal somewhere here? He said it would give me something to do if I got bored - I'm logged onto the system, voice access - don't know how much clearance I have - but I'm in."

"Yes,!" Maya said excitedly, turning to touch the upper right hand corner of the table in front of them. A large, square portion of it silently opened upward, revealing the flat, dull surface of the interface monitor resting beneath it. 'There you go," she smiled at him. "It will close back down automatically as soon as you log off."

Daniel sat down in front of it, beside her, rubbing his hands nervously on his thighs.

"I suppose it wouldn't hurt to poke around a bit, to see where I can go, what I can find out." He turned to her, smiling uncertainly. "At least as far as it will let me get. Don't imagine it will be much more than the library archives where he first sent me. Still, you never know."

She laid an admonishing hand on his arm. "Just - be careful. Supposing you can get into the system farther than the archives, that is. These terminals are continuously monitored by security; all users and everything they access constantly checked and recorded. Just - be careful."

He smiled at her, a genuine, warm smile giving evidence he was touched by her concern for him.

"Listen, I'm not crazy but anything that will get me out of here faster - I'm willing to take the risk."

Good - good - he trusts you. Ask him!

Not yet! Be patient! We don't want to push him with too much too soon. As long as he thinks he's finding out information to earn his freedom he'll work for us. Bend over backward to help us. That's all we need for now. We push him for any more; we might make him suspicious!

Daniel was staring at the thin, blank screen, an expression of deep concentration on his face.

"I wonder if I could find out.. Listen!" He turned back to Maya, his voice and expression urgent. "I need you to do something for me - for all of us. You have to get a message to the SGC. This is important - vital. Chronos told me there's an Ashrak undercover in the complex. This mug - " he continued, indicating the vessel he had reached down to retrieve, "this is mine. It came from my office. Whoever it is - they're in deep enough to have access to mission information, sensitive information about the base and its personnel. Access to private offices. He's even been in my house.

"There's no way to know what they've been in a position to hear - what Chronos subsequently knows about what is going on as a result. I know he receives regular reports. I'll see if I can get a look at them, find out who it is, but barring that - you have to warn the base - let them know they have an infiltrator. I think he's only been there since shortly after the summit.

"It could be a human, but given the time factor and the problem with security clearances I'm guessing it's a Goa'uld who has taken over someone already cleared to be at the base. Someone we already know and trust. Tell them I'd automatically eliminate any of the SG teams, or anyone who has been through the gate in that period of time. If an Ashrak had tried to use one of them - the Goa'uld would have been detected in the course of the medical exam. Someone already cleared makes the most sense. That would probably be the easiest. As long as he stays clear of Sam and Teal'c, he'd be able to get away with it."

"I'll pass it on as soon as I can," Maya nodded reassuringly at him. "We have to be careful, it's not easy to get messages out, or receive them. I'll do what I can. In the meantime, Daniel, I'll try and find out what we need to know in order to be able to come up with a plan to get you out of here as soon as possible. Just keep this in mind - ANYTHING you can learn from Chronos would be helpful. You can best help yourself and us by taking every opportunity presented to you to find out whatever he is willing to let you learn, even if it isn't - pleasant. You just don't know when and how a piece of information might come in handy. You help us like that, believe me, you'll be out of here in no time."

"That's great!" Daniel beamed at her. "That's so great. Okay," he nodded solemnly. "I'll do it. I'll keep my eyes and ears open. Can't get away from this place soon enough. Thank you!"

His gratitude shining in his eyes, he impulsively reached forward and enfolded her in a fervent, thankful hug. She returned the ardent embrace for a second, feeling deep shame bite through her.

Good job. He believed you. He actually thinks we're going to help him.

Oh - just - shut up! I really hate this job.

Huh - little late in the day to be developing a conscience, don't you think, my dear?

I said - SHUT UP!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel rubbed his burning eyes, telling the terminal he wanted to log off, then massaged his aching temples. His head was pounding, probably from being without his glasses so long, eyes hurt, couldn't look at the screen anymore. It was all right, though, he had found what he was looking for. Well, one of the things he was looking for..

It had been surprisingly easy. Didn't know what he was expecting, but he was astonished at the organisation and comprehensiveness of Chronos' computer network. The number of archives, the logical way they were all linked, the amount of information they contained, the efficiency of the search engines - there was even an inbuilt translation function which had enabled him to switch to English once wading his way through Goa'uld had proven too taxing for his already overburdened brain. All of it was extremely impressive and very surprising.

It wasn't just all dry statistics and how-to-rule-the-world stuff here. When it came to the kind of information he sought and stored, Chronos had extremely eclectic tastes. Daniel had stumbled across cultural and historical archives which had made his mouth water. Hadn't had time for more than a cursory glance at most of it - he was on the hunt for some very specific information.

He had found it. Wasn't sure what he was going to do with it yet, but he'd found what he was looking for.

Well, Chronos had told him he took great stock in accurate and timely information and intelligence; he hadn't been kidding. The scope of the system and its meticulous, uncompromising organisation spoke much about the man who had commissioned it. Someone who was driven by the need to know - everything. Not only to know - but to be able to satisfy the need as quickly and accurately as possible.

Daniel found himself being able to very strongly relate to that desire. The passion for acquiring knowledge born of the need for understanding had driven his life. Strange, if asked if he considered Chronos to have had any inclinations toward intellectual, scholarly pursuits his answer would have been firmly, unshakeably in the negative. After what he had just seen, he was definitely going to have to revise that assessment..

Speaking of Chronos - oh, and did we have to... Daniel leaned back on the couch, weary and suddenly full of renewed dread. The hope of deliverance brought to him by his new ally and the excitement of discovery quickly evaporated as he realised he couldn't hope to avoid having to suffer the presence of the System Lord much longer. He had no idea how long he had been here - but it had to be getting late. Daniel closed his eyes, tried to work his way through the pain throbbing in his skull, tried to quell the rising panic as he looked for the solace he desperately hoped he would find within.

He'll be coming for me soon, Jack. It'll start all over again. Don't want to be alone. Don't know what's going to happen, don't know if I can make it. Help me.

There, there - Jack was there. Warm strength rising within him, like a hug covering him from head to toe. Jack who would be there - wouldn't leave him - no matter what Kirma had said.

Feeling all the fear and tension drain from him as Jack's concern filled him, Daniel let his mind roam back and replay the conversation of the afternoon. Something not right about it. Something wrong. Why had they lied to him about Jack? They had lied - he had no doubt about that. He had only to feel the truth of Jack's love as it burned inside him to know the Tok'ra woman had lied to him. If she'd lied about Jack - what else had she lied about as well? Why?

Daniel Jackson wasn't quite the naïve, trusting innocent everybody took him for. Nor did he intend to buy the Tok'ra's story hook, line and sinker. Here was another motivation to try and find the reports from the Ashrak - to see if her story checked out. If the President had in fact, ordered the SGC to leave him twisting in the wind. Or, he could do a little fishing on this end. Pump Nah'tak for information, find out if Chronos had in fact issued the ultimatum. Nah'tak would tell him - and he'd tell him the truth.

One thing he was not going to be was anybody's little puppet. Not Chronos - not the Tok'ra's. It they thought they could run him through hoops for their amusement and edification they had the wrong forcibly transplanted archaeologist.

And if he found out they were just jerking his chain he'd tell the Tok'ra to take a hike too. Cause if they were lying to him about Jack and the government, they were probably lying to him about their plans to rescue him as well.

Didn't have to be an Einstein to figure out why, if the way she had led him to discovering it and the eagerness with which Maya had latched onto the information about Drasha was anything to go by...

Daniel groaned, wishing the pain in his head would go away. He was tired, sick at heart; he didn't want any part of this James-Bond-in-Space scenario he now found himself in. He just wanted to go home, to fall asleep in his own bed, safe in Jack's arms..

He was drifting languidly in a warm, waveless sea. Cocooned in a peaceful bubble of tranquillity and love, safe, inviolate..

A confusing cacophony of aromas called to him, someone was gently shaking him, calling his name. Daniel frowned, shifting in his sleep. Not wanting to answer, not wanting to be pulled from the safe, warm place. Just let me be, let me drift out to sea..

"Daniel?"

The hated voice stabbed him, shocked him awake. It meant to try to fool him, pretending to be gentle, but he knew it lied. Lied.

Shocked into instant wakefulness, Daniel's eyes flew open. Looked into those of Chronos, bending over him, his face and eyes glowing with something Daniel did not want to see. God. Him. It's him. It's going to start.

"I thought you would never awaken," the System Lord breathed softly, his shining eyes roaming over him restlessly. "I have missed you."

He paused, an expectant, hopeful look on his face as he awaited a positive response to his comment. Daniel merely stared back at him, his gaze as stony and impassive as his visage. Chronos' eyes flickered, the merest ghost of disappointment flashed across his features, then he assumed his customary indulgent, slightly patronising expression.

"They have brought the evening meal. I took the liberty of having them prepare a number of dishes from your world. I thought you would prefer to have something familiar. I know you have not eaten anything today. Please, will you join me? Surely there will be something here to your liking."

"Not hungry," Daniel said stubbornly. He didn't even look at the banquet spread out on the table in front of him. The aromas wafting up from it were wrecking enough havoc with his stomach as it was.

Chronos pursed his lips in an unhappy frown, brushing his fingers through Daniel's hair, choosing not to see the way the man beneath him twitched in revulsion at the contact.

"Daniel, you must eat something. This is not healthy. I do not wish to see you become ill."

"So, what are you going to do, slap me around until I do what you want?" Daniel retorted belligerently. "That'll sure make me feel better!"

His head was pounding again. The strong food smells making him feel sick. The presence of Chronos so close to him making him feel even sicker. Well, there was no way he was going to get through this evening without being mauled - perhaps worse. Might as well suck it up and get it over with. Then maybe Chronos would leave him alone for a little while.

"I would never do that," Chronos was murmuring, looking as if he was closing in for a kiss. Daniel expelled an impatient sigh, pushed him away, got quickly to his feet and crossed over to the bed. Divesting himself of the robe which had been 'laid out' for him he threw himself naked on the bed, flinging his words at his captor.

"Cut the romance, I'm not buying it. You're going to do whatever you want to me anyway, might as well get right down to it and get it over with. So - let's go. Let's do this thing. What are you waiting for?"

Chronos walked up to the side of the bed. He reached down, picked up the discarded robe from the floor and stood silently, twisting the garment in his hands as he looked at the man glaring back at him. When he spoke at last his voice was that of a normal human man, a deep, resonant voice, completely free of any sort of taint of the Goa'uld.

"Is this the way you think I want you? The way you think I view you? Do you really believe I value you so little?" He looked away, an expression of utter hopelessness on his face. "But - why should you not?" he continued, a bitter smile twisting his lips. "After what I have done to you? Why should you not think I look on you as nothing but something to be used, when that is exactly the way I have treated you."

He turned his gaze back to Daniel, smiling uncertainly at him as he gently tossed the robe in his hand back to him.

"Cover yourself, Daniel," he said with kind sadness. "I would not see you cheapen yourself like this. It is beneath you. You need have no fear. I - I will trouble you no more..."

He had to be hearing things - had to be seeing things. It was the pain in his head - making him hallucinate. As Daniel watched in wonderment Chronos turned, wavered slightly and then sat down heavily on the edge of the bed. His back to Daniel, head bowed, his hunched figure described a perfect picture of defeat and despair.

This - this wasn't a trick. This was real. The System Lord was actually - genuinely - sorry. More than that, he was deeply distressed. Daniel sat up, not quite believing it was happening, but he felt himself edging a little closer, moved by the same whisper of curiosity and concern which he couldn't believe he was feeling but couldn't seem to help and which also caused him to say, "Uh - are you all right?"

Chronos shrugged, an incongruently helpless gesture. "I don't know," he said softly, his voice still human. "There is a pain - in here." He placed a hand on his chest, over his heart, massaging the spot absently as he continued to speak. "Like an ache. I don't know what it is. I've never felt anything like it before. It grows worse, whenever I am near you. It troubles me."

Daniel said nothing, fear and fascination mingling. He dreaded what Chronos would say next and at the same time felt a strange wonder at what he was seeing. What seemed to be happening right before his eyes.

"I know how much you hate me and my kind," Chronos continued, still not looking at the man he was addressing. "You have good cause. I know Apophis took your wife from you. Killed her. I know what you think of us. You think us beasts, monsters. Inhuman creatures who prey on others, stealing the bodies of innocents, enslaving the rightful owners in a prison of their own flesh.

"You think I am a callous, unfeeling thing who cares nothing for the pain and suffering I inflict on those I consider lesser beings than myself. You think I take pleasure in the suffering of others. You think I rejoiced when - I hurt you.

"You are right. In my time, I have been all of this. I have done things, to suit my own needs and purposes which would doubtless make you shrink from me forever if you knew the whole of it. I have been, by your definitions, that which you would call a monster. But I am also - what I am."

For the first time he turned to look at the man behind him. Chronos' dark eyes were sad, resigned, and yet strangely unashamed.

"Do you know what I am - Daniel? You think you do - but do you understand, do you really understand - what kind of being I am?

"I was old when we first came to your world and claimed it and your people for our use. I am older still - now. Older than all of your recorded history. I will be - long after you have turned to dust and are forgotten. Compared to me you are a fleeting, ephemeral shadow, barely making enough of an impression in time to even be considered a being of consequence. You cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to have existed for as long as I have. The things I have witnessed - the things I know - you cannot possibly comprehend what I have seen, been and done - and yet - you judge me.

"Maybe it is fit for you to do so, maybe it is not. I cannot say. I am what I am. That is all I have ever needed to know. Everything I have ever done has come from understanding that. What I needed to do has always been very clear to me. My path - clearly defined, my course of action equally set and decided. No doubts, no uncertainty.

"There was a way, one way only. My way - my order - my will. Things were to be as I wished it - as I deemed it to be fit and right. That was the way it was. The way it should be. There was nothing else. I have never thought to question any of it - never needed to consider if there was anything else other than - as I willed. Never had a cause to examine the rightness of my own actions. Never - until I met you.

Chronos paused for a moment, took a deep breath, shook his head sadly. "I will not lie to you, at first - you were simply another amusement to me. As fascinating as I found your defiance, your loathing even, I expected no more of you than I had any of the others I had blessed with my favour. I still do not understand when and how that - changed. " He paused, looked at Daniel searchingly, and then began to speak once more. "Maybe that is not so." he said softly, his voice dying away as he stopped to consider his next words.

"You called to him," he began again. "Clung to him even as you knew hearing you speak his name made me angrier. I very nearly killed you for it, Daniel. I it has been a long time since anyone inspired such a rage within me. I did not understand this - I needed to know why.

"So - I did not kill you. I read the books you write your thoughts in, the ones the Ashrak collected for you so I could understand why. I had not thought a being so finite could be so - profound. I did not think you humans capable of such deep emotions - such understanding. The one I claimed was little more than a brute when I took him. From your behaviour I thought the rest of you no better. It never bothered me to use you; you seemed incapable of acting little better than animals. But - it is not your fault. You live such short, little lives. It has to limit your intelligence, your comprehension. At least that is what I thought. This makes me question many things. Many, many of my beliefs. I have much to think about, Daniel. Especially the way I have come to feel about you.

"Do you appreciate the kind of power I wield? Do you understand what I can do - with a word? I could burn your world to ashes - on a whim. Seal the fate of a thousand worlds with the wave of my hand. I hold the power of life and death for billions of people on countless worlds all over this galaxy - in the palm of my hand. This is not a small thing, Daniel. You think me a heedless, cruel and fickle creature, but I am never unmindful of the advantages and consequences of power. It is a terrible responsibility - a divine one. Requiring divine wisdom of the one who holds this power. Such I have striven to acquire, such I have striven to become. Why should I not? Why should I not call myself a god - think of myself as one - behave as one - if I can do all of this as I choose?"

Chronos' eyes suddenly softened, turning upon Daniel with a wistful fondness. "You may laugh at me now, for I am also a fool. I will tell you something I have just discovered. Something I never knew, in all the time I have been alive. What I have sought all my life, striven to attain, struggled to hold onto, the power I have coveted and jealously guarded - it is meaningless," he said softly. "It is nothing. All I have, all I can do, everything I imagined myself to be - I care nothing for it. For none of it will give me that which I most desire. None of it will make you look at me with kindness, or wipe the hate from your heart. What good does it do to be a god, even if billions know and fear you, if you cannot have the adoration of the only one you desire?

"What shall I do, Daniel? How can I make you happy? What would please you? What can I give you? What would you ask of me? I would do something - if only you would tell me what would please you."

In spite of himself, Daniel felt himself smile. The pain in his head was almost past bearing. He'd already decided what he was seeing and hearing was some strange waking dream manufactured by his fevered brain. Why not smile? Why not answer?

"There is something," Daniel began slowly, hearing his own voice issuing from his throat from very, very far away. "Something that would please me very much. Please don't kill the people of Drasha. It's not right. It's also not necessary. I think I've found a bloodless solution to your problem and it would make me very happy if you would consider it."

"What - what did you just say to me?" Chronos was struggling to understand something, his battle against the confusion plain in his expression and the restless, troubled look in his eyes. " I tell you I would do anything to please you and you ask nothing for yourself. You do not say to me - 'let me go' or - 'leave my sight forever'. You ask instead that I rescind my judgement on an insignificant bunch of primitives on a distant world you had never even heard of before today? Why would you do such a thing? What are they to you?"

"Not - insignificant, Chronos," Daniel gasped as sudden, blinding pain flared behind his eyes. "Living beings... have a right to live... different from you, yes - but no less - important.."

"Daniel! What is it - what's the matter?"

That was Chronos' voice, far away, getting farther. The pain was blotting everything else out, couldn't stop himself from falling, it was going to be a long, hard fall, pitching head first into utter blackness suddenly not falling, someone catching, holding but still all black...

"Daniel..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Sam - if you would just calm down and listen to your old man for just a moment."

"Just - answer the question, Dad. That's all I want to hear from you. The truth. Is what the colonel said - true?"

Samantha Carter restlessly paced the length of the floor in the small room occupied by her father in the Tok'ra's crystalline underground complex. Several times she had brushed off his attempts to get her to sit down and calm down. She had a full head of steam going, fuelled by no small amount of truly righteous indignation, and she had no intention of letting go of an iota of it until she got a straight answer from the man she thought she knew. But now was beginning to seriously wonder about.

"That's not a question I can answer with a simple yes or no," Jacob Carter finally replied.

Sam stopped pacing, and favoured her father with a disgusted look. "What's THAT supposed to mean? What's going on here, Dad, you been taking lessons in Tok'ra doublespeak or something? This is ME you're talking to. Sam. Your daughter. Since when have you ever --taken to talking out of both sides of your mouth at once?"

Jacob looked back at her, a sad and slightly frustrated look on his face. But he didn't say a word. Sam narrowed her eyes at him, expelled an exasperated sigh and started pacing again. When she finally stopped and rounded on him once more, she was even angrier.

"You gave a mighty fancy speech to the general back there. About how hurt you were we didn't believe you are the same regular stand-up guy you have always been - and we should just accept what you say - we should trust you cause we know you."

She stopped pacing again, looking at him hard, not sparing him. Knowing what she was about to say would probably hurt him, but she had no choice. She had to know. Had to get the truth. For Daniel, yes. But also for herself.

She had to know if the man looking at her, begging her to believe him and understand was still, in fact, the same man she knew she could trust. She had to know if he was still her father.

She had no idea what she was going to do if she discovered he wasn't..

"What you used to be - it's not good enough. Not enough of a reason to step back and put my friend's fate in your hands. Not a good enough reason for me to trust you now. Cause, correct me if I'm wrong, but the man you used to be wouldn't have lied to me. Wouldn't still be holding out on me now. So you either tell me what I want to know right here and now, or I'll have to assume the man I used to know doesn't exist anymore. And whoever the hell YOU are now - we have nothing more to talk about! Your choice. Jacob."

Jacob met her flint-like gaze for several seconds, then hung his head. "It's not like Jack says," he began quietly. "Well, not like he thinks. Not for the reason he thinks.."

"But it's true - isn't it?" Sam pressed mercilessly, taking no pleasure in the bitter vindication of her suspicions. "The Tok'ra want to control Chronos and the Alliance - through Daniel. They don't want to destroy it - don't want to break the power of the System Lords as they have been claiming all this time - they want the power - for themselves."

"Yes," Jacob said quietly, his head still bowed. "But you have to understand - "

"Why?" Sam raged at him. "What is there to 'understand'? The Tok'ra - you - have been lying to us about your motives, your intentions, tricking us into collaborating with more future dominators. But then, I guess we were naïve to think it could be any other way. Cause no matter how you look at it - the hard fact remains. You NEED us. Can't exist without us. Your survival depends on us. But we - don't need you."

Jacob Carter's eyes suddenly blazed golden with the eerie light of Selmac's presence. "Samantha Carter, restrain your anger! Your father never sought to deceive you. He told you as much as he could, as much as he was allowed to. The truth was not withheld from you out of any desire to trick your race into contributing to its own subjugation. It was withheld because we feared if you knew the truth - you would misunderstand our intentions - as you are doing right now, and would not help us. Because what you have just said - is the truth. We do need you in order to survive. So do the Goa'uld. That simple fact is the real threat to your continued future as an independent, self-determining race. With the Goa'uld - you will have no choice. With us - you do."

"I'm listening," Sam said cautiously, finding her way to the nearest seat and assuming it.

Selmac smiled at her. "As you know, the fact we call ourselves by a different name does not change the fact the Tok'ra and the Goa'uld are the same race. We have the same origins, came to be what we are the same way. We also possess the same genetic memories of these origins. We remember what was - and that is why - as much as we need you - we both - fear you.

"Does that surprise you?" Selmac asked quietly. "You possess the memories of Jolinar. If you seek them for this, you will find it. You will have a fuller appreciation of what I am about to tell you. You will better understand that the struggle your race is engaged in with the Goa'uld is no less than a desperate contest for evolutionary survival and superiority. A contest you dare not lose, but cannot win on your own.

"We were not always as we are now - completely dependent upon a host for our gestation and further existence in our mature state. There was a time, millions of years ago, when our species, then neither Goa'uld or Tok'ra, simply what we were in the beginning - existed in the oceans of the homeworld, completely independent of the need for any sort of symbiotic relationship with another being.

"The Unas, the original host race, also sprang from the homeworld. During the early days of the first blendings, we both were much simpler life forms then we are now. We were much smaller, as were the Unas. Who were really little more than small aquatic beasts with only a rudimentary intelligence.

"The first blendings were serendipitous, rare accidents. We were driven by a evolutionary imperative we did not understand to invade the bodies of these small beings, in those days possible through the nasal opening, even the ear canal, as well as the mouth. Most of us who did so then perished, but some where able to locate the brainstem, and meld with the mind of the animal, using its body to perpetuate our own life processes. Both races realised substantial evolutionary benefits when this occurred."

"Wait a minute," Sam interrupted him. "Are you saying - both of you were changed - you both became what you are now - because of this symbiotic relationship. That the Goa'uld would never have become what they are - without the hosts and the Unas - wouldn't have evolved into their present forms without you?"

"That is correct, Sam," Selmac smiled at her. Rather ironic, don't you think? The first effect upon the Unas as a result of our presence was a quantum leap in the development of both their intelligence and their physical form. Their gift to us was their body's amazing regenerative capacity as well as the unusual aggressive efficiency of their immune system. We are now virtually immortal beings because of the union with the Unas - they evolved into intelligent beings, developed higher brain centres and functions because of us."

"However, in becoming more specialised, more adapted for living within a human host as opposed to our former watery environment, we gradually began to become more dependent upon them. What began as an urge to protect the unbonded ones of our kind, moving the hosts to collect them and care for them also gradually became - necessary. As we evolved, became more sophisticated, our maturation and life cycle also became irrevocably tied to the new environment - possible only with the aid of a host. This would not have been a problem if the host/symbiote relationship had remained the same - that of a blending, a co-operative sharing of the body.

"It did not. The Unas were more prolific than we were, soon the numbers of the unbonded Unas grew much larger than those of the members of their race who served as hosts for us. The singular ones grew fearful of us, envied our greater intelligence and accomplishments. They decided to destroy us. As well as those members of their own race who were one with us.

"The conflict which ensued was brutal, but short and conclusive. We defeated the singular ones and imprisoned them. In their turn, all of them eventually served us. Not as an equal, not as a blended partner. But as a completely subjugated prisoner to our will and intentions."

"So, Sam said slowly, as she absorbed what Selmac had been telling her. "You're saying the whole thing started out as a symbiotic arrangement, but changed when the horses tried to grab the reins."

"That's correct, Samantha," Selmac continued. "That unfortunate episode was the start of it. The basis of the current, bitter enmity between the Goa'uld and every potential host species in the galaxy, but most specifically yours. All because of a long gone fight for survival, which our species won - and consequently never forgot. Allowing the bitter lessons learned to shape their attitudes toward and treatment of the creatures they needed to use in order to survive through all the millennia, which followed.

"This unreasoning hatred - this attitude of contempt and urge to dominate and punish out of fear and the need to control only began to change for some of us when we ventured out into the stars, and found your world. The move into human hosts exposed us to a different kind of consciousness, and the minds of those who had never been our bitter enemies from the past. We still were as dependent upon these new hosts for our survival, but they had not betrayed us, as the Unas had.

"Some of us began to become curious about the nature of these new beings, allowing them to express more and more of themselves in order to allow us to learn of them. This was the beginning of the move back toward the beginning - the joy and the benefit to both host and symbiote of the blending. And other as yet unknown possible evolutionary benefits to both due to the combining of both species.

This is still the goal of the Tok'ra, that both should co-exist, to the mutual benefit of both. This is what we would offer you, perfect health, thousands of years of wisdom and experience, a vastly extended lifespan - an opportunity to be much more than you would be existing as a singular being. In exchange you would allow us to share your existence, enable our race to continue, to reproduce - to survive."

"Daniel would find this really fascinating," Sam murmured absently, thinking of what she had just heard, suddenly seeing her friend's face, rapt with concentration and intense interest, just as it would be if he was here listening with her. "I can just hear him - he'd be talking about the collective unconscious, the race memories of our own species of the initial encounters and possession being the source material for many myths -

She broke off suddenly as she realised what she was saying. "Sorry" she muttered. Didn't mean to interrupt. Go on. I'm listening."

"That's all right, Sam. We know how much Daniel means to you - how hard this is for you. If there was any other way - if what was at stake was not so desperately important - if the lives of so many did not depend on so few.. But what all of this comes down to is pure, simple basic - survival.

"The Goa'uld wish to survive. Under their rule - you would have no choice. Even though you are not the host race which betrayed them, they do not wish to take a chance of it happening again by allowing you any sort of free will as hosts. They remember the betrayal, they fear your autonomy, your independence, and resent their dependence upon you. They would rule you - completely dominate you - nothing more. Treat you as cattle, existing simply to sustain them. They seek to remove any threat of future rebellion by conquering all of you - subjugating - all of you.

"There would be no freedom for any human being anywhere in this galaxy - no possible chance of another rebellion, another attempt to eradicate our race. This is what they seek, Samantha. Total, complete, utter subjugation of every human being now living and ever to be born. If they have their way your species would exist for only one purpose - to be hosts for the Goa'uld. Their preferred host species. This is the only value you possess for them. This is the future the System Lords plan for your kind.

"If the power of the System Lords is allowed to go unchallenged, there is only one possible outcome to the inevitable confrontation that will occur between humanity and the Goa'uld. It is not your victory over them. That will never occur. Though you are more numerous, you do not have the technology to prevail against the System Lords. Left unchecked, they will eventually come after you. When that time finally arrives - they WILL defeat you. I assure you, this will happen. It is only a matter of time. Time which is growing shorter than you know.

"The Tok'ra also wish for our species to survive - recognising that is not possible without beings to use as hosts. Human are also our preferred host species. However, we do not wish to dominate humans, we wish to live in harmony with them. Our goal is the gradual conversion of the Goa'uld to this same philosophy, to the evolutionary benefit of both our races. Mutual co-operation for mutual benefit. The System Lords are too powerful and volatile, their ambitions driven by their fear and loathing of the very beings they are dependent upon for their survival.

"Yet, to attempt to overthrow them would be a pointless exercise - for every one we would destroy, two more would spring up in their place. Until the fear which feeds the need to dominate, conquer and control is addressed and - corrected. What we must do is find a way to control them, to keep their encroachment upon the human race in check while we gradually begin the task of their - rehabilitation.

"The key is with the emerging generations. As you know, as children are taught, so they learn. A racial shift in consciousness this drastic will take a very long time. But it is a task we are dedicated to, for the sake of humanity, as well as our own kind. Keeping the Alliance in check and ensuring it does not collapse, nor is allowed to proceed further with its plans for galactic conquest - neither of which would be conducive to the survival of your race - is the immediate goal of the Tok'ra. Which is why you received the answer - yes, what Colonel O'Neill said was true - but not for the reason you think. We are not your enemies, Samantha. Far from it - we are your only hope."

Sam was silent for a long time, considering what Selmac had said. "Okay," she said finally. "Suppose I accept everything you have said as the truth - and supposing I buy what you told us before about Chronos being the only Goa'uld for the job when it comes to keeping the other boys down on the farm - is what you are proposing even possible? I mean - can it be done? Could Daniel really make that much of an impression - that much of a difference? Could he really make Chronos do what you want him to?"

"Oh yes," Selmac answered with an inscrutable smile. "He has already begun."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel was awake. How strange. He should still be asleep. The healing device had cleansed the poison from his system. It should also have compelled him to remain in the restorative sleep much longer than this. This was the second time he had managed to awaken himself much sooner than he should have.

Nah'tak found he did not have time for any further contemplation of this interesting anomaly; the god's anger filled the room, demanding the attention of all those who were so unfortunate as to be the objects of it. Nah'tak stoically endured the stinging reminder of his own reprimand, the pain he was experiencing all the more acute in that he realised he fully deserved the blow Chronos had dealt him. By rights, his god should have killed him for allowing this to happen.

But he had not - a fact Nah'tak did not understand but accepted as he accepted the gift of continued life he did not feel he deserved - Chronos had merely struck him and told him to attend the man he had failed to protect. Instructed him to watch and learn as he summoned those who had been immediately responsible for tending to Daniel in order to discover the identity of the one who had dared to attack him in this fashion.

Nah'tak found himself slightly puzzled by the scope and ferocity of Chronos' rage. This was not the first time one of his Favoureds had been mildly poisoned by a jealous member of the household. The strange creatures tried to kill each other all the time - poisoning being only one of the ways in which they exercised this odd proclivity. It was like a game to them. A complicated, antiseptic, spiteful exercise in the venting of petty jealousies and hostilities. True it was rare as lethal a poison such as the one administered to Daniel in his coffee was used - nor one as unpleasant in its physical effects. Daniel had made a mighty enemy in Chronos' court it would seem.

Still, with both the healing device and the sarcophagus at their disposal, even a fatal poison was nothing more than a temporary inconvenience - even if the focus of another's displeasure actually died. By taking this action the one responsible was informing Daniel he had offended in some fashion and he could expect future reprisals. Chronos knew this; was fully aware of this and other power games his underlings played in his shadow. Never before had he reacted so strongly to a hand raised against his Favoured; in the wake of the attack on Daniel, Chronos was a man gone mad.

As much as the anger of his god puzzled Nah'tak, he could plainly see the man lying in the bed, fully awake now, the cause of all this rage - was terrified by it. As Daniel tried to understand what was happening during the course of the tableau unfolding on the upper level his eyes were locked on the god pacing distractedly in front of the pale, auburn-haired woman, viciously berating her as she stood mutely enduring the verbal assault.

"Delios!" Chronos screamed at no one in particular. "Where is he? I have summoned him - how DARE he refuse to attend me! I will kill him for this effrontery alone!"

"I do not know, my lord," the woman - Kirma was her name - replied, her head bowed, her voice quivering with terror. As well it should - Chronos' rage did not bode well for her continuing survival.

Nah'tak studied Daniel out of the corner of his eye as Chronos continued to scream and rant at the unfortunate woman who stood alone before him. Daniel still did not understand the reason for Chronos' rage, did not understand he threatened the woman on his behalf, nevertheless there was deep concern underlying the fear on his face. The more he listened, the more the fear began to fade - to be replaced by something quite interesting.

Daniel was trying to think of some way of intervening on the woman's behalf...

"You !" The System Lord shrieked at her. "You brought him - this!" He shook the empty carafe he held in his hand in her face, then tossed it aside with a howl of fury.

"I - I did, my lord," she said quickly. "But - it was already prepared and waiting. I only carried it here - I did not touch it otherwise."

Chronos grabbed her cruelly by the arm, almost lifting her off her feet by it. Daniel reacted to the manhandling of the woman, springing up to a seating position, alarm leaping into his eyes.

"I will KILL you if I discover you have lied to me!" he hissed into her face as he savagely shook her. "Who - prepared the beverage?" he spat at her.

"I - I swear, my lord," she said in a barely audible voice. "I don't know - I - "

"I will not suffer this incompetence any longer!" Chronos screamed at her. Raising the back of his hand to her he cuffed her brutally across the face, hitting her so hard she was knocked heavily to the floor. She lay there, trying not to cry out as he leaned over, clearly meaning to pick her up and strike her again.

"Chronos!" Daniel cried out. "Chronos - DON'T!"

At the sound of his voice the System Lord immediately straightened up and whirled around, bright joy on his face as he saw Daniel was fully awake, sitting up in the bed and looking at him.

"Daniel!" he cried, taking a few steps forward, then stopping, unsure as to whether or not he should approach.

"Chronos," Daniel began again, now that he more than had the Goa'uld's full attention. "Don't hit her - please."

Chronos looked at him with puzzled indignation, as if he could not believe what he was hearing.

"She deserves to die for what she has done. I should kill her with my bare hands for allowing you to come to harm."

"Please - please don't do that," Daniel said imploringly, his face deeply distressed. "Don't punish anyone on my account. Look - I'm - I'm fine. No harm done. Really, I'm fine. Fine. Let's just - let this go."

Chronos answered his pleading expression with a look of angry astonishment.

"I cannot do that!" he bellowed. "I MUST punish someone for this. I cannot have this - someone hurt you - I will not have it - I will see they understand this will not happen again if I have to kill all of them!"

Chronos was beginning to become angry again: remembering the origin of his fury began to override the temporary amnesia resulting from his euphoria over seeing Daniel awake and restored.

"Please," Daniel began again, his voice softer, more imploring. "I don't wish anyone to be hurt because of me. Please, Chronos?"

Nah'tak was watching Daniel - watching him the instant he understood. Not only what needed to be done - but what he now had the power to do.

Chronos stood above him, wavering in indecision, wishing to hold onto his anger, wishing also to be somewhere else. Waiting for a sign there was a better option for expending his energy then on for his plans for retribution.

Nah'tak was watching Daniel as he made his decision. A shudder so subtle it was almost an illusion touched him; he briefly closed his eyes. When they opened again they were clear of fear, resigned, empty of hope.

At last, Daniel understood. What Nah'tak had foreseen almost from the beginning. What the sad, young Tau'ri now knew, even as his god did not.

That Chronos was now as much his captive as he was his.

"Chronos," Daniel said softly, holding out a hand to him. "Never mind her. She doesn't matter. Please, come away. Would you - come and talk to me?"

Nah'tak could see from the light which burned in the god's eyes he had forgotten there was anyone else in the room the instant Daniel had begun to speak kindly to him. The smile on Daniel's face trembled only slightly as the System Lord gave an excited cry, and flung himself down the stairs, running to Daniel, scooping him up in his fevered embrace as he clutched him tightly, murmuring his name and raining kisses on his face and neck.

Daniel hugged him in return, looking around him and at Nah'tak, nodding at him to take the woman and get her out of the suite. The Jaffa could see from the grim look on Daniel's face he had no intention of letting Chronos remember his anger.

"Go!" Daniel's eyes shouted at him. "Just - go!"

Nah'tak turned his back so he would not see the look on Daniel's face as Chronos pushed him back onto the bed. Allowing the overjoyed, ardent, passionate advances of the System Lord, Daniel's deliberate, distracting sacrifice giving the First Prime the time and opportunity to get the woman safely out of harm's way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jack had never been as afraid for Daniel as he was this very moment.

It had been bad. Only Luena's coaching had prevented him from tumbling into the same pit of pain that had taken Daniel for quite awhile. That wasn't what was scaring Jack so much. Whatever the pain had been about - it was over. Done. No - wasn't that. It was what came after.

Everything Jack had received from Daniel up to this evening had been nothing more than feelings - emotions. And none of it - except for the actual rape - specific enough for him to do much more than speculate as to what was causing them. He'd never received anything as definite as thoughts, never known precisely what was in Daniel's mind as he was feeling what his distant lover was feeling.

That was - till now. Right now, somewhere out there, god knows where, Daniel was alone, and in so much anguish he was thinking of killing himself.

Mostly because Daniel couldn't face what he'd had to do - at the same time realising his lover - had to know about it.

Which - he did. He knew. Couldn't not know.

He'd had to leave the others when it started. He'd felt Daniel's fear, concern - knew there had to be someone else there he was trying to protect. Then he quickly came to understand how. Daniel had given Chronos what he wanted. Destroying a piece of himself in the process - because of what he believed it now meant.

Daniel believed he would think - he had betrayed him.

Jack didn't know how he was going to do it, but somehow he had to make Daniel understand. There were some things which transcended everything. No matter what circumstances or the fight for survival called for one to do - some things couldn't be tainted by any of it. Not one bit.

He might be able to make you say it, do it - but Daniel, he can't make you MEAN it. That's yours. That's ours. Don't lose sight of that. Don't doubt that. Jesus - Danny - it's okay. You're alive - that's all that matters. And you're still - you. Still you. I'm still here. Nothing has changed. Don't give up over a lie..

He'd fled to Danny's room as soon as it started getting bad, and he was still here, locked inside, alone and undistracted from his purpose. He didn't know if Daniel could hear him, but he sat on the floor in the darkness, eyes closed, going deep within himself as Luena had taught him, searching for cord tying him to Daniel as he had never searched for it before. Everything he had, every within him, all he could think to say to make him understand he aimed like an arrow of deliverance, willing it to wing to Daniel's defence, willing it to slay the dragon of Daniel's doubt.

Didn't know if Daniel heard him or understood. Couldn't tell. But he kept trying. Kept trying to reach him. Kept trying to make him understand. Don't give up; don't believe for one minute any of this makes the slightest bit of difference.

Don't give up on me, Daniel. Don't give up on yourself.

In that instant Jack vowed some day, somehow, somewhere, if it took the rest of his life, he would find Chronos and kill him with his bare hands...

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