Chapter Forty-three

Jack fought against a fog-like foe. He could feel it pressing down on him, but he couldn't touch it. He couldn't see it, because it blinded him with its darkness. Worse than the claustrophobia was the acute sense of loneliness. He felt that there should be someone with him, but no one was there.

Close to the surface of the lake that he believed himself to be drowning in Jack put all of his will into breaking through to the air. With a panicked gasp Jack managed to open his eyes. A throbbing pain greeted him cheerfully, and he groaned quietly against it.

Completely disoriented he started to try and figure out his darkened surroundings. The soft surface pressing against his back and the gentle beeping of a heart monitor quickly told him he'd ended up in the infirmary. How wasn't really important at the moment.

He turned his head to the right and discovered Sam laying in the next bed over. She still wore her off base uniform, even using her heavy winter jacket as a pillow. Jack carefully looked her over until he was satisfied that she was uninjured. In the bed beyond her Teal'c also seemed to be sleeping peacefully.

Jack closed his eyes to recover some more of his strength. He felt like he'd been suffering from the flu. With his eyes closed he noticed something against his left arm, a rhythmic warm brushing.

Confused he willed his eyes open again and tried to figure out what was happening. Daniel was sitting in chair pulled up to the bed side. At some point he had leaned forward and folded his arms on the bed. It probably hadn't been long after that that he'd put his head down and fallen asleep. The brushing Jack had felt was the heat of Daniel's breath.

Jack started to feel the heaviness of sleep settling over him once again. However this time it was a comforting sensation rather than a fight against an unwelcome darkness. Everyone was here, everyone was safe.

Not everyone...who's missing? Jack thought to himself. Someone else should be here...

The answer didn't come in time, Jack succumb to unconsciousness once more. It was hours before he stirred again. When he woke the only thing that had changed was the fact that his arm had gone cold. Looking over he saw that Daniel had sat back in the chair. Jack's blood flashed to ice at the distressing, yet all too familiar, far off look in Daniel's unfocused eyes.

"Daniel?"

"Jack." Daniel greeted quietly as he snapped back into focus. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel like someone split the back of my head open." Jack replied with a wry smile.

"Just your neck." Daniel smiled.

"What...what went wrong?"

"You're Ancient."

"You're not getting any younger either." Jack retorted with mock indignity.

"You know what I mean." Daniel said with a tone of false frustration. "Goa'uld can't take different species as hosts. Actually, they can take them, they just can't keep them."

"Are you saying that we are really that different from one another?" Jack asked. "Because I've had my suspicions about that."

"Gabriel can only be with a Niacine." Daniel replied. "Your immune system launched a full scale attack on him, like an incompatible organ transplant being rejected. He didn't have the strength to leave you himself, so we had to do it surgically."

"Is he..." Jack hesitated. "Is Gabriel alright?"

"He's slowly recovering." Daniel replied with a warm smile.

"That's good. I was just starting to get to like him." Jack admitted. "Where is he?"

"I'm right here." Gabriel replied, dropping Daniel's voice into a deep resonating tone.

"Man, that's still creepy." Jack shuddered. "So Daniel's decided to let you stay?"

"Under one condition." Gabriel smiled.

"What's that?"

"That you don't send me away because of it." Daniel replied.

"I think you both know I would never do that." Jack chuckled. "Besides, they always say that it's best to keep your enemies close, and your friends closer."

"That's not how the saying goes, Jack." Daniel smiled and shook his head.

"Well maybe it should."

"I hope that makes me a friend rather than an enemy." Gabriel voiced.

Jack just smiled and nodded. A smile spread across Daniel's face that was pure Gabriel. There was a subtle change in his blue eyes and Jack suddenly knew that he was looking at Daniel once again. It was this change that Sam had been able to sense all along. Jack fought to keep his eyes open, but sleep was closing in on him once again.

"Get some rest, Jack."

"What are you going to do?"

"The same."

"Then it's a deal."

Daniel waited until Jack fell back asleep before getting up an leaving the infirmary. It was nearing four in the morning, but he was no longer tired. He wandered the empty hallways of the SGC down towards his office. Once there he picked up the framed picture of Sha're that he kept there.

"I'm sorry you had to leave her." Gabriel said softly.

"At least this time I got to say good-bye." Daniel smiled sadly. "Besides, I'll see her again. Assuming you keep your promise."

"My very presence here will keep you younger than you should be, but I will not do anything to lengthen your life unnaturally. You will simply get better use out of the years you have left."

"Thank you."

Gabriel went silent, but Daniel could sense that he had something more to say. Rather than ask Daniel wandered over to the other side of his desk and sat down. He tried not to think about the long road ahead, but when he finally gave into the thoughts he realized that he was not only ready for the future, but looking forward to it.

"Daniel?" Gabriel asked at a near whisper.

"Yes?"

"Can I ask you why you came back?"

"When you wouldn't tell me what was happening I came to a realization."

"What is that?"

"Friends worth dying for are also worth living for."

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Note from the Phoenix: Thank you to all of you who have joined the team and I on this little adventure. Next up 'Hardwired'...