Ye who Enter HereAuthor:
. Daniel, Jack. Conversations on multiple levels.Notes:
These probably weren't the levels you were looking for.
When there wasn't tar there were people grabbing him, tearing at his skin and his clothes, lashing out, kicking, biting and clawing, trying to rip him limb from limb in the foul water. And the instant he dove under the surface to escape them there was the tar, filling his mouth, grappling at his nostrils and pulling him down like an undertow. He didn't know how long he struggled before a new set of hands found him, and he almost snapped them both at the wrists before he heard a familiar voice saying "Easy! Jack, it's me."
Then he was hauled out of the water and deposited on a muddy bank, spluttering and coughing. He spat out a good few mouthfuls of muck, and eventually said "What the hell
"Funny you should say that," Daniel said. His voice was dark, though, and when Jack looked, he looked disheveled: his jacket was torn, his hair messed, and he looked like he'd been put through a wringer or two. "Because from everything I've seen, we're trapped in Dante's Inferno." He gestured over the marsh he'd just pulled Jack out of, over the riot of trapped men and women still struggling in it. "Welcome to the Fifth Circle."
Jack spat out the last of the brackish water, looked over the landscape, and turned back to Daniel. "Tell me you're kidding."
Daniel looked at him. "Said the good Master: 'Son, thou now beholdest // The souls of those whom anger overcame,'" he said, and there was something either reproachful or disappointed or just sad in his eyes.
Jack looked away. He stood, tried to brush some of the marsh water out of his jacket, and quickly gave up. The fighting men and women didn't seem to notice them at all, and he took a step back from the bank even though they weren't an immediate threat. "Where's everyone else?"
Daniel shook his head. "I came after you first."Because you needed my help, or you'd know where I'd be?
Jack wondered. "Right. So we have to find Carter and Teal'c, and bust our way out of here." He glanced at Daniel. "Of the two of us, you're the one who comes back from the dead."
Daniel made a pained noise, and began walking along the shore. "Dante managed to escape Hell without being Jesus," he said. "Granted, that was by climbing down Satan's fur, but let's go with that mythos instead of the traditional biblical one." He walked faster. "Never mind that an alien environment based on Dante's Inferno doesn't make any sense."
"Yeah, that's the part that doesn't make any sense. Not the part where we were walking through a perfectly fine, perfectly ordinary forest, and then we both wake up in Hell." Jack squelched after Daniel, casting a wary eye over the waters and the people still trapped in them. "You think a tree fell on us?"
"It's not actually Hell, and I doubt we're actually dead." Daniel said. "I mean, I got out of my circle. You're not supposed to be able to do that. And these people–" He waved a hand at them, but didn't look at them. "They're illusions, I'm pretty sure. I couldn't pull any of them out. They don't talk back."
Jack looked to the sinners, then back to Daniel, and wondered how long he'd tried.
Daniel kept walking, and they came to the foot of a tower. Jack looked up, and a pale light flared from the upper reaches. "You know what bothers me, though?" Daniel asked.Hell?
Jack was tempted to respond. "What?"
Daniel answered with an answer that didn't seem like an answer at all. "The Divine Comedy wasn't written until the early 1300s," he said. "That's way past our assumed cutoff for active Goa'uld involvement on Earth. And this doesn't seem like a Goa'uld-made environment. It's too complex. There should be a boat here."
Jack blinked at that, and then put together that the last sentence hadn't actually belonged with the ones preceding it. He turned back to the shore, scanning it up and down. "Found it."
"Of course you did," Daniel muttered, but there was a ghost of a smile on his lips.
"I guess we take it, huh?" Jack asked, and headed up the shore to the pole where it was tethered. "You know, we've just
seen this middle-ages stuff before."
"Simon's village could have been a case of convergent evolution," Daniel said. "The Bible was written by 100 AD, and that fits within our established Goa'uld timelines. This is too exactly based in Dante."
They reached the boat, and Jack held it steady for Daniel to climb in. "Hey, at least it gives us a map, of a sort," he said. "I take it you do know where we're going?"
Daniel looked out over the Styx as Jack hopped into the boat and grabbed the oars. "You got anger. Teal'c has to be either heresy or treachery."
Jack nodded. "Sounds about wrong enough to be right. What are those?"
"Ah. Heresy is next – it's the sixth circle. Heretics were trapped in flaming tombs. Treachery is the very last circle, where Satan resides, and its sinners were buried in ice. The worst of the betrayers – those who betrayed lords and benefactors – were completely buried."
"Christ," Jack said, and cut into the water with his oars, picking up his pace. "Let's get there. If Teal'c is there, I don't want to find out how long he can go without air. Again."
"Do you think we can actually die in here?" Daniel asked. "I mean, you should have drowned."
Or been ripped apart. Jack glanced down at his hands, his arms – where bloody welts, at the least, should have been. They weren't clean, but they were whole. "Let's work on the assumption that we can, just to be safe."
"If that's what you want to call safe," Daniel said, and Jack was't sure exactly what he meant by that.
"What about Carter?" Jack asked. "Where do we start looking for her?"
Daniel was silent for a moment. Then, he said "I don't know."
Jack looked at him. "I thought you were an expert on this place."
Daniel snorted. "Thanks, Jack. No, I know all the circles and their sins: limbo for the virtuous unbaptized, then lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery; I just don't know which of them would claim Sam."
"Maybe she lucked out and got Limbo," Jack said.
"You think Sam's the only virtuous person on this team?"
"At this point?" Jack asked. "I'm kinda hoping."
Daniel snorted, and something niggled at the edge of Jack's mind.
"You said the only virtuous person," he said.
"Yeah, I did," Daniel agreed.
Jack tilted his head. "So where were you?"
"Doesn't really matter. You need help with that?"
"Raised in Oregon, attended college in Chicago, studied in Egypt," Jack said. "You think I'm going to trust you to steer a boat?"
"They had a lake in Chicago, Jack."
"Which I'm sure you never visited."
Daniel looked as though he was considering asking how Jack could possibly know that. Evidently, though, the answer was obvious.
"So," Jack said. "Where were you?"
"Why?" Daniel asked. Jack gave him a look.
"Daniel," he said, "you pulled me out of the River Styx. I think it's only fair that I knew where you ended up."
"More of a marshland, in Dante's version," Daniel muttered.
"Is there a circle of Hell for people who are deliberately vague?"
Daniel sighed. "No. There's not.
"But to that second circle of sad hell,
Where ‘mid the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw
Of rain and hail-stones, lovers need not tell
Jack blinked. "Wait. That's..."
"Lust," Daniel said.
Jack stared at him. "Lust
Daniel looked off toward the next gate, keeping his expression carefully neutral. "I assume it meant Sha're."Ah.
Over two years, and he hadn't stopped looking. Jack pulled back on the oars, and let the explanation stand.
A red light was growing in the distance, temples and mosques of flame flickering at the far edge of the marshland. Daniel turned to look at it, something distant and considering in the lines of his face. "What happens if we can't find Sam?"
Jack set his jaw. We hope she's ascended to Heaven?
"We'll find her."
"You think we should know her better, by now?" Daniel asked.
Jack rowed on for a moment, then said "If we had a choice, none of us would know this about each other."
"We're SG-1," Daniel said.
"Yeah," Jack answered. None of us get choices.
The bank was closer than it seemed, or the marshland shrunk, or time slipped away from them, or Hell was eager to pull them in deeper. Whichever way, they slid into the moats around the city sooner than Jack would have expected, and followed the line of the iron wall until a multitude of gates bristled from it. Jack ran the boat aground and stowed the oars.
"You know, I really hope you're right about this," he said.
"Sorry," Daniel said, "but did you just say you hoped Teal'c was trapped in a burning tomb or buried in ice?"
"I said I hoped we knew where to find him and we're not wasting our
time in burning tombs and ice fields," Jack said.
Daniel looked chastised. "Oh," he said. "...you know, it could have gone either way."
He gestured to the iron gates. "If he's not here or there, then what do we know about him, really?"Oh.
Jack sighed. "Come on. We're not getting any less damned."
"Right," Daniel said. He pulled the gate open.- END -