Pure of Heart
Part Five


Wonder how much it will hurt...

Daniel sat on the white carpeted floor of the room Chronos said was his, naked, dripping wet, a stunned, bemused euphoria both numbing and enervating him as he stared down at the point of the long, thin knife he held pressed to his heart. He'd stolen the knife from Delios during the skirmish in the garden; kept it carefully hidden ever since, in the same place where he'd hidden all the other things he'd found in here. Several of his journals. A few of his books. The picture. God.. the picture.

All the little talismans.. all he had left of all he'd ever wanted and would never have again, now laid out before him... reminders... witnesses..

"Sorry." he said softly as he took one hand off the hilt of the knife and reached out and touched the beloved image in the frame. Cover the eyes...so he wouldn't see...

"Sorry - I'm so sorry," Daniel whispered again. Sorry for being weak. Sorry for not finding a better way. Sorry for being such a coward.. not being able to face what he had done.

"Sorry, Jack."

Daniel closed his eyes, tightening his grip upon the hilt of the knife. It would be fast. He knew he could do it. One sharp thrust and then..

Aw shit - Chronos would just put him in the damned sarcophagus. Daniel opened his eyes, looked down at the knife and swore softly to himself as he realised - this wasn't going to do it. No way out here - or any way that involved leaving a body behind. Not as long as there was a sarcophagus in the house. Shit.

Sighing unhappily Daniel put the knife down as his mind reluctantly roused itself to wrestle with the problem. Body. Whatever he did - he had to make sure there was no body. How could he, how could he..

Zat gun! That would do it. Wouldn't leave anything. Okay, he could probably find one somewhere, might take awhile, but he'd find a way. Would give him something to focus on. Something to work toward...

Wait a minute - problem with this plan too. Third shot disintegrated. Second shot killed. How was he going to fire the third shot after he was dead? SHIT!

Okay, this was getting a little silly now. Daniel wrapped his arms around himself, starting to feel cold, ridiculous. Starting to giggle. He couldn' t believe this was happening. What could be more absurd - and yet more typical of his luck? All psyched to shuffle off the mortal coil and he couldn't do it because he couldn't figure out how to get rid of himself after he was dead. If Jack was here right now he'd be laughing his face off at him.

Can we say 'loser?'

If Jack was here. Daniel picked up the photograph - a frozen moment of a happier life, a life denied him. As he clutched the frame to his chest he wondered at the thoughtful cruelty that had put it into his hands. Why had Chronos given it to him? To comfort him - or to mock him with a reminder of something which would never be his again.

Especially now. It was gone. All of it gone. Far more irrevocably than it had been by virtue of his abduction. Why try to escape now - he had nowhere to go. Not anymore. Not after - what he had just done. He couldn't ask Jack to understand - to forgive. Not after the way he had let Chronos touch him - not after what he'd let him do to him. Jack couldn't forgive that. Not possible...

Couldn't make it go away. Could still feel his hands.. all over him, even after escaping, after trying to wash it all off, couldn't make it go away. He'd broken his promise, even though he'd saved a life doing it - maybe more than one. Saved a life, lost his own. Oh well, fair trade, not like it was ever worth much anyway.

Well, if he couldn't kill himself, maybe he could just find a way to - go away. Far away, deep inside, where he couldn't feel anything anymore, didn' t have to know what was happening, wouldn't matter what was done to him, he wouldn't know about it anymore. Just go...

"Daniel?" A soft, strange and yet familiar voice sounded in the doorway. Daniel turned toward the sound of it, and then cried out, recoiling as he saw Chronos standing in the doorway, on the inside of the curtain, in the room he was told was his...where he could be alone.

On his hands and knees Daniel quickly scrabbled over toward the nearest wall, hugging it for support as he turned his face into it and yelled, "Go away! Leave me alone!"

The man standing in the doorway took in the spot where Daniel had been sitting. Saw the arranged items on the floor, saw the knife. Saw the state Daniel was in. He gently sighed, a deeply compassionate look on his face Daniel did not see, then carefully sat himself down on the floor.

"Daniel, have you been thinking of hurting yourself? I - wouldn't blame you. He doesn't really understand how you feel. How much you love Jack. He doesn't mean to hurt you - he just - doesn't understand."

In spite of himself, Daniel heard himself listening to the words, to the voice. There was something different about it - not just the fact it was de-Goa'ulded. There was a warmth to it he had never heard before, a singular lack of a quality it had always possessed, and now did not.

Arrogance. There was no arrogance in this voice. Only compassion. Daniel turned, looking into the kind dark eyes looking back at him, suddenly understanding who he was looking at.

"You're - you're - not..." he stammered, watching in wonder as a wide, warm smile spread across the face of the man on the other side of the room.

"No, Daniel," the man answered him. "I'm not. Chronos wanted me to speak to you. I'm his host. My name is Alexander."

"Not a trick?" Daniel said suspiciously, but feeling the truth of what this man was telling him enough that he felt his body beginning to uncoil from the knot of fear he had been assuming.

"No - not a trick. Chronos and I have a bit of a unique arrangement. He first selected me to be his host - over four thousand years ago. I was a common foot soldier with ambitions my station would never have allowed me to achieve. Something set me above my fellows, brought me to his attention. Chronos was seeking a new host, one he did not have to constantly struggle with to suppress. He wearied of expending the time and energy, and he wished more complete access to the mind of a host in order to learn more of the customs and beliefs of the people he planned to subjugate. A completely suppressed host would not allow him this access. When he first brought me before him - he told me what he planned. The great destiny I could hope to share with him - which he would allow me to share with him - if I did not fight him.

"It was a fairly easy decision. My life without him would not have been a long or glorious one. In spite of my dreams, I knew this. I would struggle and toil in anonymity, probably die in battle in some distant country, as unknown and unremarked as everyone else. He offered me a chance to do great, glorious things, and to live forever.

"He's kept his word, Daniel," Alexander said quietly. "Everything he ever said he would do, he has done. I've seen all of it. Been a part of all of it. Some of it has been glorious, some of it appalling, but then I was, and always will be a soldier. I did many, many terrible things before I ever knew him. When it comes to the basic brutality of survival - what sentient beings - no matter what they call themselves - are prepared to do to each other in the service of self and other various causes - in four thousand years, little has changed. Chronos is no better - and no worse - than the thousands of others who have come and gone during that time. I've seen them all, Daniel, seen enough to know that although it seems some things never change, perhaps it's time they did. And now that you are here, perhaps - they can.

"I know you don't want to believe this of him, but after his fashion, Chronos is an honourable creature. However, when you judge him remember: what you see is only part of what he is. No matter what you see, remember he isn't human. He doesn't think like a human, doesn't grasp certain concepts, certain values. They are as foreign to him as his values are - to you. There are some things he just doesn't - understand."

"How can you stand it?" Daniel asked quietly. "Having him inside you - doing things, making you - do things to people."

"I've had an awful lot of time to get to know him. To grow familiar with the workings of a mind so alien - it did frighten me a lot at first, I admit. But I've learned a thing or two from it, and from living for as long as I have. In turn, his exposure to me has made him curious about humans. I know our familiarity has largely contributed to his unusual fascination for our species. I only wish I had been a better representative of our race. Wish I had been a better man. Who knows what a difference it would have made if I had been someone like - you..

"How do I stand it? I know what he thinks - what he feels." Alexander answered him gently, moving a little closer as he did so. Daniel watched him warily, but didn't move away. "What you see is not always what is. If you understand the mind, there is a sense to the actions."

"I don't know what that means," Daniel said. Still not moving away as he watched Alexander move yet closer to him.

"I know what he feels, Daniel," Alexander continued to speak in a low, soothing voice. "I know what he feels for you. I know what he wishes of you. I also know he never would have touched you, if he hadn't believed you wanted what happened tonight."

"I don't believe you," Daniel shuddered, looking away. "I don't want to talk about it."

"You have to," Alexander was at his side now. Reaching out to him, wrapping something warm and soft around him. Had forgotten he wore nothing.. how cold he was. "You have to let it out. You'll die inside if you don't. We never meant to cause you this pain, never meant for this to happen."

Daniel was dimly aware he was being drawn into Alexander's arms, hugged tightly to his chest, enfolded in a strong, enveloping embrace. It was a curious feeling, warm, not at all repulsive, so strong, so soothing..

He had to be falling asleep; things were becoming blurred, hearing, seeing from very far away, the new voice, the good voice, saying to him, "We would never hurt you Daniel. We love you.."

Great. What was he supposed to do now?

As if everything which had already happened wasn't bad enough - now this?

Loved him? LOVED him? He truly could have gone the whole rest of his life without hearing that one!

"I don't NEED this!" Daniel raised his head, his arms, howled up into the strange sky overhead. 'You HEAR me! I don't NEED THIS! I've been a pretty good sport so far, all things considered - but - enough is enough already. Go pick on someone else for a change! I've done my share!"

The skies were silent; the cold stones around him equally obdurate. Far beneath him, even the wondrous city seemed to be mocking him. Daniel barely had time to realise where he was, once again, when he heard the voice behind him. The voice he had never thought to hear again.

"Yelling at God, Danny? Doesn't do a damned bit of good. Believe me, I know."

Daniel whirled, his heart so full of joy it had to burst. There, standing behind him, arms open wide, huge smile on his face, warm brown eyes devouring him with an equal measure of joy. Jack..

"What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?"

With a small cry Daniel threw himself into the waiting, welcome arms, felt them close about him as he clutched Jack's warm, strong body close to his own. Hungrily he sought Jack's mouth, which received him with equal ardour. The only kisses he desired, lips he thought he had forfeit the right to know forever crushed his with Jack's fierce passion. Jack's hands roamed restlessly over his back, feeling, cleansing with his touch, pulling him close. Daniel held on tightly, wanting to scream with joy as he burned with healing fire, everywhere Jack touched him.

They were twin flames, burning in eternity, mingling fire, love rising, sweeping upward in a burning pillar of joy, racing insatiable, unstoppable toward ecstasy. Nothing hidden in the fire, which revealed as it joined. Only truth could exist here. Daniel burned, thrilled, knew - what truly was in Jack's heart.

...let you down, Jack...

...no! never! Alive - all that matters. Love me? Love you. Still, always - nothing's changed...

...know what I did?

...love me?

...yesyesyesyesyes... always always only you no matter what love you only you...

...love you, coming - take you home promise - promise you won't give up don't care what you have to do, doesn't matter stay alive stay alive, Danny I love you, can't hurt you inside unless you let him don't let him I'll be here, be strong when he makes you - come to me think of me it'll be okay just don't leave me...

...forgive me?

...oh Danny, sweet Danny - nothing to forgive...

...don't.. hate me?

...silly, so silly, love you, not your fault, why would I Dannydannydanny so sweet, so good could never hate you so silly, kiss me promise only love, don't lose hope, faith in me promise me you won't give up promise me you won't let go...

...scared, Jack. So scared...

...I know I know - promise me promise me...

...you don't know what he wants...

...don't care doesn't matter promise me, you and me all that matters he can't touch that - can't change it can't keep us apart. Plan to grow old with you Danny - know how much I hate having to change my plans. Promise me!

...okay promise...

...love you - have to wait for me now. Promised. I mean it. Stay alive, love, coming as soon as I can. Promise too...

...don't want to go back. Want to stay here with you...

...I know I know. Me too. Not much longer. I'll find a way, I swear, Danny, hold onto this, hold onto me remember promise love you Danny...

...love you Jack - Jack!

The fire was whirling him away, tearing Jack from him, pulling him back, back to the hated place. Daniel cried out with the bitter loss, wrapping empty arms around himself, yet still feeling a part of that bright flame deep inside him. Still feeling Jack within.

Okay. Promised. Won't give up. Just don't leave me alone whenever he touches me. Help me think only of you..

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

"Daniel? Daniel, can you hear me?"

Voice from far away. Soft voice, woman's voice. Voice he had heard before, but wasn't familiar. Not Dr Frasier. One of her nurses - someone new? Knew the voice but couldn't...couldn't place it.

"Daniel, you have to wake up now - will you just be PATIENT, I'm doing it! He's been through enough already! Daniel?"

Felt bad; had to be in infirmary. God, what had he done to himself now? Somebody wanted him to wake up, probably to give him a sleeping pill. There's logic for you. Hand on his forehead, soft, small. Warm. Felt good. Was bothering him about the voice. Why couldn't he remember where he had heard it before?

Well, whoever she was, she wasn't going to go away. Might as well try and wake up, open eyes. So hard. Don't want to wake up. Why? Why not? Ohhhhh, there was something, something he was trying to forget. Something..something.bad..

"Please, Daniel, please wake up." Voice pleading, sounding scared. Don't like this, why is she scared? The bad thing. Getting closer. Don't want to see, don't want to know.

"Daniel, I have to get you ready. Chronos is going to be coming soon."

CHRONOS!

The dreaded name shot through him like a jolt of lethal electricity, filling him with an instant, enervating terror which catapulted him roughly out of his drowsing confusion into unwelcome full awareness. As his eyes shot open he cried out, jerking upward. A hand on his chest pressed him firmly back into the bed; he had been looking without seeing but now turned toward the woman seated beside him, able to focus on her for the first time.

Maya's concerned eyes looked down on him as she said softly, "Slowly, Daniel, take it easy. Give yourself a moment to wake up before you try to get up."

"Hello," Daniel replied uncertainly. "Nice to see you. Definitely preferable to what I expected to be waking up to."

"Just as happy to see you," she said softly, averting her eyes as twin spots of shame suddenly burned crimson on her cheeks. "Thanks to you."

"Oh - that." Daniel sighed, throwing his arm over his eyes. "We're allies, right? I had to do something. You would have done the same for me, I'm sure."

There was a long, strained silence. The man lying in the bed did not move, did not take away the arm obstructing his vision. Could not see the expression of the woman as she did not answer him.

The ghost of a bitter smile hung on his lips as he began to speak again.

"All right, we'll try it this way, then." He finally felt well enough to risk sitting up, and did so. Maya still sat beside him, her head lowered, her hands tightly clenched in her lap. "Let's not play games here, okay?" He continued in a firm, but not unkind voice, allowing the auburn haired woman the small refuge of not facing his gaze. "I saved your life last night. I think that entitles me to a little something, don't you? I think that entitles me to the truth. What do you think?"

Maya's shoulders shook slightly; she raised her head, turning to look at him, her mouth beginning to open. The eyes that met his were awash with guilty tears, begging his forgiveness. Before she was able to begin to speak they suddenly flared bright gold and became shuttered, wary, and defensive.

"Ah, the other one," The ghost became bitterness incarnate as Daniel allowed the full measure of his distrust and disappointment to show plainly upon his face. "Kirma, isn't it? Not so grateful after all, it would seem. What's the matter, don't trust me?"

"It has nothing to do with that, Daniel," Kirma responded in a flat, echoing voice. "We are neither unmindful nor unappreciative of the way you intervened to save our lives. We would repay you, if we had the right to give you what you ask."

"Not allowed to tell me the truth?" Daniel shook his head and raised an admonishing eyebrow at the composite entity beside him. "My, this has to be even worse than I thought. Well, let me see if I can help you out a little. Maybe you can't TELL me, but can you nod your head once for yes if I tell YOU?"

"You are playing games with us," Kirma said uncertainly, a hint of panic in her eyes.

"I think it's rather the other way around, don't you?" Daniel quickly responded. "You lied to me yesterday. Lied to me about Jack, didn't lie to me about the presidential directive, found out about that one, but definitely lied to me about the 'plan' to get me out of here."

"Why would we do that?" Kirma said cautiously.

"Listen ladies," Daniel said, anger beginning to slightly colour his tone. "If we are going to work together you are going to have to stop insulting my intelligence. What happened last night was a pretty damned good indication not only of why you would lie to me but what you hope to get from me by conning me into working for you under the mistaken idea the information I am feeding you is going to be used to get me out of here."

He paused and levelled a triumphant look as he saw the flicker of fear in the eyes before him.

"Ah - so I'm right. That's the deal. Dupe the dumb Tau'ri into being a pipeline to Chronos. Keep him dangling on the line, promise him anything, but deliver nothing, just keep him forking over the intelligence. Tell me, do they surgically remove your scruples when you join this team or did you just never have them in the first place?"

Kirma's eyes blazed golden with anger. "Do not judge us, child! You have no conception of what is at stake here. Your small wants and concerns - your petty freedom is NOTHING compared to the opportunity you have to be of service to your entire species! You are a foolish, fleeting spark, barely able to grasp the tremendous opportunity which has been placed within your unworthy hands. It sickens us to have to deceive you, to pander to your selfish hopes! Such a waste of time! You should appreciate your grand destiny, work WITH us in our cause - which is the same as yours. Rise above what you are! Attempt to see, to understand what is happening here. Do not be as limited and ego-centric as most of your race."

"Are you DONE?" Daniel shot back at her. "If that is your recruitment speech, lady, it needs work! I think I have heard just about enough from you. Go back to sleep, I want to talk to the other one now."

Kirma glared furiously at him for a moment, then finally lowered her head. When it came up again Maya's apologetic eyes looked back at him.

"Oh Daniel, I'm sorry," she began quickly, pressing his robe into his hands. She had been holding it all along and he hadn't even noticed. "I know what it sounds like - I'm sorry about the way Kirma said what she said. I'll explain it all to you, make sure you have the whole truth, I promise, I promise, but - we don't have time right now."

She took his hand, squeezed as if trying to impress him with the earnest seriousness of her entreaty through the action.

"Chronos is in a very good mood right now. He's been torturing Delios most of the morning. However, he was most explicit in his instructions to us. He'll be here very soon; he wants you ready and waiting for him. Wouldn't make a lot of sense to save us the way you did last night to turn on us again and make him think we had disobeyed him."

Daniel hesitated, reluctant to let go of the slim inroad he had managed to make into the Tok'ra woman's defences. But the fear in her eyes was genuine. She was right. Chronos was capable of anything; throwing her life away would be pointless after what he had already paid to preserve it once.

Besides, whether he liked it or not, they were his only way out of here. And whether they liked it or not, they WERE going to help him get out of here.

Daniel nodded wordlessly, shrugged on his robe and got out of bed. He had no sooner stood up than a wave of dizziness overwhelmed him, threatening to drop him to his knees. He found himself leaning heavily on the woman at his side, clinging to the only thing that was keeping him from falling to the floor. She was stronger than she looked.

"Thanks," he said finally to her, when he could. "Guess I got up too fast." Suddenly awkwardly aware of her proximity he started to straighten up and take his weight off the arm draped across her shoulders. She turned swiftly to face him, grasped the front of his robe, and pulled him back down toward her.

"I really am grateful for my life," she said softly as she looked deeply into his eyes. He looked back at her bemused, uncertain of the message she was trying to convey to him. Was still confused, surprised as she suddenly pressed her lips to his, ostensibly a kiss of gratitude which was slightly more intense, lingered slightly too long to be entirely convincing of its supposedly chaste purpose.

Oh good grief, not this! How stupid do they think I am?

Daniel jerked his head abruptly up, breaking the contact. "You're welcome," he replied stiffly. "A handshake will do just fine." He put his hands on her shoulders, pushing her gently but firmly away. Taking a deep breath he began to walk slowly toward the bathing chamber, inwardly marvelling at this latest development in a situation that was rapidly becoming as fantastic as it was absurd.

Was there ANYONE in this galaxy who WASN'T after his body? Okay, General Hammond for sure, but he was definitely going to keep his guard up against everybody else!

"Do you need any help," Maya asked hopefully just before he disappeared behind the curtain.

"Nooooo thanks.." Daniel responded, trying not to sound as despondent as he felt. "I'll call you if I need anything."

Which he'd had to, much to his chagrin. He'd first gone to the wardrobe, to find the room just as it had been the previous night. Trying not to remember what had almost happened here a few short hours before he carefully rehid the knife, journals and photograph, then dunked himself. That was fine, he could handle that.

He managed to fight his way into the first garishly overdecorated dress deal faintly resembling the chiton it was based upon which he found hanging in the section of the room completely given over to storing them, deeply wishing Chronos considered underwear a part of dress of the day.

Trying to remember what Nah'tak had done the other morning and after groping around in the cabinets by the mirrored dressing table he found the tablets and the whatever it was Nah'tak had used to shave him yesterday. Wishing it was a toothbrush he popped the small wafer in his mouth that apparently performed the same function as its more humble but familiar terrestrial counterpart. He then sat himself down in front of the mirror and spent several minutes trying unsuccessfully to turn the small shaving device on. Finally conceding defeat, he called to Maya.

He'd only wanted her to show him how to turn it on, but once she had a hold of it, she wasn't giving it back to him. Fuming silently he sat unhappily as she took his face in her hands and trained the light from the small instrument across his cheek in steady, practised lines. He now felt uncomfortable with her nearness, unnerved by her touch. Also more than slightly humiliated at needing assistance with something he had previously performed routinely every morning of his adult life without giving it a second thought.

Just one more aspect of ordinary life he had always taken for granted which would never be the same again. Unless somehow he got the hell out of here.

"Good timing," Maya said softly as she started to work on his other cheek. "They've just started to bring in the food. Chronos will be here very soon."

"Wish you would stop saying that," Daniel grumbled. "Bad enough it's true without constantly reminding me of it."

"Sorry," Maya replied, actually sounding as if she was. "Just trying to make conversation."

"Well, I don't feel like talking right now," Daniel murmured, trying to come to terms with the other piece of information she had just given him. Food. God. Just the thought of it was making him sick. This was not good.

She finished, patted his shoulder. He nodded his thanks, trying to settle his stomach, preparing himself for the effort as he got up. Still dizzy, but not so bad this time. Why was he so dizzy? Couldn't be a residual effect of the poisoning. He'd been worked over twice with the healing device in as many days. Lucky, lucky him. He should be overflowing with health. Why did he feel so weak and dizzy?

He was almost out of the room when it hit him. The fact that he'd had nothing but coffee over the past two days MIGHT have something to do with it. Possibly. As Jack would say, ya think?

Well, if he had any hope of getting out of here, he had to keep his strength up. So even though his stomach was starting to do cartwheels at the mere thought, maybe he should try and force some food into himself this morning.

His reverie was interrupted by an expected, but still dreaded sound.

"Daniel!"

From the other room. His master's voice. The lapdog was being summoned. Time to jump through hoops and roll over. Maybe for the moment, maybe for now. Things change, things happen. Keep that in mind; don't lose sight of it. Just keep..going...

Gritting his teeth and willing the trembling in his limbs to cease, Daniel squared his shoulders and walked back into the room where Chronos awaited him.

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

So much for breakfast.

He'd tried. He'd really tried. The sight and smell of the vast smorgasbord laid out before him - honestly, wasn't there anything this Goa'uld did that DIDN'T involve the concept of 'excess' - had nearly done him in from the outset, but he had made himself eat. There had been both terrestrial dishes and other things to chose from; he had stayed with the familiar, trying to keep to as bland and ungastronomically challenging as possible. Some fruit, a small helping of scrambled eggs, plain toast.

It had been all right for a while. Stomach had complained, but seemed as if it was going to cooperate. That is, until Chronos had decided to 'help'. Evidently heartened by the sight of his Favoured eating and drawing the erroneous conclusion from it all was well, he had insisted Daniel try this dish he was particularly fond of it. Practically crammed it down his throat, in spite of his protests. Some strangely textured, round things soaking in and dripping with a thick, sickeningly sweet syrup that felt unsettling and rubbery as he chewed them. After he had been forced to eat three of them he'd had to make the mad dash.

Daniel stood on the other side of the velvety partition which kept him hidden from the eyes which looked for him from the other room. He took a deep breath, and tried to steady himself. He felt worse now, rather than better, for the aborted attempt at breakfasting. Really could have done without throwing up again.

Never mind, pull yourself together, been gone too long, better get back in there or he'll come looking for you. Don't want him to know about this - he'll just make you eat again, no point, try again later. Maybe later, try again. Maybe later, stomach will settle a little more..

Daniel pushed through the curtain, forcing himself to move back toward Chronos as if nothing was wrong. Couldn't quite bring himself to smile - that was too much for the moment. But at least he could muster enough determination to put one foot in front of the other without weaving or stumbling.

Chronos looked up from the report on the Drasha situation Daniel had set him to studying. His face brightened, but his eyes were narrowly assessing his Favoured as he walked toward him.

"You are back," he said with enthusiasm. "All is well with you?" More than a hint of suspicion in the tone this time. Chronos wasn't buying his attempt at 'happy-go-lucky-I'm-just-peachy.' Damned snake head didn't miss a thing. Guess that was how he got to be a System Lord.

"I'm fine," Daniel murmured as he sat back down beside him. Distract, divert, change the subject.. He indicated the report displayed on the monitor with a casual gesture. "So, what do you think? A viable alternative to slaughtering the population?"

"Viable indeed," Chronos replied, thoughtfully, studying the screen. " As well as infinitely preferable. No matter what you might have thought of me for it, I had no desire to kill those people. It would have been an unnecessary waste of a potentially useful resource, not to mention an inconvenient dedication of manpower and equipment. Still, the situation is causing an unacceptable disruption in Viztaktin production. I have to have the problem resolved as soon as possible. My solution was one means to that end. Yours is another. Yours is better."

"So you'll do it?" Daniel replied, trying to keep the excitement from his voice. "You - you won't kill them?" My god, had he actually done it? Actually convinced Chronos to spare them? Cool, Daniel, be cool. Don't make out like it means too much, don't let the fate of these people hang on a 'whim'. What Chronos can bestow to please he can just as easily take away to punish. If the wind changes.

Chronos turned to him, a pensive look on his face. "Why should I? There is no need now." He started to reach a hand toward Daniel, meaning to touch his face, then took it away as his expression became even more thoughtful, sad. "What do you hide in your thoughts, Daniel? What do you keep from me? What kind of beast do you truly think I am?"

He turned away, barking a sharp command to the monitor, causing it to shut down. Mercifully sparing Daniel the uncomfortable necessity of having to respond to any of the questions he had just posed to him.

"I will send a message to the base commander. Have him perform the ceremony immediately. If it solves the problem as you feel it will, the matter is closed."

"Uh - I - I thought - it would be better if you did it."

Chronos looked at him, puzzled. "Why would I want to do that?"

Because then I might be able to get off this SHIP for a day!

"Uh - ah - the commander is only an - an - underling. A representative. You are the leader. Their..." Damn - hate to even THINK this, never mind say it but have to if you want to sell it, Daniel... "...god. It would mean more to them - be more efficacious, have more significance, strengthen your authority, command a higher degree of personal loyalty." ...probably all true unfortunately but do it anyway - get me out of here!

Chronos beamed at him, this time unable to prevent himself from reaching out and stroking his head.

"You are so clever!" He turned, addressing his next remark to the woman who was still in attendance, standing solemnly and silently off to the side. "Is he not astonishingly intelligent?"

For a mere human. Hand me a lollipop and pat me on the head and I'm out of here.

"Yes, my lord," Kirma responded in a small voice, meeting Daniel's eyes for the briefest of glances. Odd. He was probably seeing things, but for just an instant, he could have sworn, she looked - angry with him.

Why would she been angry he had discovered a way to save the people of Drasha? Oh who knows, trying to get inside these alien heads in order to stay one step ahead of them was really starting to make his own hurt. Like trying to think around corners while hanging upside down whistling Dixie..

"You have been ingenious and enterprising in my service. This pleases me. Immensely." Chronos moved his hand around to cup the back of Daniel's head, pulling him forward until their lips were almost touching. "I wish to reward you." He turned his face away for a moment, to throw a command at the woman behind him. "Tell Nah'tak to bring him in now." He then turned back to brush his lips against those of the man he held unwilling in the intimate position. "I have a present for you, Daniel," he breathed as he began to nibble on the trembling lips beneath his. "I hope it pleases you as much as Drasha."

"My lord."

Nah'tak's strong deep voice roused Chronos from the passionate reverie he was rapidly falling into. "We must finish this later," the System Lord murmured as he reluctantly removed his mouth from Daniel's. "I would not wish to keep you from your enjoyment."

As he settled himself back onto the couch, pulling Daniel with him into an embrace that pressed him close to his side Daniel was able to see the figures of the First Prime and Kirma standing on the level above them. Nah'tak was accompanied by two Jaffa who held between them the sagging, battered and bloody figure of Delios.

Daniel was quite unprepared for the spectacle; the shock and horror of it caused him to instinctively turn away, his face finding a refuge in Chronos' chest as he fought his heaving stomach back down. Granted he had no cause to be fond of Delios but the thought of so much suffering inflicted on another living being, again on his account...

A gift. Chronos had said he was a gift. God, what did he mean by that?

"Daniel?" Chronos' interrogative was both indulgent and amused. "You need have no fear from this one any longer. We have had a very long conversation. He has told me much. About the many ill-considered things he has said to you, and the rather disrespectful way he acted toward you."

"That's one way of putting it," Daniel gulped as he forced himself to raise his head, steeled himself to look once again at the remnants of the figure in front of him. Trying to make his mind work, trying to think, to anticipate Chronos' intentions, to figure out a way to stop this from going - the way he dreaded it was going to go.

Delios raised his head slowly. Apparently still conscious, although from looking at him, Daniel wasn't exactly sure how. There didn't seem to be an inch of the body showing liberally through the ruined tatters of his robe which wasn't despoiled and injured in some unspeakable fashion. It was impossible to discern the original colour of what was left of his clothing beneath the browning crimson now staining it.

Delios looked wildly around, caught his eye. Daniel did not want to meet his gaze but could not look away. There was mortal terror in those eyes and yet - when they saw him - disdain. Still. The Goa'uld was still hating his guts out. The gods must be crazy indeed.

"Delios has made a full confession of his transgressions toward you," Chronos continued as he rubbed Daniel's arm possessively. "It is within my right to decide the method of his death, but it occurred to me it would be more fitting to allow you that pleasure. I place his fate in your hands, my beloved. What manner of death do you chose for him?"

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

"My Beloved."

SHE had called him that. While she had looked at him, touched him did things - made him do things, couldn't stop it. Couldn't stop her. Hated her, but hated himself more. Should have fought, should have been stronger but wasn't . Didn't. Too scared, too weak. Powerless. Did nothing, watched, weak, powerless while she hurt him, hurt Jack. Would have watched, done nothing while she hurt everyone he cared for, helped her enslave the world because he was too weak to stop her.

Weak. Spineless. Not good enough. Not strong enough. Afraid. Useless. Let her - let HIM. Should have been able to stop them. Too strong, they were too strong and he was too weak. Hated that. Hated being weak.

What had he said? His choice? What happened next? Whether Delios lived or died? How - how he died? His choice?

Eyes upon him, looking, watching waiting, all those eyes, up to him, what happened next. His choice, his decision. Up to him. They were all looking at him, waiting for him. He got to say, whatever he said - would go. Up to him? What should he do? Not sure.what to do, never, so seldom ever - had a choice. Always someone else doing it for him, doing it to him. Something else, deciding, deciding for him, taking away his choices, taking, taking, taking everything. Not happening now. Now - he got to say. What happened to someone else - his - his choice?

Eyes, frightened now, looking at him, terrified. Terrified - of him! Where was the defiance, the fear, the hatred? Gone, gone, just fear. Afraid of him.

No one had ever been afraid of him. Strange feeling, almost funny, felt like laughing but no - not that kind of funny. Strange. So strange. Never felt this before, new but not bad. To see fear in other eyes, outside, see it not feel it, so strange, almost as strange as knowing it was there because of him. Understood fear. Understood helplessness. Constant companions, unwanted associates. Fought them - fought them all his life. Fought to keep on going, not to be afraid. Fought them tooth and nail through so much. Don't be scared, don't look back. Keep fighting, keep running. All the fighting, all the running didn't help. Still can't outrun it. They keep coming for you. Keep coming. Keep taking.

Keep hurting.

Understood what he saw in those eyes. Fear. Weakness. Hated it. Hated the way it made him feel. Hated to see it - reminding him of everything. Powerless, powerless to prevent. Fate always in the hands of another. Always someone else. Always something else twisting, taking, changing, hurting. Always powerless, no matter what he did, no matter how much he fought, struggled, ran.

Powerless.

Not now. Not now. His turn now. He had the power. Fear looked at him but didn't have him. Someone else its slave, shivering in its shadow, cowering before him. This time not him. He wasn't the one who waited with fear upon the whim of another. Up to him what happened. Life, fate, in his hands. Fear had not come for him, it tormented another. He was immune, he was safe. He had the power.

The power...coursing through him, electrifying him as he stood looking up at the one who lived and died as he willed. He had taken life before. Had killed out of impulsive rage, retribution, to defend himself and those he loved. But this - this was different. Deliberate, considered, cold blooded. Having the time, the leisure to reflect, smell the fear, which couldn't touch him, revel in seeing powerlessness not having to feel it, look in the eyes of the one who awaited his decision. His will. His.

Knew it should revolt him, disgust him, maybe somewhere it did. But somehow, it also didn't. He'd felt a glimmer of this before. A single, stray, aberrant instant, the momentary rush, instantly dispelled, as he had held Delios, had been choking him. But that - that had been nothing - nothing like..this..

This was powerful, enervating, exciting. So exciting. Made him feel strong. In control. Not powerless. Not like he had been. Couldn't take his eyes away from the impotent one before him, cringing, so scared. Weakling. Made him feel disgusted to see the fear, the weakness, once that was him. No! Not him, he wasn't scared, was in control, felt it, felt it rise, felt himself smile, tremble with the excitement. The feeling..the feeling of no fear. Power, this was power. What it felt like to be the one who decided, who said, who did, the one in control, doing, not having done to. Never felt this strong, this sure before, never dreamt it would feel so good.

Never dreamt how much he would like it.

Ohhhhh, he DID like it. Liked it - a lot. Strength, power, surging up within him, such fire, such heat. Desire shook him as he moved toward, looking at what he never had to be again. Didn't remember rising, but he was walking, smiling, burning, flaunting himself in fear's face. Can't have me, can't touch me. Not scared of you anymore. What had Chronos said to him?

"You still do not understand what I am offering to you, do you Daniel?"

He understood. For the first time, he understood. What it meant to never have to be afraid. He looked up, seeing more eyes, her eyes, more fear. They knew - what he had the power now to do. Had tried to use him, deceive him, and play him for a fool. One word, all it would take. Knew it, knew he knew it, feared him, feared the power, not laughing at him now. Never use him again. Daniel gasped as the heady rush of realisation filled his thoughts, mingling with the wild, erotic desire that was possessing him. Oh god, he understood. And he more than liked it - he WANTED it...

Daniel gasped again as hands slid across his chest, a warm, hard body pressed tightly up into him from behind. The hands of the demon, the tormentor, bringer of pain and fear and yet now his teacher in this strange, new truth. Taking his freedom now giving it back to him, showing him there was another way.

The hands he had despised, now somehow craved, moved over him, becoming so familiar, coming to learn how to touch him, make him respond against his will through their relentless, determined seeking. Already afire they caught him unawares, defenceless before their advance over him, somehow unable to find what had helped him to resist them before, and suddenly no longer able to find the will to want to resist. Why resist? Why fight? Fighting this heady, wild lust kept him in pain, in fear. Kept him powerless. The demon held him, but also would share with him - show him how to be - how to be powerful. How to never be afraid again. Why fight him? So tired of fighting...

Daniel moaned, leaning back against the demon holding him, blindly turning his head back and toward the mouth that was coming toward his.

"Yes," the demon breathed as he nuzzled Daniel's face. "It feels good, doesn't it? Like nothing else. You understand, now, don't you?"

All he had to do was - give in to it. Say "yes" to the demon. No more fear. This one life was only the beginning. The demon held him, his touch consuming him, his hands singing with the power he was willing to share with him. Say the word. Didn't have to stop here. There was so much else he could do. The demon was showing him the way. Spare a world - or burn it to ashes. What was the difference? What did it matter? It was all the same thing. All power. This was power. Only took a word. Whatever he wanted he could - have - be - do. Anything he wanted.

Anything....

He'd tried so hard. To do right, to do everything he could, to fight, to keep on going. Hadn't changed anything, hadn't saved anyone - not the ones he had most needed to save. Hadn't saved them. Hadn't saved - her.

Why should he care? Why should he fight? Everything he had done for his world, his people, where were any of them now? Abandoned him, left him alone in the dark with the demon, left him alone in pain and fear. Why should he care what happened to any of them? Why should he fight for them? Toil, sweat, and bleed for strangers? Why not just turn, embrace the demon, and give in to the wild, dark desire?

Why not?

Daniel nodded, unable to speak, barely able to resist the impulse to turn to the demon who was stroking him knowingly, laughing softly in his ear as he gasped and shook with need.

"Look at them, Daniel," the demon whispered in his ear, pausing in ministering his inflaming caress only long enough to make a gesture at the other people in the room. "Look at them! They will never understand. Will never know this joy. Never know what it feels like - to be what you can be."

What he could be? What - what was that? Not what he was. Hated what he was, hated being afraid, useless, powerless, but what the demon had said? There was something wrong. Something in him, a small voice, could barely hear it anymore. Trying to make him listen, understand something.

What could he be, what would he become? Had to know, understand this. Had to be able to think. Hard to think straight now. God, so turned on, touching him all over, felt so good, but so confusing. Wrong. It's wrong. Remember...remember something. Can't remember. The demon is so strong.

Have to fight. Can't - can't, losing. Going to give in. Want only to turn, to feel, to give into it but no, need help. Do what he said, look, look over there, maybe there is an answer, maybe some help. No help from the ones who fear him but there is one more person. Look to him. Still something missing. Something he needed. Hard to think of what it was want so much to...but no, look.

Nah'tak. Sadness in those great, noble eyes. Such sadness and something else. Disappointment? Nah'tak did not approve. Did not like what he was seeing. That - meant something. Hurt. Trusted Nah'tak. Nah'tak was a good man. Why was he disappointed? What was wrong? Why couldn't he think? What was missing?

"Give into it, Daniel," the demon murmured as he kissed him. Kissed him back. The hot, insatiable mouth pulling him in, drawing him out, over, almost over the edge. So close, wanting the hands that were touching him, stroking him, knowing where to touch him. Wanting what they could give him, wanting, all of it.

"Give yourself to me."

yes...oh...yes...

"Love me, Daniel. Everything you desire, anything you could ever want, everything I have, it's all yours. All you have to do is - take it. Give yourself to me. That's all you have to do. Love me."

Love him? The demon wanted him to - to love him. Give... But, he already loved someone. Had already given, already promised. What he had been forgetting, what he had been missing, coming closer...

JACK!

Couldn't feel him anymore, wasn't inside him anymore. Gone, the feeling was gone, Jack was gone, but then it would be, he would be, that would be the price. There was always a price, no such thing as a free lunch. The trade-off, the sacrifice. Power. Selfish lust. The empty promises of the demon. Or love. He could have the world, god knows how many others, it would only cost him his soul, his honour, his being, and his love. The price would be everything he was - and Jack.

What did the demon know about - love? What did ANYTHING he had to offer him matter next to that? A thousands worlds, billions of people at his feet? What did HE want with any of that? What would any of it mean without love - without Jack? What would he be if he gave himself over to the demon? Hadn't known before, but he knew now. What could he become? What would he become?

He'd become just like him. If he joined with the demon he'd become one himself. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

He'd become what he most despised. That was the true gift of the demon. The sum of his false promises, the substance of his temptation. Maybe he had fought, striven and feared, but he'd always been true to what he was. Maybe he hadn't always won, maybe there were times when he'd been down, but he had tried. Really, really had tried. Knew that now. Knew no matter what had happened, what it looked like, he had TRIED. All he could do - all anyone could do. Couldn't expect any more of himself than that. And couldn't blame himself when sometimes all he could do just wasn't enough. He'd tried.

Damm it! He'd tried! And after everything he'd done, how far he'd come he was DAMNED if he was going to give up, give in and throw it all away now!

Maybe he wasn't perfect, but whatever he was, Jack loved him. That was all he needed to know, all he ever needed to know. All he ever needed to have. What in the hell had he been thinking? Must be crazy.

Daniel laughed at himself, closed his eyes, and pushed away the strange momentary delusional dream of the demon as he reached out once more for the only thing he really wanted. Knowing as he did so he was also reaching out for himself.

Sorry Jack, got lost there for a little bit. Won't ever go away from you again.

Couldn't feel it in words, but could feel it in love and support. Jack was still there, still waiting, still wouldn't let him down. Still understood. Still loved him.

Close one, Jack. So close. Just about bought the lie. Just about lost myself. Understand now, what you were trying to tell me. He has no power over me. He might have my body, but he doesn't have ME. That's what he really wants. He can't have it. Can't have it. That's mine. That's yours. He can hold me, hurt me, kill me, but I can still say no. My power. Real power. I've got it; it's going to be okay now. Nothing he can do to me anymore. Not scared. Not now.

Jack still loved him. With Jack helping him banish the betraying fire, Daniel straightened up, removed the roaming hands from his body and moved away from the System Lord. He spared one look for Nah'tak, flashing him an apologetic smile, warmed to see the relief in the First Prime's eyes. The others he would let stew in their own juices. Hopefully, that way the terror of the lesson would not be entirely lost on them. Might as well get some use out of his momentary fall from grace.

Daniel walked away from Chronos, breathing deeply, his mind and thoughts returning to normal. Confusion over, control returning, he could think again. Still had to answer the question, decide the fate. Chronos was still waiting for his answer.

Wasn't going to coldly sanction an execution. Not even for a Goa'uld. Couldn't do that now, wasn't in him anymore. He had no great love for Delios, but didn't want to see him dead and besides, at least he was a known quantity. One he knew he could deal with. A replacement might be even worse. No, think Daniel, how to get him out of this. No talk of clemency, mercy, that sort of thing wouldn't do here. Think like a Goa'uld, think like a Goa'uld. Get this over with.

Control restored, Daniel turned to face Chronos. Expecting to see disappointment. Chronos had to understand he had rejected him yet again, and yet, there was interest and anticipation in the dark eyes of the System Lord. Giving up trying to understand it, Daniel pulled his mind back to the task of saving Delios' undoubtedly ungrateful ass.

"I believe we were discussing the manner of that one's death," Daniel began coolly, indicating Delios with a negligent wave of his hand.

"What have you decided?" Chronos replied with a slightly amused smile.

"Is it really necessary to kill him? He has been severely punished for his offences. I would think the punishment would be sufficient to discourage him from any further disobedience."

"Why would you wish to spare him?" Chronos asked, genuinely interested in the answer. "He is not your friend, nor is he kindly disposed to you. Why would you wish to be merciful to him?"

"Mercy has nothing to do with it," Daniel returned in a deliberately arrogant tone. Think like a Goa'uld. "Has he not proven himself to be - useful?"

Chronos nodded thoughtfully. "For all his annoying idiosyncrasies he has been an exemplary First Maintainer. I have been gratified by the efficiency with which my household has been ordered and organised during his tenure. Admittedly, I have no wish to be burdened with the task of attempting to replace him."

"Then don't," Daniel said. "He has been punished. I am satisfied with that. I do not require his death, nor do I wish to see you inconvenienced by having to kill him for my sake. If he accepts his punishment and - " here he shot an admonishing look at an unbelieving Delios which clearly said 'if you know what's good for you you'll do it and shut up, I'm trying to save your life and your job you IDIOT' " - and agrees to swear an oath of loyalty to me, I do not see why he should not be allowed not only to live, but to live to serve you."

Chronos smiled. "Elegant. Logical. Wise. If this is what you wish, it shall be so." He walked back up to Daniel, took him by the arm, and led him up the stairs, up to where Delios still hung between the two Jaffa supporting him. "Let him go," he said curtly to the Jaffa.

The instant Delios was released, he fell to his knees. He cried loudly with pain, cried again as Chronos grabbed him by the hair, pulled his head up. Forcing him to look at them.

"You heard what was said. Do you swear to serve this man as loyally as you serve me, to allow him to come to harm only at the cost of your own life?"

"I - I swear," Delios gasped.

Thank god! There are some brain cells in that thick skull after all.

"Take him to the sarcophagus," Chronos said curtly to the Jaffa. "The rest of you may now leave as well."

Daniel watched the party decamp with more than a little bit of regret. Alone. With Chronos. Again.

They had barely departed when Chronos laughed and pulled him into his arms. "I should be cross with you," he murmured as he looked into Daniel's unflinching eyes. "For a brief moment your kisses were sweet and willing, but I see you have fled from me again. Still, I am glad of the reason you did so, for it means you are still the man I have come to love. I am also pleased with your solutions to both my problems."

Daniel did not turn from the seeking gaze of the man before him as the truth of his words impacted upon him. Yes, for a brief moment, he had been willing. Had wanted the whole package, including the man holding him. Who knew exactly what had almost happened.

Almost, being the key word.

Close, it had been so close. Scared him how close. Never realised how much he had hated himself, for surviving what others hadn't. Somehow making it while better, stronger people had been taken. Thought he didn't deserve to be the one who made it, but didn't think that way now. Not his fault. None of it was his fault. Didn't have to believe the lies anymore. Didn't have to grasp for empty promises. Already had everything he needed.

Chronos could do his worst. It wouldn't matter now. Could offer him the moon or string him up by his heels. He had no power over him. He could choose to say no. He did. He would. He'd faced the demon, turned aside the lure of his ultimate temptation. Turned down his best offer. Already had everything he needed.

He had Jack. He had love. He had himself. That - that was real power. The rest? Just an illusion. How could he know that? How could he tell?

All he had to do was look at Chronos. Look into his eyes. See the truth, what the System Lord could not hide from him. Chronos had it all, and yet all he wanted was the one thing he could not have.

Who really had the power now?

I'm okay now, Jack. Thank you.

God - he didn't even HATE Chronos anymore. Not now that he understood. For all his seeming power, how truly empty and - pathetic - he really was. How alone. He had - everything. And yet, he had - nothing. So..so sad..

"I'm sorry," Daniel said abruptly, sincerely, fervently to the man still holding him, caressing his cheek with thoughtful resignation. "It can never be. I can never give you what you want. I'm so sorry."

Daniel suddenly, impulsively kissed Chronos with brief, hard sympathy, then broke out of his arms, moving away, embarrassed by his blatant compassion. He couldn't see the look on Chronos' face, but could hear the pain in his voice as he gruffly said, "Come Daniel, let us go. I have much work to do today. There are several matters troubling me. Perhaps you could provide me with some more solutions."

"I would be happy to try," Daniel replied honestly as he turned back. "Lead the way."

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

He was very worried about O'Neill.

During the past few days O'Neill had struggled to endure and to carry out the duties which were required of him, all the while knowing, during every waking second, what was happening to their missing comrade so very far away. He'd been the calm, disciplined master of his own anger, outrage and frustration, putting all of it aside so as to be able to direct all of his strength and concern to DanielJackson to aid him in his trials. O'Neill was indeed a man of uncommon courage and force of will. A man Teal'c was proud to call friend. If only there was something, anything he could do to help that friend now.

To help both of his friends.

As much as possible, as much as he would permit, they tried not to leave O'Neill alone. He had been meditating; Luena had come to fetch him, asking him to spell her in the vigil. At last she needed to sleep. She had told him O'Neill was in DanielJackson's office, said he was quiet, as well as could be expected. DanielJackson was not well; O'Neill was worried about this. But the situation itself was - stable. There seemed to be nothing to be fearful about for the moment.

Teal'c was surprised, alarmed at what awaited him when he entered the office. O'Neill was sitting on the floor in the corner of the room, pressed up against the wall, hugging himself fiercely, his forehead pressed to his bent knees. He was rocking slightly, moaning as if he was in pain.

Deeply concerned, Teal'c started to move rapidly toward him, seeking only to help. Reacting instantly to his presence O'Neill shook his head viciously, waving him away with a jerking, warding motion of his arm.

"Stay away!" he gasped. "Leave me alone! Have to - have to concentrate. God.." He groaned, the low, anguished sound making tendrils of fear curl about the Jaffa's heart. "Losing him..God, oh God, Danny..don't.."

Teal'c watched helplessly as his deeply distressed friend continued to moan, rock and hopelessly, painfully utter DanielJackson's name. What was happening, he could not even begin to imagine. But as O'Neill's body shook with grief, as his head suddenly came up, as terrible, anguished eyes met his, begging him to help, to do something, as he cried, "I can't feel him anymore...he's - he's gone..", Teal'c began to understand whatever was happening to DanielJackson now might mean there would no longer be any point to mounting any sort of rescue. There might not be anything of DanielJackson left to save.

Teal'c could do nothing, say nothing, offer no hope or comfort. O'Neill understood, did not blame, absolving him of his uselessness as he wearily lowered his head back to his knees in abject misery.

Teal'c clenched his fists as cold, deep, dark rage surged in his heart. They would leave this place. They would find a way. They would find Chronos. Whatever DanielJackson's fate, they would find the beast who had wronged him. They would find him and they would make him pay. The Jaffa knew the pleasure of killing the System Lord was not his to claim. The wrongs he had suffered paled before those of O'Neill. But he would find Chronos for him. He would find him, and he would hold him as the man before him gave the beast the death he so richly deserved.

If they could not save DanielJackson they would avenge him. There was nowhere in the universe Chronos could run that they would not be able to find him. The Tok'ra were not the only ones to whom they could turn for help in this. There were those among his own people who would know, who would seek, who would help. The false gods troubled themselves little with the affairs of the ones they relied upon to serve them and do their bidding. That arrogance, that complacency eventually would be their undoing. Teal'c could see this now with such clarity, he wondered why he had never seen it before. The Jaffa had to realise, had to be made to see the power they held.

They had the power to bring the false gods to their knees. The Jaffa were the key.

They would find a way to escape from this place. They would go to his people. There were those who knew others who knew. The word would spread. They would find Chronos. The Jaffa would be able to tell them, help them. They would find DanielJackson. He - he would tell O'Neill this. Give him hope. There had to be hope. DanielJackson was also brave and strong. Teal'c believed in this, wanted to believe in nothing else. It could not be too late. He was unwilling to accept this could be so. He would not.

O'Neill - O'Neill was..laughing. Puzzled, but heartened Teal'c looked down at the man who still sat with his head on his knees, the sounds now coming from him sounding very much like low, ironic laughter. Before Teal'c had a chance to ask him how he was he suddenly threw his head back, his face shining with exultant triumph as he pounded his fists on his thighs and howled, "That's my BOY! Woooo Hooo! DANNY! Spit in the bastard's eye!"

O'Neill looked at him, his dark eyes almost wild with the first pure, honest joy and hope he had seen in them since DanielJackson had been taken from them.

"He knows, Teal'c," O'Neill said in a voice almost breaking with relief. "He knows, he understands. He's gonna be able to make it now. Thank god, thank god, he's got it." O'Neill's voice began to fade as shock and exhaustion began to overwhelm the temporary euphoria of the shared victory.

Teal'c knew he could go to him now, and did. O'Neill did not resist as Teal'c helped him to his feet, supported him as the weariness threatened to pull him back down to the floor again.

"Too close," he said in a barely audible voice, resting in the firm, freely offered strength bolstering him. "Teal'c, that was too close. Screw the president; screw the whole rat bastard bunch of them. We have to get Danny out of there. He'll be okay for awhile now, but we have to get him out of there. I don't care what they do to me, if they lock me up in the deepest, darkest slime pit of a prison for the rest of my life I'm getting him out."

"You will not be there alone, O'Neill," Teal'c replied. You are my friend. DanielJackson is also my friend. We will find him. I promise you this."

"No stopping? No turning back? Whatever it takes? No matter what? No giving up till we find him?"

"You have my solemn vow," Teal'c replied, his deep voice rumbling the oath through the room.

"More than good enough for me," Jack nodded, slapping his friend on the arm. "Where's a chair? Any coffee in this place? God, my head is splitting. Get me to a chair. Gotta sit down before I fall down."

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

Water. Really wanted a glass of water. Too far to walk to the kitchen. Hah! Funny one, Daniel. Suppose he was going to have to call someone. Unbelievable. How was he going to do that? Just wanted a stinking glass of water.

Maybe he should work on sitting up first. That might be difficult. Felt like one very large, extremely overdressed bag of crap. Sprawled on the sofa, hadn't moved since Nah'tak had brought him back here he wasn't sure how long ago. Had tried to work at the stuff Chronos had set him to, hadn't been too bad for a while. Head had been hurting a little bit, but he hadn't been feeling as weak and sick as he was when he'd first awakened.

Trying to eat again had changed everything. After vomiting - yet again, he found himself in pretty much the condition he was now. Feeling sicker than a dog, head splitting, so weak he could barely move.

Fortunately Chronos hadn't seen, didn't know. Didn't want him hovering, touching, fussing. Just wanted to be left alone. The System Lord was quite excited at the prospect of getting to play God in front of the Drashi. He was fully preoccupied with learning his 'part' for the ritual he needed to perform. Apparently they would be there in less than two days; he had a lot of work to do in the interim to prepare.

Chronos had left him in Nah'tak's custody and had gone off to do whatever it was he needed to do, charging about in a fever of fierce energy and excitement. Nah'tak was the only one who knew he had been sick again, and was the one who had brought him back here when he finally had to concede he barely had the energy to hold himself upright in a chair.

The First Prime had been worried, deeply concerned, had spoken about immediately informing Chronos. In trying to dissuade him from doing this Daniel had discovered there'd been a change to his status he had been unaware of.

He'd said "no" - not as an order, but as an alarmed response to the idea, only to be surprised by the immediate, specific reaction it elicited from Nah'tak.

The Jaffa had pulled away from him, drawn himself smartly, swiftly up, saying crisply, "Yes, my lord. As you command." Then he had whirled quickly and walked away. Leaving Daniel feeling dumbfounded by the exchange and more than a bit saddened by what it now seemed to signify.

He considered Nah'tak to be the one real friend he had in this terrible place. He felt no desire to be suddenly 'set above' him, or in any way removed from enjoying the benefits of his friendship by barriers of artificial status or forced obedience.

Kinda hard to be yourself with someone you had to bow and scrape to. As Jack would say - crap. But on the flip side, looked as if he now had some official 'clout' around here. Daniel smiled to himself. More illusions. He was quite sure his 'authority' was limited to the ability to lord it over the members of the household, if he was so inclined. Wouldn't be a great way to make new friends. Also an utterly pointless privilege, for he was sure his 'clout' would not extend to issuing directives along the lines of 'take me to the nearest way to get off this ship.'

So much for power.

Daniel groaned and forced himself to sit up. Wasn't the most fun thing he had ever done in his life, but he managed it. Still wanted some water, and still was no closer to figuring out how he was going to get it. Thanks to the thing around his neck, the only one he knew for sure he could get a hold of was Chronos. The jewel in the collar was a communication device which would connect him to His Goa'uldness. Although Daniel experienced a momentary flare of amusement at the thought of compelling the high and mighty System Lord to drop everything and run to fetch him a glass of water he wisely dismissed it. Even though he knew he could make him do it..

Whoa, Daniel, maybe we aren't quite over this morning yet...

Still, the idea struck him as suitably absurd and he found himself laughing. God, the stories he was going to have to tell everyone when he got home.

If he got home.

Didn't feel like laughing anymore.

Have to get out of here. Have to. He knew now there was very little in the way of help he could expect from the Tok'ra. They wanted to convert him to the cause, turn him into their personal little deep undercover operative. He was going to do his very best to stay out from any covers in this place, thank you very much. Also, having no idea what this 'cause' was they were alluding to, he was more than reluctant to lend his efforts to supporting something when he wasn't exactly sure what he was supporting.

The other Goa'uld would just as soon spit on him as look at him. He couldn't expect any help from the kinsmen of the System Lord. Jack would come for him as soon as he could, he knew that, but right now, Daniel was sure his lover was being kept on a very short leash. That wouldn't stop Jack, he'd find a way. Somehow he'd find a way. But it might take a long time. If he could at least get off the ship, get away, he'd have a better chance of finding his way to a Stargate and finding his way home. Yes, there was one on the ship, he even knew where it was, but it was useless unless they were orbiting a planet.

Wasn't just going to sit around here throwing up. Had to be something else he could do. Had to be some other way. Daniel desperately wished he knew what was happening back at the SGC. Was everyone all right? Had they found the Ashrak? What was happening? Was someone remembering to feed his fish? What - what was that - he didn't have fish - where the hell had THAT thought come from?

He missed them all so much, wanted so much just to know - something. The slim, shining link to Jack told him very little. Jack, bless him, wasn't letting much slip through. Whatever Jack's fears, whatever his pain, he was doing the best he could to keep it from touching him. Couldn't even begin to imagine what it was costing him to do it, but didn't know what he would have done without the strength and comfort Jack was sending to him with unflagging, unstinting generosity.

Jack really was - too much. How he had gotten so lucky he didn't know, but his distant, faithful friend was the only reason why he was still here. The only reason he was going to continue to be here. If only for no other reason but to live long enough to look Jack in the eye once more and say, "thank you."

Had to be some way to get word to him, that might be something to put some thought toward. Trying to find some sort of way to - communicate with home. Get some messages through, find some way to pass on where the ship was going, where it would be, keep Jack advised of his location, his itinerary. Find some way to speak to him so he could ask him - how was he sleeping? Jack hated to sleep alone; didn't like it when he worked late, when he wasn't there, where he was supposed to be. Wished he could ask him, wished he could know if Jack was eating properly. Was he looking after himself? Was he remembering to lock the sliding door at night? He was always forgetting to lock that door.

No - that wasn't right. HE was the one who was always forgetting that. Jack was always on him about it, always so cross with him because he had to get out of bed, right after he got comfortable, just to check, because he could never tell Jack, never knew, was never sure, if he had, or if he hadn't. Jack would grumble as he got out of bed, grumble when he got back a few minutes later, complain he was cold and needed to get warm again. He'd snuggle up close, so close, pull him in tight, arms circling, surrounding him with sweet, safe serenity, not cold at all, so warm, so strong and not complaining anymore.

Miss you, Jack. This is so hard...

Don't be stupid; don't think like this, just make yourself crazy, think, think - think of something else. Think your way out of this - everybody's always telling you how smart you are here's your chance to prove it, wonder boy. What was Jack always saying? Basic survival training? What do you have? What do you need?

He needed to escape. He had - himself. What else did he have? Had Nah'tak. He had this new 'authority' which Chronos had evidently given him without telling him. What could he do with it? What use could he put it to?

Wouldn't cut any ice with the Goa'uld. Did with Nah'tak, which means it would with the Jaffa. There were humans on the ship as well, mostly working in lower, menial, servile capacities.

A lot more humans and Jaffa on the ship then there were the 'ruling class'. There was something there. If he could gain more free access to other areas of the ship, get to know the 'underlings' - as himself, not as 'Chronos' Favoured', plant a few seeds, gain a bit of sympathy, support...

Probably crazy to think he could incite the oppressed to revolt: that might be a bit too high of a mark to shoot for, but if he could convince even a handful to help him escape, that might definitely be possible. Certainly a lot better than sitting here doing nothing, languishing slowly away, waiting for a rescue which might be months in coming.

There were definitely times when he didn't do 'patient' any better than Jack did.

Well, that didn't make him feel any better physically, but was doing wonders for his morale. Really getting thirsty now. Only water in the place was in the pool and he sure wasn't drinking THAT!

His mind was abruptly pulled away from any further contemplation of his problem by the small slight sound of fabric rustling. There was someone else in the room! Startled by the realisation, Daniel's eyes shot open.

Delios was standing silently a few feet in front of him. Daniel looked into the dark, veiled eyes which met his, remembering suddenly he was quite alone here. And definitely not feeling up to a rematch of their encounter in the arboretum.

Oh crap, now what?

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