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by Tasha - A Highlander/SG-1 Xover


Part 3

The cell was relatively small compared to the one Daniel and the others had seen in their last stay as Goa'uld prisoners. There was a stone lip around the inside of the room, and SG-1 was sat around trying to come up with something like a plan. Ever since O'Neill had recovered from his blow to the head, they'd been talking. Daniel wasn't very impressed with the amount of useful ideas they had between them, but he also realised that saying so wouldn't do them any good.

"But we can't just go back, even if we do escape," Carter pointed out firmly. "We have to make sure that Shu is destroyed and none of the other Goa'uld find out about what happened. If any of them even suspect there may be more like Richie on earth they won't stop until they've found them."

"Which means we have to find Adam too," Jack said with an annoyed shake of his head.

"But how do you stop someone who's Immortal?" Daniel asked dejectedly, they'd been in some pretty bad situations before, but this was right up there with one of the worst.

"I don't know," O'Neill spat back in his frustration. "Drop a mountain on them or something like that."

They'd been stuck in the cell all night, and there didn't seem to be any way out. No one had bothered to feed them; it didn't appear that the Goa'uld believed in a last meal for the condemned. Daniel knew they would have to attract attention some how, but doing so without getting themselves killed straight away was not going to be easy.

Their planning was interrupted by some loud noises from just outside the door.

"Okay, okay, I'm going aren't I," came an unhappy complaint, "no need to shove."

The door opened and the sight of a ruffled but seemingly otherwise undamaged Adam being half thrown through the opening backed up the evidence of Daniel's ears. Following closely on his heels was a Jaffa with the markings of Shu on his forehead and an evil looking staff weapon in his hand. The warrior took up a position just to the left of the door, poised should anyone dare to move. As the next figure appeared in the doorway the reason for the Jaffa's vigilance became obvious, and Daniel had to stifle the thoughts running through his head from leaving his mouth.

The archaeologist barely recognised Richie in the full regalia of a royal Goa'uld and the gaze that scanned the room showed no warmth and only cursory recognition. Daniel couldn't say he'd had much time to really get to know the Immortal before everything had gone straight to hell, but the creature in the doorway wasn't even close to the person he had briefly known. Shu's peculiar taste in altering his host's eyes and teeth made Richie seem all the more alien and on his left hand was a ribbon device and each finger guard was tipped with a black claw.

Daniel couldn't help but stare and he knew his contempt and hatred were probably showing in his face. He'd never been good at hiding his emotions, and as this Goa'uld walked further into the room it was no different. This was the same kind of monster that had taken Shauri from him twice, and if it had been within his power he would have tried to kill it with his bare hands. This was Shu, and Daniel removed Richie from his mind. Behind the parasite was yet another Jaffa, but this one was not heavily armed, in fact he appeared to be acting as a beast of burden.

Shu flicked his hand and the vassal behind him placed the box he had been carrying down on the floor. It was at that point that the morning became that little bit stranger. Shu reached out and to Daniel's surprise as well as that of the Jaffa in question took his servant's staff weapon.

"Leave," he said coldly, "and close the door."

The Jaffa whose weapon Shu had taken looked very startled.

"But, Master," were the only words he uttered before Shu turned on him.

The Goa'uld's eyes were white with anger, and he did not look at all pleased.

"Are you questioning me," Shu said very slowly and deliberately.

His left hand came up a small way with every word, and the Jaffa's expression went from surprise to terror.

"No," he spluttered.

"Get out, and if I see you again before sundown I will have you both killed," Shu said and turned away from his escorts as if dismissing them from his mind.

The two Jaffa no longer hesitated and vanished through the door, letting it slam shut behind them.

Daniel, as the other members of SG-1, was looking astonished, and for a few seconds nobody moved. The tableau was broken by what had to have been probably the most unexpected thing that Daniel could have thought of. Shu handed the staff weapon to Adam and freed of the burden used his right hand to rub the back of his neck.

"Man, these people need a lesson in fashion," he said and his voice was perfectly normal.

Daniel just let his mouth drop open, and he could see all the others in equally obvious modes of shock. The archaeologist looked at Adam who grinned back.

"Unexpected isn't he," the Immortal said almost as if they weren't on a foreign planet at peril for their very lives.

"But how?" Sam was the only one to voice the question.

"Shu and I had an argument over whose body this was and I won," Richie told her with an irreverence Daniel had heard before. "Playing god really isn't my style, so I figured you guys might like to get out of here."

"But you are Goa'uld," Teal'c pointed out what they had all seen.

"Ten out of ten to the man in the corner," Richie replied, "but after you've been possessed by a demon, an alien is a push over. Right now I think we should leave before Sef't decides to tell my beloved sister he's just left me in here on my own."

The Immortal turned quickly and flipped open the box behind him.

"Guns, ammo, and everything else the Jaffa confiscated," he told them. "Your backup teams were forced back through the gate a few hours ago, but as long as we don't bump into Tefnut, no one is going to try and stop me, no matter who's with me. Shu has a reputation for being erratic anyway."

Daniel followed the others as everyone slowly climbed to their feet, and he could tell they were all reticent. The shock over, practicalities were going through all minds. They didn't trust Richie, no matter what he was doing for them. Daniel was right with them on that point: Goa'ulds were trouble, and there were no exceptions. Daniel didn't know Richie well enough to be able to tell if he was really acting like Richie, he appeared to be trying to help them, but Tefnut at least had been shown to have a warped idea of fun, which could mean that anything was going on.

"You'll forgive us if we don't take anything you say at face value," O'Neill said as Richie turned back from the box.

The young Immortal looked a little unhappy at the statement, but he seemed to understand it. He took a deep breath, and Daniel was a little perturbed to see a momentary flash of white behind the man's eyes. This person really wasn't human anymore, he was the same irreverent young man who had walked into Daniel's apartment, and yet he wasn't at the same time.

"Look," Richie said slowly, "I know you don't trust me. Believe me I know all about Goa'uld games. I know I look like an extra from Cats, but I am on your side. I can't explain how I defeated Shu, I can't even tell you exactly what's going on in my head right now, but I do suggest we get out of here as fast as possible. Look at it this way, those guns are loaded, this staff works, so at least you have a fighting chance. Staying here you are all dead."

"That is true," Teal'c observed as calmly as ever.

O'Neill and Richie stood there looking at each other in silence for a moment. Daniel knew Jack was weighing the odds, and the archaeologist realised with unhappy certainty that there was only one decision.

"Okay," the Colonel said finally, "we move out. You step out of line just once and I'll fill you full of holes. I know it won't kill you for long, but I'll make sure it hurts like hell."

Richie looked surprised and Daniel realised that Adam must not have had time to fill his companion in on how much SG-1 knew.

"I told them," the dark haired Immortal stepped in quickly. "This place was off limits until the gravity of the situation was made clear."

"Put that at the top of my 'I thought it would never happen list'," Richie shot back.

That comment might even have been worth a smile if it hadn't of been a Goa'uld saying it. The presence of an alien parasite really put humour off the menu for Daniel. The younger Immortal glanced around the room, as if taking in the faces of his companions for the first time. When his eyes reached Daniel the archaeologist felt as if he was somehow being assessed, he just stared right on back.

"Okay," he agreed, "I go wacko, you shoot me, fine, but to get out of this we need rules. First play prisoners, look dejected, beaten and hide the guns. I'll carry the second staff, if we run into trouble I'll give it to Teal'c. If we meet anyone I'll do any talking necessary, me they'll listen to, you they'll blast into a million pieces."

Daniel watched Jack look at Teal'c who just raised an eyebrow.

"It would seem a logical course of action," the Jaffa replied.

"Great, good, can we go now?" Richie appeared to have an impatient streak which came shining through.

"Okay, now that's the Richie I've come to expect," Adam said, and Daniel had to adjust to the man not just being his grad friend as the Immortal leant past the others to pick up his sword.

Richie hadn't been lying when he'd told the others he wasn't sure what was going on in his head. Ever since Shu had tried to take over his body he'd had a weird second take on the world. At first Shu had tried to squash Richie's will and supplant the control of his physical form, but the Immortal had fought back. Blind panic had taken over as the alien had attached himself to his system and no matter how had he tried, he couldn't remember anything that had happened.

When he had come to himself Shu, as an entity had been gone, which was the only plus Richie could see in the current situation. There was no battle going on inside him, there was just a strange dual knowledge. He knew what Shu had known, or at least part of it. He knew how to behave, what to say, how to use Goa'uld technology. In fact, Richie knew how to be Shu, he could even empathise with the way the alien had thought. His original persona overrode the desires of the Goa'uld, but Richie still knew what they were. He was almost sure there were gaps, things that had been lost in whatever had happened, but most of it was there.

It was almost like stepping into another skin when he became Shu, when he let himself pretend to be the alien parasite. He let Goa'uld instincts rule his actions with his human awareness sitting in the background. It was strange, he had woken in what should have been a terrifying situation, and yet he hadn't panicked at all, in fact he had simply turned it to his own advantage.

At first he had just let things happen, allowed himself to adjust to the new things, and then he had taken control. He had all but seduced Tefnut, and that was one of the things that really bothered him. It wasn't the fact that he had used her that was the problem, when death was the alternative certain actions were admissible, but what he had felt whilst doing it worried him. He really had desired her, even felt a strange sense of love, as if experiencing the echo of what Shu would have felt.

Richie was more than a little confused, but as the party strode through the palace nothing showed on the outside. SG-1 were showing themselves to be very good actors, and nobody gave them more than a passing glance. That Shu was escorting prisoners on his own may have been strange, but people who wanted to live didn't question a Goa'uld, and they were left alone. Sneaking around back passages was not what a royal Goa'uld was prone to doing, and so Richie lead them through the main hallways. Eventually he had no choice but to take them into a part of the building where Tefnut might actually see them. Fate was yet again, against the party and as they entered one of the main antechambers Tefnut appeared with two Jaffa, one of them being Sef't.

"Beloved, what are you doing?" the female Goa'uld asked, frowning at the now still party.

Richie let a smile wander across his face and strode towards her as if nothing was wrong.

"Planning, my darling," he said and gallantly kissed her hand. "I woke this morning with the desire to find you a host such as mine."

He slipped a hand under her arm and steered her away from her guards.

"I did not wish the Jaffa to hear of the plan," he told her conspiratorially, "you never know when one will be captured and tortured to gain information. This discovery is ours to share, and no one else's. This power shall be ours to do with as we wish."

Tefnut looked over at the prisoners who were still doing a good impression of being beaten.

"They are the key," Richie continued calmly, "the key to Earth. Our last strategy did not work, but maybe we were too hasty. What we need are puppets whose masters will not see the strings. The humans shall be our game pieces and they shall open their world for us. Never let it be said that the Lion Gods are not cunning."

Tefnut was beginning to appear a lot happier with the situation. The plan sounded plausible, and it was obvious she liked the idea of having her own invulnerable body. The race for power always outweighed other considerations in Goa'uld life, and Tefnut was no different. She wandered towards the prisoners, leaving Richie to the task he had had in mind in the first place. Tefnut could be dangerous, but the greatest hazards in the room were the two Jaffa. With a slight nod at Methos, Richie revealed his true colours. His left hand shot up and an energy wave flew across the room. Sef't and his companion were flung backwards, and Sef't at least did not get up again when he hit the wall. A single shot from the staff finished off the Jaffa who refused to stay down.

Tefnut was staring at Richie in horror when he finished his task, and by the time she glanced at the so-called prisoners they were all brandishing weapons.

"Why?" she asked almost desperately.

She obviously thought of treachery from her fellow Goa'uld. She looked like a woman scorned, and Richie suspected she had no inkling of what had really happened.

"We have ruled together for millennia," she entreated him, "why abandon me now."

"Shu is gone," Richie said evenly, "you are appealing to nothing. Playing with things you do not understand will get you killed."

If the Immortal had thought Tefnut appeared horrified before, the new expression on her face made that emotion look pale in comparison. She seemed caught between disbelief, rage and terror, but her emotions slowly coalesced into a hard, cold shell of anger.

"I will have you dissected," she said icily. "Shu will be returned to me."

Richie found himself laughing despite the situation. With totally certainty he knew that even if she had been in the position to carry out her threat, it would not do her any good.

"You weren't listening," the Immortal told her almost as coldly as she had, "I didn't say I dominated him I said Shu was gone. He played with fire, it destroyed him, and now we're leaving."

The disbelief was back on Tefnut's face: she seemed frozen. Her Goa'uld sensibilities just couldn't deal with the idea Richie had thrown at her. That her brother's will could have been overcome was almost inconceivable, but that he could be gone forever didn't seem to be in her mindset at all.

"What do we do with her?" Carter asked as SG-1 finally mobilised.

Tefnut looked stunned and empty, Richie didn't think any of his companions would have the heart to kill her.

"We take her with us," O'Neill said eventually. "The game plan has changed, we're leaving here using a royal hostage as passage."

Richie couldn't help but feel relief at the Colonel's decision. On an academic level he knew she was a monster, but in his heart he still felt for her. Maybe back on Earth there may be hope for her yet. The new strategy would bring them into direct conflict with the forces between them and the gate, but deception was not really an option any more. Sooner or later someone would find out what had happened, and this way they had a much better chance.

"Two royal hostages," Richie pointed out and handed Teal'c the staff weapon.

"Yeah well we'd better confiscate those pretty bangles then," O'Neill pointed out, and held out his hand for Richie's only remaining weapon.

Out of the corner of his eye the Immortal saw Carter step towards Tefnut, and he saw his sister goddess move. With a cry of fury the female Goa'uld turned on the Major bringing up her own weapon before the human could react.

"You will all die," she yelled, and energy ripped out at Carter.

Sam screamed the moment it touched her, and Richie knew the woman was dead if he didn't get there immediately. Almost instantaneously, horrible black and green blotches appeared on the Major's skin, there was no time to lose. Forced into action the Immortal never hesitated and he turned, pushing Carter out of the way. Tefnut's power turned on him, but even as the corruption touched his skin it vanished almost as quickly as it appeared. His Immortal body was an easy match for the death touch that Tefnut dealt.

The woman was engulfed in a rage so great nothing could possibly reach her, she had to be stopped or she would destroy everyone. Richie's own hand came up and even as her power poured into him so his poured into her. Within a few seconds she began to scream herself.

There was shock in her eyes as her skin began to flake from her body, and Richie almost stopped, but at least this way she would die quickly. He locked his eyes with hers and turned every ounce of power he had on her. In seconds Tefnut, Goddess of moisture and Daughter of Ra was a dried out husk. Richie couldn't bring himself to destroy her completely. Turning her into a pile of dust was not something he could do to a woman that part of himself had loved for so long and he released her body to fall to the ground.

For a long moment Richie just stood there unable to take his eyes off what he had done, and then a hand touched his shoulder. He looked round to see Methos' understanding face, and Richie knew he wasn't alone. With the back of one hand he reached up and wiped away the single tear running down his cheek.

"Back to plan A," O'Neill said shortly.

Richie turned to see Daniel holding the staff weapon, Teal'c carrying an unconscious Carter in his arms, and O'Neill looking very stern.

"We have to get Sam back to Frasier as quickly as possible," Jack stated firmly, "and that means now."

There was noise from the other side of the room, and all turned to see Sef't on his feet, staff in hand. Every SG-1 member who could raised a gun.

"Wait," Richie said quickly. Grief would have to wait, for now there were other priorities.

With a purpose he didn't think he had left Richie strode across the room towards the armed Jaffa. At he suspected Sef't did not fire, the man was unsure of what to do, and Richie stopped a few feet from him.

"Your gods are dead," the Immortal stated coldly and looked the Jaffa directly in the eye. "You can serve the new order or you can die. It is your choice."

It was an emotionless ultimatum and Richie drew on all his empathy with what was left of Shu to give it. Inside the Immortal was a bit of a mess, but as far as the world could see he was as cool as ice. Sef't looked shocked at the words, but slowly he brought his staff back to its vertical position.

"Good," Richie said evenly, "now we're going to the Stargate."

The deception was easy enough; Shu with prisoners and a Lion Guard were not challenged as they strode towards the gate. Richie walked up to the DHD barely looking at the guards who flanked it. He was met by a priest who bowed to him reverently as he calmly surveyed the podium.

"It is time to send the Tau'ri a message," Richie said coldly: his voice reverberating with Goa'uld power. "I will have them recognise the superiority of the Lion Gods. Open the Chaappa'ai onto their world: I have a gift for them."

The priest obeyed without question and the Stargate began to spin into life. Richie ignored Shu's minions completely and watched the gate impassively.

"Chau'va," he said evenly as the wormhole erupted from the portal, "take the woman through to the other side. Her end will come quickly compared to yours. Remember your Gods when you feel the pain of the traitor's death. Tell the Tau'ri to fear my name."

Teal'c simply stared ahead until Sef't poked him in the back with his staff weapon. Richie had to admire the Jaffa: he was a good actor. Slowly the large man stepped up to the Stargate. Sam had been carrying the code generator and it was Teal'c's job to send SG-1's signal. They had planned their exit through the Stargate carefully and Richie waited for the Jaffa to finish his task. As Teal'c calmly stepped through the gate it was time to forget the charade.

Richie spun away from the priest towards the two Lion Jaffa guarding the gate. He spared them only a cursory thought as he brought up his hand and sent them flying backwards. Ignoring the helpless priest SG-1 and their companions charged towards the gate and ran through the wormhole just before it shut down.

Even though they had given the correct signal the SGC were taking no chances, and as the team materialised on Earth they found themselves surrounded by armed marines. Teal'c was standing very still at the top of the ramp.

"We need a medic now!" were the first words out of O'Neill's mouth.

One look at Carter's face, covered in green and black lines told Richie that she was going to die. Tefnut had gone too far with the damage, and the Immortal knew, without knowing quite how that modern medicine would not be able to save her. As a medial team arrived and Teal'c deposited his burden onto the gurney they brought with them, something stirred at the back of Richie's mind.

It was the first time he had run across one of the blanks he had from his joining with Shu, but he knew he had to act. However, he wasn't on a Goa'uld dominated planet at the moment, and the second he so much as moved a muscle where he stood on the gate ramp, six machine guns focused their attention on him. At danger Richie's eyes flared, but he fought down the need to react.

At the sound of guns O'Neill turned from where he had been anxiously watching Dr Frasier with Sam. Richie knew this was his one and only chance to help Carter and he took it.

"She's dying," he said evenly, "she'll be dead in ten minutes if they don't let me past."

Jack looked slightly undecided, some of Richie's behaviour had been very strange and the Colonel had obviously noticed. He glanced to where Frasier was doing the fastest preliminary examination she had ever managed, and when the doctor's head came up their eyes met. She didn't look hopeful. Jack turned his attention to the higher authority of Hammond standing in the command centre.

"He's on our side, sir," O'Neill finally said.

"Let him through to Major Carter," Hammond ordered almost immediately.

The guns didn't lower, these marines weren't fools, but they did clear a path to the gurney. Richie walked down the ramp slowly trying to seem as unthreatening as possible. This was difficult being in full Goa'uld regalia, but he did his best.

"Excuse me," he said with a tone much calmer than the way he felt.

Dr Frasier obviously knew a dying patient when she saw one, and knowing she couldn't save Sam she stepped aside with only a slightly worried glance at Richie. Not quite sure what he was doing, but knowing that he had to do it Richie reached up to the circlet on his head. He pulled at one of the feathers and it came away in his fingers. As he saw it in his hand he hesitated slightly, not quite sure what to do, but eventually he placed the ornament on Sam's chest.

As he brought up his left hand several of the guns rattled ... all the marines knew what had happened to the technicians, but no one fired. Acting purely on instinct now, Richie let power flow from his hand and onto the feather. At first it glowed mutely, but slowly the golden colour changed to white, making it seem almost molten. As if to prove the point it slowly began to flow and it disappeared through the gaps in Sam's clothes.

Richie really wasn't quite sure what he was doing, but it held his entire concentration. With agonising slowness he let the power flow into Carter, and her skin began to glow with the same light as the feather. The Immortal was dimly aware of the rest of the SG-1 team hovering nervously at his back, but he ignored them. Gradually the foul corruption and open sores which dotted Sam's skin began to fade. Richie lost track of time as he watched the damage heal, and it was almost hypnotising. He had no idea how long it had taken, or exactly how he knew, but Richie let the power stop as he felt it was the right time. Carter remained still on the gurney, but her breathing was even and there was no sign of illness anywhere on her.

Turning back to the soldiers the one thing that Richie noticed most was the completely astonished look on Sef't's face. The Immortal was feeling a little confused and he realised he was dizzy. He still didn't really understand what he had just done, but it had obviously taken a lot out of him. He wanted to say something to O'Neill, but as he opened his mouth he couldn't remember what it was. The world was suddenly a lot of effort, and with a vaguely surprised expression in the Colonel's direction Richie gave into an overwhelming desire to sleep.

The cover story was that the Goa'ulds had tried an experimental technique on Richie to produce his healing abilities and this technique had caused his defeat of Shu. Dr Frasier went about her examination with this idea in mind, but she was still amazed by what she found. Having an unconscious patient helped with the scans since there was no way Richie could move and screw up the imaging, but it meant Dr Frasier had to be forever vigilant of him waking up.

She'd given Sam a thorough examination, and the Major seemed to be well on her way to recovery. Carter was awake and although tired was very interested in everything Janet was doing, and kept asking questions. The two women had swapped hypotheses about some of the results, and at other times just bounced meaningless ideas off each other. Carter had seemed to know to whom she owed her life without being told, and Frasier noted that Sam seemed to be siding with the young man in her sick bay.

Janet looked at the computer representation of the scan she had just taken for the sixth time, and she still didn't really know what to make of it. She'd found the Goa'uld larva all right, but it didn't exactly look like it was supposed to. There was alien tissue in Ryan wrapped around the spinal column, but it was no longer the separate parasite Frasier had been expecting. Whatever had happened larva and host were no longer two separate entities that could be parted, they were the same being. The substance of the larva had actually been integrated into the spinal column and the surrounding tissue, fusing human and Goa'uld irreversibly.

"This is just incredible," Janet commented to Sam, "it's as if the larva has actually been made part of his system."

Carter was perched on a chair close to Frasier's desk, and she nodded as she looked at the scan.

"You can barely tell what it used to be," Sam agreed.

"This must be why Richie has control," Janet concluded slowly, "the larva is so far broken down that there is no neural activity to take over the host."

"But how is he still Goa'uld," Carter asked reasonably, "and how did he know everything about Shu. If the larva has been broken down, why do his eyes still glow and his voice change?"

That was a good set of questions; Frasier had to think for a moment.

"It possible that the Goa'uld attributes have actually been integrated into Richie's nervous system," she hypothesised. "As for the knowledge of Shu, it may be residual memories. If some structure still exists in the larva then memory could be maintained, but independent function may have been lost. Why they would risk such a dangerous experiment is what I want to know. I'm assuming that it is the strange energy in Richie's system which causes the healing, but why would they risk implantation with one of their highest ranking System commanders?"

Sam just ummed at that and Janet assumed she was feeling the strain again.

"Why don't you go and lie down," she suggested. "In fact I'll make that an order if you don't accept the friendly advice. You're exhausted, and nothing more interesting is going to happen here, I promise. When something does, I'll wake you."

Carter didn't look particularly happy by the suggestion, but eventually the defiant look disappeared from her eyes and her shoulders slumped.

"Okay, boss," she said and wearily climbed to her feet, "but remember your promise."

Janet just grinned and waved her away.

It seemed as if her guest was going to sleep the day away, as for four hours Frasier checked on her patient at fifteen-minute intervals. He looked so peaceful, and the only thing to remind her that he might actually be a dangerous alien was the guard on the door with his gun slung across his chest. The soldier hadn't moved a muscle in almost as long as her patient, but Janet found it impossible not to notice him. It was about four and a half hours after SG-1 had returned through the Stargate, when, as Frasier lent over Richie to check on something he moved.

The doctor took a slight step back just to be on the safe side and waited to see what would happen next. She was rewarded with a squinting gaze settling on her.

"Oh man, what hit me?" was the quite surprising question.

Janet found herself smiling at the comment.

"Welcome back," she greeted, and couldn't help but notice that suddenly there was life in action man in the corner. "Do you remember what happened?"

Her patient put his hand to his head and nodded at her.

"Yeah, I remember," he told her slowly, "gate room, Major Carter, something to do with a feather."

Frasier frowned slightly at the answer.

"You seem a little unclear on the details," she prompted.

The doctor was actually surprised to see her patient smile at that.

"I was a little unclear of the details when I did it," he told her. "I remember doing it I just couldn't explain it. What I don't remember is the guy with the jackhammer in my head trying to get out."

"Well I could give you something for that if you like," Janet offered, "but I couldn't swear to what effect it'll have."

"S'okay," Richie told her, "I'll just pray it goes away."

Frasier made a mental note that her patient's sense of humour seemed to be in place, and wondered if maybe he was hiding behind it. She hadn't exactly expected him to be in such a good mood, being kidnapped by the Goa'uld could really ruin your century.

"Other than the head, how are you feeling," the doctor asked.

"Fine," was the immediate reply.

It came a little fast to have been considered particularly hard, but for now Frasier took it at face value.

"Well if you don't mind I'd like to give you the once over now you're awake," she said. "I did some tests whilst you were asleep, but there's nothing like feedback."

Richie grinned at that, and Janet couldn't help noticing the fangs. She'd done some x-rays as well as other scans, and from what she could tell the old teeth had been removed and the new ones fused to the jawbone. She put the fangs out of her mind and turned to the task as hand. Pulling out a small light she moved close to her patient.

"Just look straight ahead," she told him with a smile, "and tell me if anything is too bright."

With practised calm Frasier waved the torch in front of her patients eyes and watched the pupils respond with incredible efficiency. The golden irises almost glowed under the light, and Janet was reminded of a vampire movie she had seen only a few weeks before. She wanted to run some more tests on those eyes, she was almost sure they had been changed more than just for aesthetic value.

"Any aches and pains?" Janet enquired as she peered at the little she could glimpse of the retina of Richie's left eye.

"Nothing really," the young man replied, "the headache's going now as well."

Frasier chalked another one up to the incredible healing powers her patient seemed to have gained. She tried a few more cursory tests, but she had to admit that he seemed to be in perfect health.

"Well I'm going to have to give you a clean bill of health," Janet said eventually.

Richie was by this time sitting with his legs over the side of the bed. The soldier in the corner had looked very nervous as soon as he'd moved, but Janet had pointedly ignored the marine's unhappy glare.

"Mind if I stand up and work out some of the kinks," the young man asked as Frasier wrote some of her findings on one of her charts, "or is he going to shoot me?"

"Marine, you're not going to shoot my patient are you?" Janet said and turned to the soldier with a perfectly formed serious expression on her face.

The man hesitated for a moment and so the doctor frowned at him.

"No, ma'am," he finally replied, but looked even more unhappy.

Janet leant closer to Richie.

"Just don't make any sudden moves," she said in a conspiratorial whispered, and grinned at him.

"Never crossed my mind," he whispered back.

O'Neill watched from the door for a moment as Dr Frasier and Ryan animatedly talked about something to do with motorcycle racing. Well that was a new piece of information about SGC's very own doctor that might come in handy. He filed it away just in case he could ever use it.

Frasier had sent up her report that their Goa'uld guest was awake approximately half an hour ago, and Hammond had called Jack into his office immediately. They'd already discussed what SG-1 had seen in a team debriefing, but the General had wanted Jack's private opinion on the matter. They'd talked for a good twenty minutes, and now Jack had been sent down to collect Richie to see Hammond.

The kid really didn't look very threatening sitting cross-legged on one of the medical bay's beds. He was wearing regulation combat trousers, and a green T-shirt, and he didn't look much like a Goa'uld. He seemed to be the same young man Jack had just begun to know before Shu and Tefnut made a house call, and that on the inside Richie might not be what he appeared was not a settling thought. If the safety of his team hadn't been on his shoulders he might just have given in to the urge to trust Richie, but he had to be sure first.

As he finally stepped into the room golden eyes flicked round to stare at Jack, and he was sharply reminded of what Shu had done to Richie. Now he knew more about what Richie really was, and what he had become, O'Neill could see it in those eyes. The windows of that soul showed just about everything, and Jack didn't have to see their colour to know the person he was looking at was not quite human.

"Good afternoon," he greeted as Dr Frasier noticed him as well. "I've just come from General Hammond. He would very much like to see you if you're feeling up to it."

Jack met the strange eyes calmly, the kid probably had enough problems without seeing anything O'Neill might be feeling as well. Richie had all but proven his loyalty to his human friends, all Jack wanted was time, time to find out exactly what was going on in that blond head.

"The doc's the expert," Richie told him with a grin.

"My patient is recovering nicely, Colonel," Frasier said evenly, "and if he comes back on a gurney I will hold you personally responsible."

The smile was trying to force its way onto her face, and to help its progress Jack saluted sharply.

"What ever you say, Doctor," he promised faithfully.

The cheerful atmosphere was not quite what he had been expecting, but Jack was happy to play along.

"One small problem," Richie commented as he stood up.

"What's that?" Jack asked.

The young man looked at his feet, and O'Neill's eyes followed. Richie was barefoot. When they'd brought him into the medical bay all Goa'uld regalia had been taken away, including the boots.

"The floor's getting colder by the second," the Immortal commented.

"Well stop by supplies on the way," Jack promised with a smile.

That, however, wasn't the only problem as he turned back towards the door. As Richie moved to leave the room the soldier stepped into the doorway.

"The prisoner must be restrained during transport between secure areas," the marine intoned evenly.

Jack immediately disliked the idea. Richie had saved his life and the life of his team, he did not want to put the kid through the indignity of being shackled. Military protocol sometimes got in the way of doing things right and Jack couldn't help the bad taste that the marine's observation left in his mouth. If the military had had their way Teal'c would have been treated in the same way when he first arrived and that would have lost them a very good friend. Then the answer hit Jack between the eyes and he smiled slightly.

"I don't suppose it has occurred to you that this whole base is a secure area?" O'Neill said in a triumphant tone, and stared the man right in the face. "We are inside a mountain, there is only one way out. Between here and there are several dozen of you. The prisoner is just fine the way he is."

With that Jack strode purposefully out of the door, and hoped that Richie was following along behind.

Richie was as scared as hell. What he hoped the rest of the world saw, was a nonchalant, happy go lucky individual, on the inside he was anything but. His emotions were in turmoil, and he really wasn't sure whether his life was over. So many possibilities ran through his mind, from Dr Frankenstein to Government games, and he didn't much like any of them. Richie was practical enough to realise that The Powers That Be weren't just going to let him go no matter how he proved he was still in control. He was no longer exactly human, and he knew far too much to be anything less than a security risk. Right about now he'd be a real hit on the Goth scene as well, and there weren't many ways he could change that.

The Immortal laughed and joked with O'Neill as they walked from stores towards General Hammond's office, but inside he was terrified. Then to top it off he was grieving. How could he ever explain to anyone that he had loved what they so feared. They'd lock him up forever if they knew just how much it hurt to lose Tefnut, how much guilt he carried with him for killing her.

"Well here we are," Jack said with half a smile. "Good luck, kid."

The old Richie Ryan would have seethed at that comment, but the new one was far too busy with other thoughts to even care. He smiled back at the Colonel with his best confidant expression, and O'Neill knocked on the door.

"Come in," was the immediate response.

Jack opened the door and entered, followed by Richie and the marine who was their constant shadow.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen," the General greeted as they came in. "I hope you are recovered, Mr Ryan."

"Thanks, I am," Richie replied, and forced yet another smile.

"Thank you, Colonel, marine," were Hammond's next words, "I'd like to speak to our guest alone."

"Of course, General," Jack responded lightly, he had obviously known that the request was coming. "Marine, we can wait outside."

The soldier did not look particularly happy, but he couldn't exactly say anything to a General and a Colonel. The pair left as quickly as they had arrived.

"Please, have a seat," Hammond offered the moment the door closed, and retook his own.

Richie followed the advice, and tried to assess the man on the other side of the desk as he sat down. He didn't know much about General Hammond, but from the few things O'Neill had hinted at, Richie didn't think he was being thrown to the wolves.

"Firstly," the General said calmly, "this is an informal meeting. Nothing here is being recorded, and I will treat this conversation as confidential unless you tell me otherwise. I asked to see you because I can't let you loose on this base unless I'm totally sure of you."

That opening surprised Richie in its honesty, and in its implications. The idea that he might actually regain some sort of freedom hadn't been at the top of his concepts for the day, and it shocked him so much that he actually let his guard slip for just a moment.

"I don't know what you expect of the military," Hammond said, reacting to the expression Richie knew had crossed his face, "but I will do my damnedest to make sure that nothing happens to you, you don't deserve. If you do anything to endanger my people, however, I will make sure you end up in the darkest deepest hole I can find."

Richie nodded slowly: they understood each other.

"I'm not a threat to you or anything here," the Immortal said, and let the cheerful facade fade to seriousness. "I am not Shu, Shu is dead."

The look on Hammond's face said he wished he could believe that, but he was still unsure.

"I know what you did for the team," the General told him evenly. "Without you they would still be stuck on PX 1287, and Major Carter would almost definitely be dead. You've proved your worth, but you do understand that I have to make completely sure you're not suddenly going to turn around and change your mind. You are after all Goa'uld."

"Of course I understand," Richie said with a little more feeling than he had meant, "I know first hand what Goa'uld are capable of. Shu is gone, but I remember lots about his whole twisted existence. I know the way they think, and I know exactly how much human life is worth to them."

The Immortal hadn't expected the outburst, it had sort of just happened, and he didn't like it much. From the expression on Hammond's face he hadn't seen it coming either.

"Sorry," Richie apologised quickly.

"It's me who should be apologising," Hammond responded almost instantly, "I was wading in like a bull in a china shop. Coping with what has happened must be terribly difficult."

Richie let out an ironic little laugh, and then caught his emotions before they could give him away. He was not going to fall apart in this man's office, no matter what.

"Yeah well, I've coped with big revelations before," he said with more certainty than he felt.

Hammond nodded.

"Your Immortality," the General said evenly. "I won't pretend that I know much about it, but Pierson explained what we needed to know for the rescue. That knowledge will go no farther than SG-1 and me."

"Yeah, well it's a bit of a shock when you come back from the dead for the first time," Richie returned, "but it has it's up points."

He tried to hide behind the wise crack, but somehow it didn't come out quite right. Too many ideas were going around in his head, and they were jamming his defence mechanisms.

"I'm sorry to have to bring this up, but I must know," Hammond began again after a moment's silence. "In their reports several of the team noted that you were crying after you killed Tefnut. Was that Shu's emotion or yours?"

Richie looked down at his hands, he had hoped no one had seen that. He was still worried that they would lock him up and throw away the key, but he needed talk to someone.

"I've never had family," he said slowly, "never really known what it felt like to have blood relations. I've been close, but there's always a little doubt when you've been through the system. You may not realise this, but Goa'uld are capable of just as deep love as any we feel. They don't show it very often, and it takes them much longer to develop it, but Shu and Tefnut had been together for millennia. He loved her more than I can explain, and that's part of me now. I know it comes from him and not me, but I can't ignore it completely."

He threw up all his barriers, and clamped down on all his emotions. Richie wanted Hammond to know some of it, but if the General knew how deep that emotion affected the Immortal, Richie doubted he would allow himself to be so sympathetic.

"It was both of our emotion," he concluded slowly.

"I don't mean to labour the point," Hammond continued evenly, "but exactly how do you see Shu?"

Richie had to think about how to answer that. He hadn't really had time to decide what he thought about that, and it wasn't exactly an easy question. Of course he had an advantage over anyone else in that he'd absorbed people before. At least one of those had come back to haunt him, and he was not unaware of the dangers.

"I understand him," Richie said finally, setting aside any emotional reaction for the moment and looking at the situation from a detached point of view. "I know him almost as well as I know myself. I can step into his mind, but it's always me pretending to be him, not me becoming him. I think I may have picked up on some of his instincts, some of my reactions are a little different now, but only on a physical level if that makes any sense."

The Immortal looked at the General to see if he was getting through, and the man nodded for him to go on.

"There are some blanks," Richie continued, "but I can do just about anything he could. I know what he has learned, I can remember things he has seen, but I always know they are his memories, not mine. I could be like Shu if I wanted to be, react like him, talk like him, even think like him, but I can never become him. I'm still me and I always will be--Shu no longer exists."

Hammond just looked at him as he finished his explanation, and they stared at each other for a long moment. There were idea's flying behind the General's eyes, but Richie couldn't tell what they were.

"You strike me as an honest young man," the General said slowly, "and my instincts aren't usually wrong. I'm going to put you in Colonel O'Neill's care. You'll be escorted at all times, confined to base of course, and we'll have to limit your movements, but I don't see any reason to keep you locked up. If you don't mind I'd like Dr Frasier to investigate you physiology some more, but other than that your time is your own."

Richie just sat there for a moment, not quite believing what he had heard. The General just didn't fit any idea the Immortal had of the United States military.

"Don't let me down, Mr Ryan," Hammond said calmly and stood up.

Richie climbed to his feet as well.

"I won't, Sir," he replied, and for the first time his mind didn't quail at the possibilities before him.

Daniel really didn't know quite what to do with himself. Everyone was interested in Richie, including him, but to actually face the young man was going to take more than a simple decision on Daniel's part. Logically the archaeologist knew that Richie wasn't a Goa'uld, well at least he was partially, but not as far as the way he thought and felt. It was getting his subconscious into line that was causing Daniel problems. The moment O'Neill had led Richie into the room, Daniel had had to leave before he said something he'd regret later. He'd seen the man who had saved all their lives, and the one thing he had felt most of all was a desire to kill him.

Daniel was not a violent person usually, but when it came to Goa'ulds it was a different matter entirely. Rational thought had little to do with the way he reacted to them, and reigning in his instincts was not the easiest thing for Daniel to do. Richie had got them out of captivity; he had saved Sam, and yet all the archaeologist wanted to do was throttle him with his bare hands.

Then of course there was the "but why" thoughts going around in his head. The ones that asked over and over why this man was blessed to over come the Goa'uld possession, but Shauri had been doomed to life as one of their puppets and finally destroyed by them. He knew Richie was Immortal, knew he had a gift that Shauri did not, nor never could have, but still the questions continued round in his head.

He needed time to think, needed time to sort out his feelings and come to terms with the new situation. He had come to terms with Teal'c ... eventually, he could cope with this too.

Okay so the first few minutes had been a little awkward as everybody fumbled for something to say. Daniel Jackson's sharp exit hadn't helped the situation much, but a smart-alec quip about "maybe it's the teeth" had broken the ice. They had all been there, and they had all had their questions. Sam had thanked him for saving her life, and them brimmed over with curiosity. Methos had asked a surprising amount of questions, O'Neill had put in the odd comment, and Teal'c had sat and watched for a while.

It was only after they'd grilled him thoroughly, and were just chatting that Richie finally had the nerve to ask a question that had been bothering him for a while.

"What's happened to Sef't?" he said tentatively.

The SG-1 team members looked at each other, and Richie had the feeling that maybe he shouldn't have asked. It was just he was genuinely concerned for the man.

"Well after you passed out on us," O'Neill finally spoke, "he was taken to the med bay same as you. The doc gave him the once over and he sorta went all quiet on us. I'm sorry, but we're not allowed to let you two near each other."

It was a sentiment Richie could understand; after all it was not wise to allow a dethroned god near his General straight after the battle.

"I understand," the Immortal replied, but there was just one thing he had to check. "Just ... quiet how?"

"He won't talk to anyone, won't look at anyone, just sits and meditates," Carter supplied quickly.

Richie didn't like the sound of that as certain things Shu knew about the lion Jaffa hung at the back of his mind. The twin gods had adopted their Jaffa in a similar way to what they had done to their hosts over the centuries, making them slightly different. Shu and Tefnut interacted with Goa'uld society, but they had there own little insular world as well, and what they touched they made their own.

"Was he doing anything in particular?" the Immortal asked, trying not to sound worried.

O'Neill and Carter frowned at each other, they obviously thought that was a weird question.

"He's just sitting there like this," Sam offered and did her best impression of the Jaffa.

When Richie saw how she put her hands he went cold.

"He's going to commit suicide," the Immortal said as he wished it wasn't true. "You have to stop him."

The SG-1 team looked shocked, and Teal'c did not look as if he believed.

"Suicide, is not an honourable death," the Jaffa pointed out evenly. "No warrior would seek to die in such a senseless manner."

"Tefnut liked the idea, okay," Richie shot back immediately. "She liked the idea that she could order them to kill themselves if she felt like it. Sef't probably thinks this is what she would have wanted. He's going to remove his larva, and since it can't be given to anyone else, he'll kill it and then he'll die. The meditation is a purification ritual, once it's over he will kill himself."

The Immortal was deadly serious, and he was relieved when Jack finally moved.

"You stay here," he told everyone, "I'll go and sort this out."

End of Part 3

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