Daniel's bare feet twisted on the uneven ground. It hurt when rocks and twigs cut into his soles but he made no sound about it. He didn't want to slow the others down by being a burden. Inevitably, though, he started falling behind. The breath was catching in his throat and the wound in his side had opened and started bleeding again. His vision got more and more blurred and he stumbled on obstacles he couldn't see. Finally he tripped over a fallen log and crashed head first into the ground.
Jack spun around at the crack behind him and rushed back to his fallen friend; cursing himself for not being on their six to make sure no one fell behind. Noting that Daniel wasn't moving his gut froze.
He knelt down and flipped Daniel to his back, realizing that he was breathing – albeit shallowly.
"We need some cover," he decided and looked around to spot a thicker area of underbrush. "Over there."
With combined efforts they moved Daniel into the bushes where they should be hidden from view. Teal'c went over the area where he had fallen and disguised their retreat, hopefully making it so that the pursuers would think they had simply passed by this location.
Sam checked Daniel's wound and redressed it. Then she moved on to his feet and wrapped them too, while Jack silently berated himself that he had forgotten that Daniel wasn't wearing any shoes. Damn it, Jack!
A sound drew his attention. He couldn't see anybody but he was sure the Otomi were close on their heels. Too close. We're not going to make it to the 'gate. Daniel won't be able to run again, he probably won't even be able to walk – or at least he shouldn't. Someone would have to carry him if they were going to get there to the Stargate at all, and despite his strength even Teal'c would be slowed down by the burden in the thick forest. Jack had to make a decision again.
"Okay, guys," he said. "I'm gonna draw them away from the 'gate…"
"NO!" Sam objected. "We shouldn't split up, sir."
In any other situation, on any other team, those kinds of words from a captain to a colonel would have been insubordination, but SG-1 wasn't like any other team. Through all they'd seen and done they had become more than that, and Jack had learned to more than often heed the opinions of his teammates. This time though he didn't budge.
"We have to," he insisted. "Teal'c will have to carry Daniel, and you have to cover them. If I draw the enemy off you can get a head start for the 'gate. I'll just circle around and be right behind you."
Daniel heard the exchange through a fog of barely consciousness and he felt the same reluctance as Sam to letting Jack go out there alone. He forcefully peeled his eyes open, just as Sam pressed out a definitely not subordinate 'yes, sir' between tight lips.
"Jack…" His voice was little more than a whisper, but the colonel heard him and was immediately by his side. "Jack…I'm sorry." The words were silly and seemed to come with great effort, but they were so typically Daniel that they almost made Jack cry with joy. To ward off the mushiness he resorted to the usual path of joking banter.
"Oh, shut up, Daniel, or I might just smack you this time." The warmth in his voice contradicted the harsh words and Daniel smiled weakly, and then tried again.
"Save it, Daniel. I'm going. I'm just going to lead them on a little chase and then I'll be right behind you through the 'gate. Easy-peasy!"
Daniel gave up, but not before giving Jack a scowl that said he only did so because he simply didn't have the strength to argue. Jack looked to the other two for any further objections, but as evident as they were on their faces neither Sam nor Teal'c uttered their feelings. With a nod confirming the silent objections were noted and that he appreciated the silent part he turned and peered out through the branches.
There were no sounds of the pursuers now, and as before he could see no one. That didn't mean they weren't there though, even if Jack hoped it did. Careful not to rustle the leaves Jack snuck out of the bushes and silently headed into the forest. He walked at a right angle to the direction of the Stargate, taking care not to make a sound before his friend's hideout were well out of sight. Then he intentionally began moving less carefully, snapping twigs and swatting branches to make noise that would hopefully attract the Otomi's attention. If they heard them the sounds would also act as the signal for the rest of his team to begin their own stealthy progress to the 'gate.
The plan seemed well conceived; it didn't take long before he heard the sounds of pursuers behind him. He could only hope that meant the others had been left to make an unseen escape. There was no time however to dwell on his friends. The Otomi were gaining on him. He glanced behind and caught a glimpse of one of them stopping to draw his bow. Jack dove out of the way and the arrow missed its mark, only gracing his left bicep and leaving a slash in his jacket stained with a trickle of blood. It stung but it was barely even a flesh wound and wouldn't slow him down. For good measure he spun around anyway and fired off a retaliating barrage of bullets in the archer's direction, and then set off again.
Meanwhile the rest of the team was, as Jack had hoped, making their way to the Stargate seemingly undetected. Teal'c carried Daniel gently cradled in his arms while Sam was close behind with her weapon primed in case the Otomi decided to make an appearance after all. Eventually the forest started to look familiar, and the glade where the Stargate stood opened beyond the last trees. They stopped and hunched down in the underbrush.
"Figures it was a little too easy," Sam mumbled as she bent the branches apart to see seven Otomi warriors guarding the big circle of naquada. Beside her Teal'c carefully placed Daniel down on the ground before he as well took a look at the men standing between them and their way home.
"They are only carrying swords," he noted in a hushed voice. "We have superior weaponry."
Sam nodded, both to his observation and the unspoken conclusion. They had tried to avoid bloodshed so far, but no one should be fooled to think they were above it if there was no other way – and now there seemed to be no other way. She bent over Daniel to check on him and found him awake. The dressing on the wound in his side was hardly stained, but his feet still looked grisly. She redressed them with fresh bandages.
"There's a few enemy soldiers guarding the 'gate," she told him, "but not too many. You stay here while we take them out."
Daniel made a move to object but she halted him with a finger on his lips.
"We can handle them." When he still looked worried she drew her sidearm and pressed it in his hand. "Here, if we need help you can shoot through the bushes. But only if we need it, okay?! I don't want them to see you."
Daniel accepted the weapon, and the admonishments, even if Sam wasn't sure he was going to abide by them. Daniel had a tendency to follow his own mind in almost any situation. The only one he even seemed to occasionally listen to was Jack, and he wasn't here right now. Sam decided it wasn't worth arguing about and turned back to Teal'c.
"Let's go. Aim to disarm."
Teal'c nodded a little reluctantly. He wasn't quite as keen on leaving enemies alive as his Tauri friends. After another moment's consideration of the best strategy for attack, they crawled up to the very edge of the trees.
The first shots took the Otomi by surprise, capping a couple of knees and felling their owners to the ground. The rest were still in shock when Sam and Teal'c stormed them with more bullets and staff blasts aimed for arms and legs. It didn't take long before the two of them were the only left armed and standing. Praising their good luck Teal'c turned back to fetch Daniel, leaving Sam to keep an eye on the fallen.
Neither of them saw the three Otomi rising up from behind the Stargate platform, or heard the arrows flying from their bows. One sharp point embedded itself deep in Teal'c's muscular shoulder and before Sam had properly registered the sight she felt a sharp twinge in her own flesh. For a moment she thought she was lucky the arrow had missed her heart, but then she realized it had struck exactly where intended. It hadn't been meant to kill, but simply to deliver something far more sinister than a simple arrow.
The poison worked quickly, sped by the precise injection so close to her heart. In the space of a few breaths it dimmed her senses and stole away her balance, felling her to the ground as sound and light disappeared. Her last thought before the darkness descended completely was the hope that Daniel wouldn't reveal himself in a surely vain attempt to save them.
Jack had just started to close his circle around to head for the Stargate when he heard the shots fired, but it felt as if the sounds were coming to him from even further away than it should. I'm not that far away from the 'gate am I? Everything seemed a little further away than it should actually; sounds, vision. He had a sickening feeling that he was looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope, making distance impossible to judge. One second a tree would seem miles away and then all of a sudden he had to swerve away to not run straight into it. He had a vague sense his movements were getting slower too – and that that was a bad thing. A frown crinkled his forehead as he tried to remember why, but before he could figure it out another tree appeared out of the distance into inches in front of him. This time he didn't have time to veer and his head hit the trunk with a smack, putting the last of his lights out only moments ahead of the poison.