A/N: I'm ba-a-a-ack! My thesis is done, I finished my last exam two hours ago, and what do I do to celebrate? Post the first few chapters of my next story, of course! Here's the promised sequel to "Descension Back To Normalcy". You don't have to have read it to follow this story, but it would make me happy if you did. : ) Enjoy!

What A Tangled Web We Weave…

"Woah!" Jack exclaimed, stopping in the doorway and gaping in surprise.

The hacking cough he'd been following had led him exactly where he'd suspected it would. Bloodshot eyes stared back at him from a flushed face that scrunched up as another bout of dry coughing wracked a body already sagging with exhaustion.

"Please tell me you feel better than you look," he requested, stepping further into the darkened lab, despite the fact that the whole room was probably contaminated with goodness only knew what.

When the coughing finally subsided, Sam gasped a few shallow breaths before replying.

"Good morning, sir," she croaked, her raw throat reminding her that it wasn't very happy with her right now. "I was just going over the schematics for the device on…" she never got to finish the thought as another coughing fit came over her.

Rolling his eyes at her workaholic tendencies, Jack reached out and laid a hand on her forehead. At least, he tried to. Between the violent coughing that shook her body and her efforts to evade him, he wasn't successful. With an exasperated sigh, he placed one hand on the back of her head to hold her still before trying to feel her forehead with the other. Even before he made contact, Jack could feel the heat radiating from her.

"Geeze, Carter!" he breathed quietly, turning his hand and laying the backs of his fingers against her feverish cheek. "Let's get you to Frasier and have her check you out," he suggested, obligingly laying his hand on her other cheek when she turned her head expectantly.

"I'm going to the infirmary after this," Sam promised, closing her eyes and reveling in the cool touch against her overheated skin. "But I need to have my preliminary report done for SG-9's briefing at 1130."

She had every intention of dazzling him with technobabble and proving that she was all right to keep working, but she could feel another cough building deep in her chest. Instead of letting loose a long string of polysyllabic words, her mouth snapped shut and she took a few shallow breaths, trying to delay the next bout of coughing for as long as possible.

"I think Hammond will take my side on this one," Jack stated dryly. "Let's go..."

Another harsh coughing fit erupted from Sam, forestalling the rest of Jack's order. Wincing in sympathy as the force of the coughing left her bent double, one arm wrapped protectively around her ribs, Jack rubbed his thumb soothingly over the short strands of hair still under his left hand. When her coughing finally abated, Sam wiped at her watery eyes and flashed him a grateful but tired smile.

Jack gave her the time to take a few shaky breaths before wrapping one hand around her upper arm and easing her to her feet. He kept a careful eye on her, noting how all the color drained from her face when she stood.

"Are you honestly up to walking down to the infirmary?" Jack asked quietly, steadying her as she swayed on her feet. He strongly suspected that if he released her right now, she'd end up on the floor.

"Yes, sir," she tried to reassure him. Considering she was white as a sheet, even the flush gone from her fevered skin, it wasn't working very well. "I just need to go slow," she amended, hoping that it was a little more convincing.

"Okay," Jack agreed, assessing her with a practiced eye as he moved so she could start for the door. If it were just about anybody else, he'd be telling them to sit their ass down while he called down to the infirmary, but the woman in front of him routinely accomplished stunning feats through stubborn determination alone.

Also, sometimes it was really just easier to do things her way than to fight with her about it.

"Just tell me when you need a break," he added patiently.

"Sir, you really don't have to walk me down there," Sam protested, more out of habit than any real belief that she was actually going to make it to the infirmary under her own power.

"Ri-i-ight," he drawled, his skepticism obvious as he arched an eyebrow at her pointedly. "Still, since I'd like Frasier to check you out sometime this week, I think I'll walk you there anyway."

"Thank you, sir," she replied, conceding defeat. Setting out, she slowly shuffled towards the door, Jack's firm but gentle grip steadying her as she continued to sway occasionally.

"Hey, this is what they pay me the big bucks for," he joked, leaning awkwardly over the workbench to grab her box of tissues, just in case.

Tucking the flimsy cardboard box under his arm, Jack readjusted his grip on Sam so he held her more securely. Once out in the corridor, he maneuvered her so that she was between the wall and his body, keeping her from being jostled in the event that a security team went racing by. The pair had to stop periodically to either wait for a coughing fit to pass or to give Sam a chance to catch her breath, so the trip took much longer than it normally did. By the time they finally reached the infirmary, Sam was actually relieved to collapse on an infirmary bed and wait for Janet.