Battle of the Tomb

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: 5 - April 5-9, 2002
Spoilers: The Tomb
Written: February 27-28, March 10, 2021
Summary: SG-1's mission is to explore a Babylonian ziggurat on a planet devoid of life for millennia, but when a package of Russian cigarettes is found in the entrance, everything changes.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
Notes:
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~

Battle of the Tomb
by Orrymain

The Stargate locked into position at ten minutes before ten in the morning and quickly, SG-1 in their desert camos walked onto P2X-338. The planet was abandoned, but had many ancient columns and building remaining in its landscape, including a ziggurat. The problem was that they couldn't get inside the door.

The door had a bunch of ancient writing on it, which Daniel struggled to read. Diligently, the linguist attempted the translation, but he wasn't having a lot of success.

Bored, Jack stated, "I'm going to check the perimeter."

"Again?" Sam asked.

"It's that or play tic-tac-toe in the sand," Jack quipped. He motioned over towards the team's archaeologist and requested, "See if you can hurry him up."

"Yes, Sir," Sam acknowledged as she watched her commanding officer exit the ziggurat entrance. She approached Daniel and asked, "How's it coming?"

"It's complicated," Daniel answered. "Where's Jack?"

"Checking the perimeter." When the man stared back at her, she shrugged and muttered, "You know the colonel. He's ..."

"... bored?" Daniel challenged. "This stuff takes time, Sam."

"I know that, Daniel, but it's a planet without inhabitants. He's ..."

"... bored. Yes, I know."

"Well, let me know if there's anything I can do to help."

Daniel nodded and returned to his labors, which boiled down to translating the writings to determine how to open the door.

====

Thirty minutes later, Jack returned and immediately called out, "Hey, I thought you said this was the main entrance."

"It is," Daniel confirmed. "We just need to find a way to open this."

Teal'c noted, "I do not recognize the symbols."

"It's Babylonian - cuneiform. It's incredible," Daniel expressed with a bit of awe.

"What is?" Jack asked.

"Well, unlike Phoenician Ugarite cuneiform, these characters are pictograms rather than representations of unique sound symbols."

"Does it say how to open the pyramid?" the colonel queried.

"Ziggurat," Daniel corrected.

"Huh?"

"You said pyramid. It's a ziggurat."

Jack stared incredulously, not caring what the thing was called, and replied, "Yeah. Open the door."

"Well, it might not be so easy. I'm going to have to go back to Earth for a reference."

"How hard could it be?" Jack asked. ~You're a friggin' language genius, after all. Come on, it's hot out here.~

"Very," the linguist answered. "It's a dead language. I mean, I doubt if anyone's even stood here for three-thousand years."

Sam, while pacing the entrance area, suddenly noticed something that contradicted her friend's remark and stated, "Oh, I wouldn't be so sure about that."

"What you got there?"

"An empty pack of cigarettes. They're Russian."

"Oy!" Jack sighed as he took possession of the foreign product. "Okay, kids, pack it up."

"We haven't gotten inside yet," Daniel argued.

"Yes, I know that, Daniel, but if the Russians have been here, they just may be inside there, and I need orders. Let's get moving. Come on. Let's go!"

There wasn't much to pack up. Mostly, it was just Daniel's reference books. The Stargate was nearby, too, so it was only a short walk to it.

"So, Daniel ... pyramid; ziggurat. Who cares?" Jack asked.

"Uh, maybe the people who built them." Daniel glanced at his lover and asked, "You really don't know the difference,, do you?"

"Beretta M9 versus a Browning Hi-Power pistol. Tell me the differences."

"Uh, well ... good point," Daniel stated.

"Yep, so ... ziggurat; pyramid."

"Pyramids are basically tombs, found in Egypt and South America. According to the history books, they were built to either be the resting places of Pharaohs or to transport their souls to Heaven."

"But we know ..."

"Landing pads for alien spaceships, which we now know ..."

"... belong to the Goa'uld," Jack completed. "Enough about pyramids. Ziggurats?"

Daniel replied, "Ziggurats, on the other hand, were more like temples, originating in Ancient Mesopotamia. They tend to have steps, terraces, or ramps versus the longer and smoother staircases of the pyramids. Uh, their purpose was actually to house the gods."

"As in home sweet home?"

"Basically, yes."

The team arrived at the Stargate and returned to Earth where they filled in General Hammond. Immediately, Hammond contacted his superiors, while SG-1 entered a holding pattern until orders were received. They changed out of their desert camos, Jack opting for his blue BDUs while the others all went to the more traditional green outfits.

====

Shortly after 7:30 p.m., Hammond ordered his flagship team to the conference room for a briefing.

Sam began by noting, "The Russian Stargate Program was only up for thirty-seven days." She added, "We've seen their logs and the list of planets they visited, and P2X-338 was not one of them."

"Perhaps they deceived us," Teal'c put forth.

~No surprise there,~ Jack thought silently.

"At the moment, all they're admitting to is that there may have been some unauthorized use of their Gate."

"What's that supposed to mean?" the colonel questioned.

As he distributed folders of information to the team, Hammond answered, "This is Major Valentine Kirensky. He was serving under Colonel Sakolov at the base in Siberia. It now appears that he was also taking secret orders from certain hard-line elements in Russian Army Intelligence. He disappeared six days before we were called in to deactivate the Russian Gate."

Sam asked, "And they think he went off-world?"

"Along with two other officers and an archaeologist named Alexander Britski," the major general affirmed.

"I know his work. He's an expert on ancient Mesopotamia," Daniel pointed out.

Jack queried, "Why would they go behind Sakolov's back?"

Teal'c suggested, "Perhaps for the same reason the NID conducted off-world operations without the knowledge of Stargate Command."

"To steal alien technology at any cost," Daniel surmised.

"But why 338 as opposed to any other planet?" Sam wondered.

Hammond replied, "That has yet to be determined."

Daniel interjected, "If they went through the Gate before everyone at the Russian base was killed, they could still be out there."

Sam refuted, "It's doubtful they would've survived this long. The planet's surface temperature averages a hundred and thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit in the shade."

Jack quipped, "Shade? I don't remember shade."

~He's so incorrigible,~ Daniel opined. "They could've taken shelter in the temple."

Jack teased, "Oh, so they figured out how to open the door?"

Daniel quickly insisted, "I'll figure out the door."

The two stared at each other as there was some light tenseness present that had, in reality, been going on all day. Both knew the origin of the problem, a combination of the colonel's genuine boredom and the impact on their ongoing game that resulted from having to keep their relationship a secret which often included pretending to be upset with the other. They'd been doing it for years now, and the whole thing was beginning to wear on them.

Teal'c asked, "Should they not have attempted to return by now?"

"Not without exposing their operation," Sam answered. "I mean, they could still be waiting for some kind of signal."

"She's got a point, Sir. Russian commandos can be pretty hard-core. They'd wait forever before they'd violate mission protocol," Jack stated.

Hammond responded, "I'm aware of that, Colonel. That's why we're going to allow a second Russian team to accompany you back to the planet."

"Excuse me?" Jack spoke in disbelief. ~Wake me up. I'm in a nightmare.~

Hammond elaborated, "It's going to be a joint mission: full disclosure, full cooperation."

"May I ask why, Sir?"

"In fact, the Russians have been pushing for more direct involvement in the Stargate Program for quite some time. We've been resisting, but in this particular case, it might be useful to have them onboard."

Jack returned somewhat sarcastically, "Yes, well, General, you know, I'm a big fan of the Russians, and international relations are a bit of a hobby of mine. However, I do believe that SG-1 should handle this one ... alone."

Firmly, Hammond responded, "The decision's been made, Colonel. They're on their way."

"Yes, Sir."

====

It was dinnertime at Jack's house, and the lovers were busy preparing their meal.

"Babe, why do you hate the Russians so much?" Daniel posed as he flipped over a burger as it grizzled in the skillet.

"I don't hate the Russians," Jack negated as he mixed together some romaine lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and a few other veggies for a nice dinner salad to accompany the burgers and fries that were still baking in the oven.

"You make it seem like it."

"Danny, it could be anyone who keeps secrets. The Russians have a history of not being transparent. It's their history I hate."

"So, uh ... we don't keep secrets from other countries?"

"Maybe, but when you're a team working together, there has to be some trust, or you won't get anywhere."

"You don't think the Russians will work with us on this mission?"

"I don't know, but if I had to bet on it, I wouldn't count on a whole lot of cooperation."

"Especially since you'll be in command?"

With a smirk, Jack responded, "It's always helpful to a firm chain of command. This is our discovery; our mission; and our Stargate. Naturally, command is mine."

"I'll accept that."

"Home territory, Danny."

"But it's not just because they're Russian?"

"They could be French, Mexican, or Chinese for all I care," Jack returned. "If they can follow chain of command and work with us openly, there's no problem."

Daniel nodded and walked over to toast the hamburger buns while thinking, ~Somehow, I don't think it's quite that simple.~

====

After breakfast the next morning, the team was awaiting the arrival of the Russian unit. Daniel and Teal'c were in the archaeologist's lab and were eventually joined by Jack and Sam, who were embroiled in a discussion over the Russian involvement. Basically, Jack agreed the United States hadn't held up their end of the agreement.

The colonel argued, "Carter, when you go through that Gate, you gotta know your team members are watching your six."

~Sounds familiar.~ Daniel interjected, "Actually, in Russian, they'd be watching your shest."

"Huh?"

Daniel rambled, "Which I suppose is neither here nor there."

Frustrated at the situation, Jack harshly asked, "Have you figured out how to open that pyramid yet?"

"Ziggurat," Daniel corrected. "And yes, I think I have. In order to expedite matters, the Russians e-mailed me the entire report of their archaeologist, Doctor Britski. The temple is dedicated to the Babylonian God, Marduk."

"And Marduk was a Goa'uld?" Sam questioned.

"Well, it seems likely. The word 'Babylon' literally means 'Gate of the Gods', so if there is a connection, it wouldn't surprise me." Just then the phone rang and the archaeologist answered it. "Hello?" He listened to the calling party. "Yeah, okay." After hanging up the phone, Daniel looked at his teammates and announced, "The Russians are coming."

"Crap. I was hoping their plane would crash, or something." Jack saw the stares of his team and explained, "No injuries: just crash and have to go back to where it came from."

"Sir!"

"Cut it out, Carter. I'm glad you think we should be buddies with the Russians, but my experience says otherwise."

"Look, you guys can fight this out later, but General Hammond wants us in the briefing room now," Daniel informed the debating military personnel.

"Right," Jack acknowledged. "Differing opinions. No big," Jack told his 2IC.

Sam smiled, nodded, and agreed, echoing, "No big ... Sir."

====

A few minutes later, SG-1 entered the briefing room, following General Hammond. The Russians were already there, complaining about American coffee while they waited.

"Good morning, gentlemen," the major general greeted as he walked forward.

"And ma'am. There's a ma'am, Sir," Jack observed about the Russian woman in the room.

"At ease. You must be Colonel Zukhov," Hammond noted.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, General Hammond. Allow me to introduce Major Vallarin and Lieutenants Marchenko and Tolinev."

Hammond responded politely, "Welcome to Stargate Command. This is Colonel Jack O'Neill, Major Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c."

After the initial greetings and pleasantries were completed, Hammond wondered if the Russians might want to rest, but they were eager to get right to work. Thus, Daniel began his presentation.

"Two years ago, Doctor Alexander Britski began an excavation near Rafha in Southern Iraq. He found several stone tablets engraved with Babylonian cuneiform and one with a set of symbols he didn't recognize."

"Gate coordinates," Sam put forward.

"In fact, the coordinates for P2X-338. Doctor Britski had no idea of their significance, but someone must have recognized something, because the results of the dig were never published, and the whole thing became classified."

Jack interjected, "Wait a minute. Two years ago, the Russians hadn't even seen a Stargate."

Daniel continued, "But they did have a DHD, the one discovered by the Germans in 1906 and taken by the Red Army at the end of the Second World War."

"So, when they finally got their program up and running, they must have added P2X 338 to the list of addresses supplied by Colonel Maybourne," Sam assumed.

"That doesn't explain why they didn't just send a regular team," Jack responded.

"Did Doctor Britski discover anything that might suggest why they singled this planet out?" Hammond asked.

Daniel responded, "Along with the coordinates, the tablet included a reference to something called 'The Eye of Tiamat'. It was a large jewel of some kind which supposedly endowed Marduk with great magical abilities."

Jack accused the visitors, "That wouldn't be why you folks wanted to keep this quiet?"

Zukhov answered pointedly, "Need I remind you, Colonel, that the United States has operated a Stargate in secret for years with the express purpose of obtaining alien technology."

"That was before we had an agreement to share information," Jack argued.

Zukhov asserted, "You took it upon yourselves to represent the interests of the entire planet without consulting anyone. You exposed the world to countless dangers."

Emphatically, Jack replied, "At least we dealt with them. It only took you folks what, a month, to find something you couldn't handle."

Hammond ended the verbal conflict, and the briefing continued. Vallarin asked Daniel if he could get them inside the entrance, and the linguist confirmed he could.

"Uh, yeah. The engravings of the entranceway are a kind of code. It's like a giant combination lock. It's just a matter of ... activating the correct symbols in the proper sequence."

"I have the utmost confidence in your abilities, Doctor," Hammond stated. He looked at his second and advised, "You have a go."

Jack simply stared for several seconds before he unhappily replied, "Swell."

====

When the meeting ended, Jack followed the major general into his office and began, "Sir, with all due respect ..."

"Colonel, the decision's been made and you *will* follow my orders," Hammond said sternly. "And, Colonel, the next time we have a briefing with a visiting team, I expect your team to be dressed appropriately."

Jack let out a groan. He was being reprimanded because both Sam and Teal'c attended the meeting without wearing their BDU jackets, sporting only their black tops. Normally, Hammond wouldn't have blinked at the lack of the team wearing jackets, but clearly, he was relaying a message to the colonel.

"Dismissed!"

The colonel knew he needed to avoid further conflict, so he left, leaving his argument about working with the Russians unspoken.

====

"What are you doing?" Jack asked in the locker room as the team changed into their desert camos again.

"Power bars."

"I saw the Twinkies."

"Well, we might be there a while," Daniel stated. "We need food."

"Those things aren't food."

"They are to me."

"And we'd better not be there that long," an upset colonel spat. "I hope you can get that pyramid door open."

"Ziggurat. Didn't I explain the difference to you yesterday?"

"I wasn't listening."

"Well, that's honest, and nothing new," Daniel sighed as he finished his download of nourishment into his backpack.

Jack glanced at watch and pointed out, "We need to be in the gate room now. Let's move!"

Daniel watched his lover breeze past him and sighed. Their game, forced by the cruel 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' mentality, was boiling. He had a hunch something would break soon. Daniel felt it within his soul. For now, though, he had a ziggurat door to open, so he gathered his reference books and met up with his team.

After some predicted chain of command back and forth between Jack and Zukhov, the teams headed for the Ziggurat.

====

As they walked, Jack and Daniel had a brief conversation, courtesy of their unique mental communication skills.

**You should have heard Zukhov in the gate room after you guys walked through. It was exactly as we discussed last night.**

**Chain of command issues?** Daniel questioned, though he was facing forward as the teams walked towards their destination.

**Yep, exactly like that, and he spoke to his team in Russian before they followed you through.**

**That is their language.**

**Not when they're on a joint mission with an American team and the entire Russian team speaks English. Transparency, Daniel. There is none with the Russians.**

**You should give them a chance, Jack.**

**I did.**

Daniel looked off in the distance and chose not to reply. He hoped the teams would work together and rescue the first Russian team, but he also was concerned things could get worse before the mission was over.

Now, though, the teams arrived at the ziggurat and Daniel went to work on opening the door.

====

After doing two unnecessary perimeter checks, Jack sat down and waited for his archaeologist to accomplish his task, but they'd been on the planet for ninety minutes already, and the colonel was bored once again.

"Daniel," Jack called out, his left hand pressed against his forehead, rubbing it as if he had a headache.

"Just about there," the linguist assured from his seated position in front of the door.

Jack whined, "You said that an hour ago."

"Look, if you want to give this a try, be my guest."

"Carter, break out the C4," Jack ordered.

Anxiously, Daniel called out, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait." He leaned his head against the reference book he was using and thought for a moment. "Okay, I got it," he said as he stood up. "It's a, a standard retelling of the Babylonian creation myth. Marduk slays the winged serpent Tiamat. He cuts her in two. He uses half of her to create the sky and the other half to create the earth."

Vallarin asked, "How does that help us, Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel answered, "Well, you see, some of the text has been deliberately placed out of order. Only a priest of Marduk would be able to spot the discrepancies." He carefully studied the wall, his fingers lightly touching the ancient writing. "Here." He pressed a stone and it moved inward. "Here." Another stone was pushed and went inward. "And here."

The final stone shifted inward and, with a shaking of the ziggurat and some stones falling, the door opened, the center sliding upwards and the sides moving inward.

"Nice job," Jack praised.

Daniel watched the colonel walk by him and thought, ~You're welcome. Thank you for noticing I opened the door without blasting the building into pieces.~

The teams entered the ziggurat cautiously. They all agreed that the four-thousand year old structure wasn't very stable, but they had a rescue mission to complete. The teams split up, though Teal'c accompanied the Russian unit, while the Russian Lieutenant Marchenko went with SG-1.

For an hour or so, the teams searched the ziggurat when SG-1 discovered the completely decomposed body of a Russian, only then Sam realized the body wasn't decomposed, but it had been eaten.

"Something ate this guy?" a grossed out Jack asked.

"Stripped the flesh right from his bones," Sam explained.

At about the same time, the Russian unit located a sarcophagus within one of the tomb's chambers. Though Jack ordered his counterpart to await his arrival at their location to investigate further, Zukhov ignored the order and when he stepped up onto the sarcophagus platform, he accidentally set off a booby trap that caused a cave in.

The teams hustled to exit the ziggurat, but couldn't get to the entrance in time. In fact, Marchenko was stuck in the door when it collapsed down, killing him. The opening to the ziggurat was completely blocked, sealing the living members of the rescue teams inside the tomb.

"Let's get back to that sarcophagus," Jack ordered, staring at the door and mourning the unnecessary death of the Russian silently. ~Dumb move. What the heck happened?~

====

"Interesting trap. It doesn't really protect the sarcophagus, but it does lock you in with it," Daniel noted after the units assembled in the sarcophagus chamber.

Jack angrily spoke, "I told you to hold your position!"

Zukhov argued, "The mission requires that we thoroughly explore the area."

"I gave you an order!"

"Someone would have set off the trap eventually. It is just as well."

"One of your own men is dead! Where I come from, that tends to make a commander just a little upset!"

Zukhov responded, "Where I come from, casualties are to be expected."

Incredulously, Jack uttered, "What?"

"Colonel, we still need to find a way out of here," Sam reminded, hoping to end the latest argument.

"Shouldn't we open this first, make sure there's no one home?" Daniel put forward.

Sam found an item that led her to believe someone might have tried to seal the sarcophagus from the outside. Daniel agreed, having found a blowtorch that he surmised Kirensky's team used to open it up. He went to open the sarcophagus, but there wasn't the usual crystal or button to open it.

Frustrated, Jack pulled out his knife and used it to pry open the top of the sarcophagus. Zukhov and Vallarin assisted, while Sam aimed her weapon, prepared to fire if whatever was inside tried to attack them. What they found, though, was a skeleton adorned with Goa'uld decorations of some type.

"So much for Marduk," Jack stated.

Zukhov said, "I thought a sarcophagus could keep one alive indefinitely."

"Perhaps it malfunctioned," the Jaffa suggested.

Sam replied, "Yeah, but I don't think that's what killed him. These bones exhibit the same markings as the skeleton we found. Whatever killed the Russian soldier killed the Goa'uld as well."

Jack asked, "How'd it get in there?"

"I don't know," Sam answered.

"Better question is, where is it now?" Daniel asked the group, leaving all with an eerie feeling.

====

Daniel focused on reading the writings on the wall and columns of the ziggurat, while the others tried to figure out what to do next.

Jack walked over to his lover's side and quietly asked, "Anything?"

"Not yet." Daniel stared at the other man. "Are you okay?"

"We've lost a man and that goes against my grain, *especially* when it didn't need to happen. I told you, Daniel, chain of command, and it's already been violated."

The archaeologist nodded in awareness of his colonel's annoyance.

"Well, keep at it. I need a plan," Jack said as he walked away and returned to the head of the sarcophagus. ~How do we get out of here? I can't trust these Russians. They've already proven that.~

Sam interrupted the colonel's silent thoughts as she pointed out that they only had enough rations for five days, but Jack confidently argued they wouldn't be in the ziggurat that long.

Vallarin suggested using an explosive to open the entrance, but Jack argued it would bury them in the blast. Zukhov agreed with the colonel.

"What about this writing? Any mention of a back door?" Jack asked the linguist, though he suspected the odds on Daniel having found something in the last few minutes was slim.

"No. This portion of the text deals with the final fate of Marduk," Daniel answered.

"I think we know the final fate of Marduk."

"Well, apparently, he was such an evil tyrant that his own priests rebelled against him. They sealed him in the sarcophagus and placed some thing in there with him. There's no direct translation for the word, but I'm assuming it's a reference to the creature that ate him."

"Are you saying he was eaten alive?" Sam queried.

"The sarcophagus would have done its best to continually keep him alive, so ... it probably would have taken a while."

"Okay, that's officially the worst way to go," Jack opined.

"It would seem his fate is very well deserved," Teal'c stated.

Daniel added, "Marduk would have died eventually, but the creature must have stayed alive in the sarcophagus until Major Kirensky and his men came along."

"They let it out; it killed them," Sam said.

"We've only found one body," Zukhov noted.

"All right. Here's the deal. We're gonna search this place top to bottom. We're looking for a way out and the rest of Kirensky's team. Everybody got that?" Jack asked.

"I'd like to, uh, stay and finish this translation. It might be useful," Daniel responded.

"Fine," Jack agreed. "The rest of us will pair off. Teal'c, you're with Zukhov, Carter with Tolinev, Major, you're with me."

Thus, by mid-afternoon, the three groups continued their search, while Daniel worked hard to learn what he could in the writings.

====

As the search proceeded, Sam observed an apparent cocoon that was empty, while Zukhov discovered the skeleton of Britski. He also found the Eye of Tiamat, though he kept that to himself, following secret orders given to him by his commanding officer. He covertly placed the object in his pocket when Teal'c wasn't watching him. Zukhov also found Britski's personal log, which he turned over to Daniel to review.

Soon thereafter, Tolinev was attacked by the creature. Perhaps even worse, Sam sensed a presence inside the creature.

"The symbiote, the Goa'uld symbiote: it's still alive. It's inside that thing," Sam told Jack.

The teams returned to the chamber that contained the sarcophagus where Sam attempted to assist the injured Tolinev.

"The creature must have injected her with some kind of venom. Her body's shutting down," the blonde reported.

"What can we do?" Vallarin asked as he kneeled down near his colleague.

"Well, I've given her a shot of epinephrine. That should buy us some time, but if we don't get her back to the SGC soon, she's not gonna make it."

Daniel interjected, "She's right. The same thing happened to the other team, according to Doctor Britski's journal. The creature escaped when they opened the sarcophagus. It attacked Major Kirensky. He was dead within two hours."

"Any mention of what happened to the others?" Jack inquired.

"Two people died when a passageway collapsed, and the last entry reads, 'I'm all alone now. There is no escape. Only one course of action remains'."

Vallarin noted that the writing probably meant Britski used a cyanide pill to kill himself since all Russian Stargate personnel were given the pills prior to going on missions.

Zukhov argued to use C4 to escape the ziggurat, but Jack refused, asserting they hadn't yet exhausted all of their options.

"Hey, take a look at this. It's a sketch of an artifact Doctor Britski found inside the sarcophagus. He thought it might be the Eye of Tiamat," Daniel advised the others.

No one acknowledged recognizing the item.

"Colonel, surely the recovery of this artifact is no longer a priority," Vallarin put forth.

"It never was a priority. This was supposed to be a rescue mission," Jack reminded.

"It would appear there is no one left to rescue," Teal'c stated.

Daniel refuted, "Well, I wouldn't say that."

Jack drew a breath and then ordered, "Let's get back at it. Stay in communication." He looked at the linguist and nodded, "Let us know if you come up with anything helpful."

"Of course," Daniel acknowledged.

"Carter, you go with Teal'c; Zukhov, you're with me." Jack looked at the other Russian soldier. "Vallarin, you stay with Daniel and Tolinev. Keep an eye on her and advise if her condition changes."

"Yes, Sir," Vallarin replied with a proper military response.

"Go!" Jack ordered as the two search teams departed the sarcophagus chamber.

====

As she roamed the tomb near where the creature attacked Tolinev, Sam discovered blood, which most likely meant that she'd managed to wound the creature when she opened fire on it.

--

Meanwhile, Vallarin heard a noise, raised his weapon, and instructed Daniel to, "Wait here."

As Vallarin left his side, Daniel uttered, "Yes. You go down the dark hallway alone, and I'll wait here in a dark room alone." He glanced over at Tolinev. ~Maybe it's not a bad thing to be unconscious right now.~

--

Elsewhere, Jack and Zukhov met up at a dead end during their search, which prompted yet another sparring round between them. The topic at the moment was whether or not to use C4 to open up the ziggurat door, which Jack continued to argue against.

"What about Lieutenant Tolinev?" Zukhov asked.

Jack responded, "I thought casualties were to be expected."

"It's obvious you're not capable of taking the necessary risks."

"No, we take risks, but we don't hand out cyanide pills; and we don't leave our people behind."

--

In another part of the tomb, Sam and Teal'c became aware they were searching an area already reviewed.

"This place is like a maze," Sam commented.

The conversation was shorted when the creature suddenly fell dead to the ground. Teal'c actually cut open the creature's neck, revealing the absence of a symbiote.

"It could have left the body when it realized it couldn't heal the wound," Sam suggested.

"A symbiote would not survive for very long under those circumstances," Teal'c stated.

"Unless it found a new host," Sam sighed pointedly. She clicked her radio. "Colonel O'Neill."

"Go ahead."

"Sir, we found the creature. It's dead."

"That's good news."

"The only problem is the symbiote's no longer inside it," the woman advised.

"That's a bit disconcerting," Jack acknowledged. ~Not good.~

"Sir, as you know, Teal'c's body is incapable of sustaining a symbiote as long as he carries a larval Goa'uld, and he doesn't sense the presence of a Goa'uld in me. So, that leaves Daniel, Major Vallarin, and, well, the two of you, Sir."

Jack and Zukhov immediately raised their weapons, pointing them at each other. Neither agreed to lower their powerful guns as each insisted they were not playing host to a Goa'uld.

Jack ordered over the radio, "Get back to the main chamber. Check on Daniel and Vallarin. I'll see you there in a bit."

"Roger that, Sir," Sam replied.

--

"I'm not kidding, Zukhov. I'll shoot ya," Jack told his adversary.

"This is beginning to make sense," Zukhov claimed.

"Is it?"

"If you were the Goa'uld, you might not want to leave until you found the Eye of Tiamat. It would explain your reluctance to use explosives."

Jack countered, "And if you were the Goa'uld, and you'd been stuck in this dump for two-thousand years, you might not think about anything except getting out of here, which would explain why you're willing to take such an insane risk."

"Then it would seem we have a problem."

====

Deciding that sitting and waiting for a scary creature to attack him wasn't exactly fun, the linguist checked on the wounded Russian and then went back to work, attempting to translate what was written on the column nearby. He was standing as he studied the ancient writings, a reference book in his left hand, when he heard footsteps.

"Daniel," Sam called out.

"Hey, guys, I just finished translating this section of the walllllll ..." Daniel became alarmed, his heartbeat increasing and pulse racing, when he saw Sam and Teal'c both aiming their weapons at him. Nervously, he asked, "Hey, what's up?"

"I do not sense the presence of a Goa'uld," Teal'c reported.

"Me, neither," Sam said.

"Well, thank you," the confused archaeologist said as his friends lowered their guns. ~I don't think I want to know.~

"So, what were you gonna say?" Sam prompted.

Still a bit unnerved, Daniel answered, "I was going to say that I just finished translating a section of the text. It says that Marduk used to emerge from his temple and appear amongst his people riding a beam of white light."

Sam walked forward and surmised, "A ring transporter?"

"Yeah, and there's a good chance it might be right here in this room."

Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c went about looking for the rings and succeeded in finding them. They held off notifying Jack until they could be sure the colonel wasn't infested with a Goa'uld.

====

The face-off between Jack and Zukhov was interrupted by the appearance of Vallarin, who quickly made them aware that he was now the enemy of both of them. His eyes glowed, and he used the ribbon device that he found inside a wall on Jack, sending the silver-haired man flying backwards. Zukhov opened fire, but Vallarin engaged a protective shield that caused all the bullets to bounce off it.

"Where is the Eye of Tiamat?" Vallarin asked.

Initially, Zukhov refused to hand over the Eye of Tiamat and refuted having any secret orders. When Vallarin picked up Jack's P-90 and aimed it at him, Zukhov caved, saying he had the Eye and would give it to Vallarin. He apologized to Jack for lying, but said he was just following orders. Now, though, he wasn't going to be the cause of anyone else dying, even though Jack attempted to stop him.

Zukhov pretended to toss the Eye of Tiamat to Vallarin, only in reality, it was a grenade that exploded, causing the room to collapse with Jack getting out just in time. Zukhov, however, died in the blast, taking the Eye of Tiamat with him.

--

Hearing the blast, Sam called out to the colonel over the radio.

"Yeah, I'm okay," Jack responded.

"What happened?"

"The Goa'uld was in Vallarin. Zukhov just took him out with a grenade," Jack told his 2IC.

"Sir, we found a ring transporter. Daniel says it'll take us to another temple a few miles from here."

"All right. I'll be there in a minute."

====

Daniel checked on the injured Russian female, looking over at Sam, who also kneeled down to evaluate the woman.

"Where are we on the clock?" Sam asked.

The archaeologist checked his watch and answered, "It's been about seventy-five minutes since the attack."

"So, we get to the other temple ..."

Nodding, Daniel answered, "Probably a fifteen-minute walk to the Stargate from the other temple."

"Close, but she should be okay, right?" Sam asked.

"I think so. We just need to get there."

====

Jack returned to this teammates' location and was pleased when Teal'c noted, "I do not sense the presence of a Goa'uld."

Patting the Jaffa on the back a few times, Jack replied, "Well, good, and I'm fine, by the way. Thanks. How's Tolinev?"

"She'll be okay if we get out of here soon. Where's Zukhov?"

"He didn't make it. One thing left to do here," Jack said.

"What are you doing?" Daniel asked.

"Making sure this place doesn't have anymore nasty surprises. Carter, a little help here."

Finally, the team readied to use the transporter rings.

"Right, all set. Let's go," Jack urged as the team huddled together inside the ring unit.

Unfortunately, the now one-armed Vallarin was still alive. He wanted to stop the unit from leaving. More than anything, he wanted revenge.

"You know, you guys always say that," Jack responded.

Sam activated the device Jack planted, a ten-second countdown visible and moving down every second. The rings appeared, ushering SG-1 out of the ziggurat just as the device detonated and blew up the temple.

"That was close," Sam said when the group appeared in the nearby temple.

"We don't have time to think about it," Jack stated. "Let's get Tolinev back to Earth ASAP!"

====

"Doc, what do you think?" Jack asked Janet Fraiser as she examined the Russian.

"You got her back here just in time, Colonel. This venom would have killed her in another few minutes."

"We did our best."

"You have an antidote?" Sam questioned with hope.

"Well, the toxicology report indicates that the closest we can identify the poison to is like that of a cane toad."

"Cane toad?" Jack asked skeptically. "An elderly toad that uses a cane?"

"No, Colonel," Janet corrected. "The cane toad is actually a large, terrestrial true toad, native to South and Central America. They have venom-secreting poison glands that they release when threatened. This venom in the lieutenant is very similar to it, but not exactly the same."

"But you have an antidote?"

"I think so. It's a variation on experiments that have been conducted on the cane toad and its victims," the physician said. "We injected her with what we came up with and she's been responding well."

"She'll be okay?" Daniel questioned hopefully.

"Yes," Janet answered. "As I said, I've given her an antidote, or what we believe is a reasonable alternative, to the venom. Based on the analysis, what I used seems to be working." The physician again checked the vitals of her patient and reviewed the latest lab workup just handed to her by one of her nurses. She nodded, "Yes, it's working."

"How long will she be incapacitated?" Sam inquired.

"Not long, two or three days," Janet answered. "We just need to make sure her system is cleansed of the venom completely."

"Thanks, Doc," Jack responded, leading his team out of the infirmary.

====

That night, Jack knocked on the door of Daniel's apartment and then entered without waiting for an invitation.

"Daniel, your blasted door was unlocked again."

Looking at his watch, the archaeologist answered, "And you're right on time. Hi, Babe."

The lovers kissed, instantly making the colonel feel better.

"I have to tell you something," Jack stated.

"Okay."

"The Russians are coming."

"Again?"

"Yeah, some guy named Chekov. He's going to grill us about the mission."

"That's to be expected."

"Yep, but he's going to want blood. We're alive, Danny. His team, except for Tolinev, is dead."

"She'll back us up. There's nothing to hide."

"Chekov won't believe that. You watch. He'll want our scalps and will blame us for everything."

"Maybe, but I'm hungry."

Jack smiled and replied, "Need any help?"

"It's time to put it in the pasta. You do that and I'll keep working on the sauce."

"Works for me."

"Uh, Jack?"

"What?"

"You didn't lock my door."

Jack stared for a moment before both he and Daniel shared a chuckle. He locked the door and then entered the kitchen, eager to get the pasta boiling so the two could enjoy a tasty meal.

====

The next day, Colonel Chekov arrived to lead the Russian investigation of the events on the planet. He was given access to the full reports of all members of SG-1. He also interviewed each of them individually while Tolinev recovered in the SGC infirmary. In all, the Russian interrogated everyone involved over the course of two days.

====

The following day, Jack, Hammond, and Chekov were present in the conference room where Tolinev answered all the questions asked by her Russian superior. She was dismissed and left the room, though she paused to give Jack a nod of approval, or at least, of satisfaction.

"Lieutenant Tolinev corroborates your story," Chekov concluded.

"So, she was telling the truth," Jack stated pointedly.

"She will be debriefed again, of course, once we're back in Moscow, where she can speak more freely."

"Yeah. I'm sure you'll be able to get her to say whatever you want."

Hammond interjected, "Colonel, this isn't the time."

Jack rebutted, "General, Zukhov's secret orders put us all in jeopardy. I want that on the record."

Colonel Chekov responded, "Your opinion is already a matter of public record, Colonel. So is the fact that every member of your team survived, yet only one Russian soldier made it back alive, barely."

"Yeah, if your people understood the concept of chain of command, none of this ..."

"No!" Chekov interrupted. "We are agreed. You were in command. We also know which lives you were willing to sacrifice."

Hammond responded with his most neutral tone, "We regret the loss of life and offer our condolences to the families of your officers."

"And I'm sure you also regret this Eye of Tiamat was buried along with Colonel Zukhov, never to be recovered."

"Yes, we do."

"Perhaps it is best to admit we both made mistakes, huh?" Chekov offered.

"It would be better if you just admitted you screwed up," Jack put forth.

"I will pass that sentiment along, Colonel."

"Yeah, please do."

Chekov strongly stated, "I'm sure this will have no bearing on our future participation."

"I wouldn't count on future participation if I were you," Jack replied.

"No? I would," an arrogant Chekov asserted before leaving the room.

"Jack ..."

"I know, Sir, but a lot of what happened didn't need to happen, if Zukhov's bunch had followed orders."

"Colonel," Hammond began as he leaned forward. "I understand your hostility towards the Russians, but like it or not, they are going to be part of the Stargate Program in one way or another. That ball's been rolling for a while, and we don't have much ground to prevent them from participating in the future." Rising, he added, "I suggest you get used to that."

"Yes, Sir," the colonel acknowledged while still remaining in his seat.

====

Jack entered his lover's lab and immediately began fidgeting with some of the artifacts on a nearby shelf.

"How'd it go?"

"He's gone, and not a minute too soon," Jack answered about the Russian colonel. "Everything I said would happen, did happen."

"I guess trust is hard to build, especially when your own people don't survive," Daniel stated.

"Tolinev backed us up, but Chekov's going to try to get her to change her story once they're back in Russia."

"She won't."

"How can you be so sure?"

"I don't know. Jack, Colonel Zukhov had his secret orders, but other than that, was there anything that team did that we wouldn't have done?"

"Chain of command."

"Forget that," Daniel argued with strength. "Major Vallarin and Lieutenant Tolinev worked with us quite well I thought. Lieutenant Marchenko didn't have a chance really."

"Yeah, and whose fault was that?"

"Zukhov, but in the end, Jack, he did exactly what you would have done. He lied to the enemy long enough to kill him; well, almost kill him."

Jack let out a long, hard sigh and nodded while responding, "Okay. You might be right about Zukhov's team, but I'm not wrong about Chekov and what he's going to try to do."

"And he can't do it if Lieutenant Tolinev continues to tell the truth."

"Which you believe she will."

"I do."

Jack sighed, "Okay. We'll wait and see."

"Are you ready to go home?" Daniel asked.

"Boy, am I ready."

"Tomorrow's a new day, Jack, and it's probably going to be Russian-free."

"Amen to that," Jack retorted, smiling as he watched Daniel putting a few items away. "Chinese?"

"Sounds, uh ... good!"

Jack and Daniel left Cheyenne Mountain together, picked up Chinese takeout on the way to the colonel's home, and then relaxed as they ate and watched the news on television. They followed that up with a game of chess, which Daniel won, of course. The night continued, as nights did, with nothing spectacular except for the presence of each other's company.

As for the game they were still forced to play, the lovers didn't discuss it. There was no need. The slight tension they sometimes felt was not generated towards the other, but only at the situation, which both were aware of.

Tonight was tonight, and Jack and Daniel loved each minute of it, especially when they sealed their pleasure by uniting their bodies as only they could. For Jack and Daniel of Colorado Springs, no battle could separate them, be it one between countries or ones brought on by a necessary game of deception. Their love continued to grow, making their nation of two stronger with each day. Life was good, and they were happy.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~

Feedback Welcome - click here to email the author