Jack heard a moan. It was a sad sound carrying testimony of sharp and agonizing pain. As he sat up the sound was heard again and he realized that it came from him. The pain was in his head, reminding him of regretful mornings after foolish teenage nights. Holding his head between his hands he waited for the pain to recede, swallowing hard against the nausea making its way up his throat. I'm too old for this. Eventually the pounding slowed, allowing him to carefully open his eyes to take in the surroundings. A few feet to each side of him were two stone walls, joined over his head by an arching roof. Straight in front was a gate, held shut with a huge steel lock, and the striped light of the setting sun falling from behind informed him the forth wall consisted of similar metal bars. With horror he realized that even though he had never been here before he knew exactly where he was – inside the shrine at the top of Mixcoatco's pyramid temple.
Another moan, this time not from him, drew his attention. He wasn't alone in the prison. A shape lay close to what he decided to call the left wall, and as he approached it on his hands and knees he noted blonde hair and a familiar green uniform. Sam was on her back, and by her tightly screwed shut eyes Jack guessed she was experiencing the same agonizing headache still deftly pounding in his own scull. He reached out to put a soothing hand on her shoulder, but the memory of a similar situation prompted him to speak first.
"Carter? It's just me. Don't bite me, okay?!"
Sam's eyelids lifted a fraction of an inch to meet his eyes. She gave another moan and her face contorted in an expression somewhere between a smile and a grimace of pain.
"I know," Jack said and let gentle fingertips feather over her forehead. "Just breathe through it and it'll get better."
He waited until he saw her face relax a little. Then he looked around again, hoping against hope. They may have gotten me and Sam, but maybe the others got away. After all, junior should have protected Teal'c from the poison, right? Jack's heart sank when he spotted the answer to his question. Near the back wall lay a dark-skinned heap, breathing heavily. Jack scampered over and laid a careful hand on Teal'c's neck. The pulse was strong, and he must have been nearly awake because the touch stirred him and he let out a pained moan. The sign that the Jaffa was feeling the same symptoms as the humans worried Jack, but he filed the questions for later. At least he seemed no worse off than them. Giving Teal'c a pat on the shoulder he looked around again, and mixed feelings swirled in his heart at the absence of their forth teammate.
"Carter…" He scooted over to his second in command again, relieved to find her sitting up and looking a bit better. "What happened?"Even though he hesitated to let Daniel's name into the phrasing the look in Sam's eyes said she understood precisely what question was really on his mind.
"There's a chance Daniel got away, sir. There were guards at the 'gate so he hid in the underbrush while we cleared the way, but they ambushed us. If he didn't reveal himself they might not have found him. He might already have called for reinforcements."
The words were hopeful but her voice lacked some of the feeling, And Jack knew exactly how she felt. There were a lot of ifs and maybes to it, but then again – hope was more than a feeling. It was a decision, and not one difficult to make when it came to Daniel. The guy had after all surprised them from beyond worse odds than these. Jack nodded resolutely.
"I'm sure he got away."
Daniel had seen the Otomi archers the moment they popped up from behind the Stargate platform, but quickly realized there wasn't anything he could do to help his friends. He had raised his gun instinctively, but stilled the finger on the trigger. The arrows had already struck his friends, and even in the best of times Daniel knew he wasn't the best sharp shooter. He couldn't be sure he could take out all three archers before they got a shot in on him.
Consequently he watched and waited. Watched as Sam and Teal'c both staggered from the poison delivered by the arrows. It worried him to see Teal'c react the same way as Sam. Shouldn't Junior be protecting him? I sure hope that wasn't some kind of symbiote poison or he might die even if we get away from this planet. He watched the archers step out from behind the Stargate and stand over his friends, waiting for them to slip into unconsciousness. His grip on the gun hardened when it occurred to him that they might kill them where they lay, but he resisted firing and hoped the reason for the poison was that the Otomi wanted them alive. But if they do it's probably just to kill us all instead of just me. Damn it, Daniel! How did you not see that development coming?! He bit down the curses echoing Jack's opinion on his trusting nature and focused on what was happening in the glade.
Sam and Teal'c were apparently completely out of it now, sprawled motionless on the ground. One of the Otomi poked Sam with his foot and said a few words to his comrades. Daniel couldn't quite make them out but he guessed it was an instruction because the other two walked over to Teal'c and, after giving him a couple of testing pokes, hauled him up and started dragging him across the ground. Giving an approving nod the speaker bent down and scooped Sam up in his arms. The movement reminded Daniel of the way Teal'c had carried him earlier but the likeness ended when the Otomi unceremoniously slung Sam over his shoulder and headed for the tree line – straight toward where Daniel was hiding.
He pressed himself against the ground and held his breath, not sure if he hoped he wouldn't be discovered or that he would get a chance to catch the Otomi off guard and free his friends. They passed so close that he could have reached out and touched them, but they never looked down or give him an opening that he could use without risk of injuring Sam or Teal'c. Within moments they disappeared between the trees and he could barely resist trying anyway, but he knew he wouldn't manage to make the necessary quick successive shots in his current state.
He waited until the sounds of his friends' captors had faded into the forest, and then he waited a little longer, gathering strength both mentally and physically. As he lay staring into the now quiet forest a thought struck him. Where's Jack? He could only assume the Otomi had already taken him before they got this far. The other option – that they had killed him – he didn't even want to think about. Apparently it's up to me to free them all.
With a joyless smile he pushed himself off the ground and peeked out through the branches into the glade. The archers had left their wounded comrades behind when they left, without even giving them a second look. Only one of them was on his feet. He had taken a staff blast to the shoulder, and was bandaging the burn with a strip of cloth he had taken from one of his less lucky comrades. Having covered up the wound he headed into the forest, in the opposite direction from the city, and just like the archers he didn't give the others as much as a parting glance. That left Daniel with six wounded enemies to deal with – or actually five. Despite Sam's instructions Teal'c had hit one of them square in the chest, giving him a very slim chance of still being alive.
Daniel considered the rest, all five in different levels of pain from wounds in their legs and arms. Even with an impaired aim he could easily pick them off from where he was hidden. He could almost hear Jack's voice in his head saying it was the most tactical course of action. The gun seemed to lift on its own, taking aim at the closest warrior, but something stopped him from firing. He couldn't do it. He couldn't just sit there and kill five defenseless men in cold blood. He lowered the weapon. Then he supported himself against a tree and got to his feet.
The pain in his soles was less than he had expected, but he still limped as he stepped into the glade. The Otomi saw him – and the gun in his hand. The ones who could reached for their dropped weapons, or retreated as fast as their wounded legs would allow. Daniel stopped and cleared his throat, letting his gaze connect with one pair of eyes after another.
"Okay, here's the deal," he said. "I'm not intending to shoot you, as long as you don't try to kill me. I could help you with your wounds, if you let me. Or we could just ignore each other. I think, though, that we could both benefit from getting along. Particularly since I seem to be more inclined to helping you than your friends who just left you here."