"I don't understand, Colonel, how did the virus spread from the dirt on the tablets to everyone on base, except you?" General Hammond asked. Jack smiled sheepishly.

"The virus was in the dirt that had caked onto the tablets, Sir. When Daniel dug them up, he must have gotten dirty. When he changed, he left his uniform in the laundry room to be collected."

Carter stared at him, stunned. It was so simple.

"So when everyone's uniforms got washed together, the virus multiplied and spread. Water must have been a good breeding ground. I don't understand how an alien could have known whatever race disturbed the tablets would have had caffeine, Sir."

"Most worlds have stimulants of some kind, MajorCarter," Teal'c suggested.

Sam nodded in agreement, then shot the Colonel a puzzled look. "So how did you avoid becoming infected?" She was amused when the Colonel's face flushed a little red. Not a full blown blush, but probably as close as she would ever see.

"I'm, uh, allergic to the brand of laundry detergent they use, so I take my stuff home and wash it there. I have several different uniforms of each kind, so if I don't always get around to it right away, it's not a problem. As of yet, I still haven't done my laundry." Jack saw Carter press her lips together in a quickly suppressed smile. Then she shook her head. Jack became embarrassed. "For cryin' out loud, Carter, give me a break! I'm a bachelor!"

"We still have the problem of actually killing it, Colonel. I don't suppose the tablets mentioned that?" Janet, who had been silent until now, asked. Everyone looked at him, but Jack could only shake his head. He suddenly understood a margin of the pressure that Daniel felt when they all looked to him for answers.

"I can't read the tablets, Sir. I could only read Daniel's notes, and he mentioned nothing about it. He didn't even mention the virus directly."

"So how were you able to discern the connection between the tablets and the virus, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked. Sam watched, and was surprised again. She really was going to get to see the Colonel make a full-blown blush!

"I know how Daniel thinks." Jack was only glad that no one had really stopped to ask why he'd been in Daniel's apartment in the first place.

"We're missing something," Janet announced. All eyes turned toward her. "Think about it. Daniel had been exposed time and time again. His coffee addiction should have activated the virus sooner, rather than later. Considering how hard and how quickly, it hit him, he would have been in the infirmary long before now. There's got to be something else."

"Food," Jack blurted. Janet frowned at him. "He was fine until I tried to make him eat. That's when it hit him."

Janet nodded, and begged permission to leave from the General. She had more testing to do, and Daniel was running out of time.

~*~

"Damn it!" Nathan jumped with the force of Fraiser's barked curse. She was tired, and frustrated. There were apparently two activators needed- caffeine and protein. They'd made a logistic leap there! However, they still had no idea how to get rid of the virus permanently. With everyone being forbidden caffeine of any kind, and no high protein meals, the base was a bad place to be. Everyone was cranky.

Nathan knew she hadn't slept for more than an hour or so each night for a little over a week. Doctor Jackson's condition had degenerated so seriously that now he was on a ventilator. Nor had he awoken from his coma. He was alive simply because of the machines keeping him that way. This was an added stress that he knew Dr. Fraiser didn't need right at this moment. Even the rest of SG-1 had stopped hounding her for permission to sit with their teammate. Dr. Daniel Jackson, it seemed, was patient zero. She had kept them away for fear of SG1 infecting Daniel with the new strain of the virus.

Nathan hesitated only a moment before putting a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"Doctor Fraiser, why don't you get some rest? You're no good to Doctor Jackson or anyone else without a clear head."

Fraiser smiled at him, clearly exhausted, angry and frustrated.

"I couldn't sleep anyway, Nathan, thanks though."

"At least have something to eat in the commissary." She knew he'd gently hound her until she had a meal. She nodded. Maybe some food would help clear her head a little, at the very least.

~*~

"Janet!" Doctor Fraiser looked up at Sam's urgent call across the commissary. The Major looked excited, and happy, though clearly as exhausted as she was. Despite her orders, SG-1 clearly wouldn't rest until Daniel was safe.

"Sam! What's wrong?" Carter sat down quickly across from her friend.

"I think I thought of a way to buy you and Daniel some time."

"I'm listening," Janet answered carefully. Sam took a deep breath.

"The Colonel is the only one on base not infected, right?" Janet nodded. "So, wouldn't that mean he has some kind of natural immunity to it? Or something in his blood to keep the virus dormant?"

"He doesn't have it, Sam. He's not even a carrier. There are no traces of it in his bloodstream. I see where you're going with this, but it won't work. It could take months to identify the immunity agent in the Colonel's body. It could be one of a million things. The trouble with humans is that we're all amazingly unique in a totally similar way," Janet pointed out with a tired sigh. God, she was tired. And worn thin.

"I was thinking more about antibodies."

"Antibodies would require a presence of the infection-" Janet stopped, stunned. She gasped as she realized what Sam wanted to do. "Sam! You're insane!"

"He would do it!" Sam insisted quietly. "For Daniel, he would. Even if it wouldn't cure, it would buy time."

Janet shook her head. "I can't do it, Sam. I'm a Doctor. It's my job to make people better, not purposely make them sick!"

Sam reached across the table and put her hand over her best friends. "Janet, please. Think about it. We're running out of time. Ask him."

~*~

"You want to WHAT?" Jack yelled. He ignored the warning glare from his commander. Were these people completely stupid?

"Colonel, this is a man made virus. It can reproduce, even mutate, but only within it's original programming. It was designed to go only so far. You're perfectly healthy. I don't think it would be any serious danger to your life," Janet explained calmly. She wasn't so wild about the idea herself, and she knew that it was risky. Normally, it would have been too damn risky, but she agreed with Sam. There was no choice here. It was the best chance she had to try and save Daniel's life. Even if it only bought time!

"Doctor, are you absolutely certain you can introduce this new virus without harming Colonel O'Neill?" General Hammond asked her. The logic of the suggestion made sense, he had to admit, however unorthodox it seemed.

"At this point, General, I can't guarantee it, no. But I would like to point out that Daniel's chances of surviving stand at zero right now. He's alive only because of machines. He's been in a coma for almost a full week. The longer it takes to find this cure, the more risk there is of brain damage. There is no one else. The Colonel has managed to avoid becoming infected even with his close range to Daniel. Everyone else on base has already been exposed to the mutated strands."

"DanielJackson would consider it preferable to be dead than living as only a fraction of what he was," Teal'c pointed out. There was a moment of silence as prayers that it wasn't too late were sent out to whatever higher power they believed was listening at the moment. Teal'c was right, of course.

"Will this work as a cure for the rest of us, as well?" Hammond inquired to break the silence.

"Without knowing the extent of Colonel O'Neill's immunity, I can't answer that. We can hope. I've already tried every vaccine known to man, and a few that aren't. It may not cure Daniel, either. I believe it will, at the very least, force the virus into dormancy. It may only end up buying me time, Sir. But every second we can buy is worth its weight in gold at this point."

Hammond purposely looked at the Colonel, letting him know it was his choice. There was no way he could order something like this.

Jack sighed. He knew that for all his protests, and loud objections, there really wasn't much of a choice. Any chance, however slim, at saving his lover was worth a week of the flu. Janet had explained that she would have to introduce the original strain into him to make the necessary antibodies to help Daniel. He knew she was hoping that the basic building blocks of the mutated strains would react as well.

For Danny? "Let's do it."

~*~

Jack paced around his lockdown quarters. The flu had come and gone within two days in him. He was still sniffling a little, but nothing too serious. He was proud of his body's ability to kick ass as well as it did! Doctor Fraiser had injected the mixture of antibodies and some other gobley gook into Danny yesterday morning. SG-1 had been holding their breath ever since then.

There had been no change in Daniel's condition either way. It frightened Jack that that this was considered good news! He'd given up trying to hang around the infirmary to get a peek at his lover. He'd been reduced to pacing around in his small room, like a caged animal. More than anything he wanted to be sitting next to Daniel, watching over him, talking to him.

It wasn't fair. He'd only had Daniel for two days! Three kisses and one night together wasn't enough! He'd never had a chance to prove to Daniel he was, in fact, loved and greatly treasured. With all his intentions of waking up his friends and teammates to the condition their little family was in, he had also brought home a few truths to himself, about both his friendship and his relationship with Daniel. There was a lot of work to be done, and he was looking forward to every little bit of it!

Now, suddenly, it felt like he was losing it all before he ever had a chance to begin! This was far worse than when he'd thought Daniel was dead on Nem's planet, or on Apophis's ship. In both the other instances, the cut had been quick and brutal. Watching his lover dying slowly and being unable to offer even the small comfort of his presence was torture!

He wanted to be strong for Daniel, for Sam and Teal'c, but he couldn't. Every alarm, every phone ring made him breathless, then reduced him to tears of relief when it wasn't about Daniel. He remembered the words he'd said to his friend while trying to impart the message that he was in love with him. "You lead, I follow." At the time, he'd only known it was true, not really what he meant by it.

Suddenly, he had a very clear idea of what he meant. He knew deep within his soul that if Daniel died this time, he wouldn't survive him long. Jack knew he'd try, of course, simply because he had two other friends who would need him badly. But it wouldn't be enough. Even now, he died a little more inside with each passing minute.

It couldn't go on like this. Daniel needed him, and he needed Daniel. Damned the consequences!

~*~

Janet looked up at her office door to see Kelly standing there, her hand moved to knock. She quickly read her nurse, and nodded.

"So, he's here." She was too tired to play guessing games.

"Yes, Doctor. Do you want me to call security?" Janet shook her head. No point. The damage was done now. She rose and walked out. She almost smiled when she saw the hunched figure sitting by Daniel's bed, hands firmly clasped together, running his thumb over the thin fingers and knuckles. Janet figured she'd done well by keeping him away this long. She tucked her smile away, and tried to manage a stern expression as she approached Jack O'Neill.

"Colonel, I believe I told SG-1 that you shouldn't be with Daniel. You could infect him with a newer strain." Jack turned his big brown eyes on her. She was surprised to see them brimming with tears. Jack never let his feelings show so openly. Their little discussion on his sexuality and his feelings for Daniel had been a rarity.

"I couldn't- " he started hesitantly, afraid she would still send him away. He licked his lips and tried again. "I had to be here, Janet. It's his biggest fear, you know, dying alone." Janet firmly kept her surprise hidden. No, she hadn't known that. It was even more surprising that the Colonel did.

"You can stay with him during the day, but at night I want you to sleep for at least six hours, or I'll have security escort you out."

Jack smiled thinly at her. "Do what I say, not what I do, eh Doc?"

Janet chuckled. He had her there. "I'll keep the curtains pulled over. Talk to him, Jack, give him something to fight for." Jack nodded and turned back to 'their' patient, and began telling Daniel about how he needed a better note taking system. Smiling, she walked away. Walking into her office, she collapsed on the couch. For the first time in what seemed like a very long time, she felt safe enough to sleep. Daniel couldn't be in better hands.

~*~

"Doctor Fraiser! Look!" Nathan was almost bouncing as he handed Janet Daniel's latest test results. She opened the folder, and she grinned. She gave a very loud mental 'YES!' She nodded her thanks to the nurse, and hurried over to where Daniel's shadow sat reading his friend a book.

"Moby Dick, Colonel?" Jack shrugged. He highly suspected Daniel had never read it before. Fiction had never seemed to have a place in Daniel's life.

"Yeah, well. Nope, don't have a good comeback for that one. Moving on. You look chipper."

Janet grinned, holding up the folder. "The foreign virus is diminishing quickly. We've had to give him several shots of the new vaccine. His own immune system is pretty much shot."

"So, it helped? He'll be all right?"

"I want to give it some more time before we get too optimistic, but yes, it helped. All we can do now is hope he recovers. And he could still become reinfected. I still have to find the cure. All we've done is buy him some time."

Jack nodded. He didn't like her choice of words, but Janet had been honest about this from the beginning. The odds were stacked against his lover, and it had been a dangerous gamble to begin with. He looked at his watch, and blinked in surprise.

"Happy New Year, Janet."

~*~

Major Sam Carter walked the silent halls of the SGC. The attitude around the base was as cold and grim as the cement walls that surrounded them. Everyone was waiting with bated breath for Doctor Fraiser or herself to find a cure. Unfortunately, Sam had already helped as much as she could. She wasn't an MD, and knew very little beyond the simple logics of the situation.

Christmas had come and gone with nary a whisper to mark it's passing. New Years Eve and Day had been the same. That in itself told a great deal about the feelings on the base. They were soldiers, and work always came first. But on those few special days, that they could and would celebrate, New Year was a must! Another year alive. Any soldier who was worth his or her salt sat for at least a minute in total silence after midnight, reflecting on all those who weren't there to celebrate the next upcoming year, and were thankful for the ones that still were.

There had been no cheer last night. Not even a whisper of happiness.

Sam could, perhaps, wonder about the cause. For herself and SG-1, Hammond and Janet, there would be no celebrating while their teammate and friend fought for every breath he took. That didn't explain the rest of the base. As long as no one had caffeine, or ate high protein foods, then they were safe. The virus would remain dormant.

"MajorCarter." She stopped at Teal'c's call, and waited for him to catch up with her.

"Are you getting something to eat?" she asked.

Teal'c nodded. "O'Neill requires sustenance."

"Is there any change?" She winced at the look Teal'c gave her. Only those who didn't know Teal'c, thought he was stoic and expressionless. To SG-1 he was almost an open book.

"You have not been to see DanielJackson?"

"I've been busy helping Janet as much as I can. We're both out of ideas, Teal'c. We just don't where to go from here. We're still missing something."

Teal'c nodded at her gently.

"You require rest, MajorCarter, as does DoctorFraiser. DanielJackson's life is no longer threatened by the virus, there is time."

"Maybe you're right, Teal'c. I'm going to go drop in on the Colonel and Daniel before I bug out."

~*~

"You gotta' wake up, Danny. We haven't had enough time together. This dying thing is getting old, you know." Jack reached up to brush an errant bang from his lover's forehead. Knowing this was the most he could do, brought tears to his eyes, and for once, he didn't bother to hide them: so they slipped down his face unchecked.

"I need you, Danny. I always have. I just had a lousy way of showing it. We all need you. You hold us together, even if we're too busy fighting over and with you, to know it. I have so much to show you. You have so much to show us. There are worlds out there that we desperately need to see through your eyes. Mei spiritus vita, come back to me, please, Mei Carus."

~*~

Sam backed away from the curtains, glad she hadn't been discovered. She didn't know if she wanted to cry or laugh as she turned down the hallway and headed for her quarters. Once there she slammed the door and sat on the bed.

The Colonel and Daniel? It had to be. She understood enough Latin to roughly translate the actual words. My breathing life. My Beloved. Even if she hadn't known the words, the love behind them was impossible to ignore. She should have seen it. Instead of looking for the real reasons the Colonel had pushed Daniel away, she had foolishly chosen to believe that he was doing it to get closer to her.

Considering things were just as bad between herself and the Colonel, it hadn't been very logical, but damn it, the heart didn't do logic.

Sam reached up to touch her face, and expected to find it wet. She was surprised when it wasn't. Frowning, she searched her own emotions. She was stunned, yes, and a little angry, true! But she felt neither grief nor blazing jealousy. Had her crush for the Colonel been merely that? A schoolgirl crush? She thought about it carefully, as though analyzing one of her puzzles.

Weighed against the love in the voice that had spoken to her little brother, could she really feel anything but a sadness for the loss of something she'd never really had, and a little joy that her 'little brother' had found someone who could protect him, and would love him without hesitation? She knew the Colonel well enough to know that he was an all or nothing guy. So was Daniel. If they'd entered a relationship together, it hadn't been done lightly.

Her training told her she should be disgusted. She thought that she believed that homosexuals didn't belong in the military, but her love of her friends demanded her silence. Their happiness meant something to her, no matter what her personal loss in the matter. After all, what was family without acceptance?

Determination lined her face. She would protect her family as viciously as any mother with her cubs. She couldn't ask, and the Colonel couldn't tell, but she would support them. If the Colonel and her little brother wanted each other, then by God, she'd make sure they had each other!

With that silent vow made, she felt something lift from her shoulders, a weight she hadn't even realized she'd been carrying. She'd put her life on hold for a chance at something she knew deep down would never have worked. It was time to take her life back!

~*~

"UNAUTHORIZED GATE ACTIVATION!"

General Hammond left his office quickly, frowning. The only team left off world knew not to come home yet!

"Tok'ra IDC, Sir."

"Open the iris, Sergeant."

They watched, curious, until Jacob stepped through. General Hammond left the control room, ordering that Major Carter be paged.

"Stand down!" Hammond ordered the SF's, then waited at the bottom of the ramp for his old friend. "Jacob! This is an unexpected surprise! Unfortunately, your timing couldn't be worse."

"We heard about the virus, George. That's why I'm here." They moved together to leave the gateroom, heading for the infirmary. General Hammond gave Jacob an interested, and hopeful glance. What card could the old dog pull out of his sleeve?

"In that case, your timing couldn't be better. We're stumped here." Hammond filled in the Tok'ra on their way to the infirmary.

~*~

Jack sat in silence. He'd read, talked, argued, yelled, and begged to Daniel for days. No effect. Even with the new vaccine working in his system, the stress of the illnesses had left Daniel's body too weak to even try to breathe on it's own. The ventilator was a presence that kept Jack on the edge of panic. As long as the machine was breathing for his lover, then there was a chance they would have to turn it off.

The few attempts to turn it down had been disastrous. A few more grey hairs he could place solely on Daniel's shoulders. That silent comment didn't help lighten Jack's mood. He was terrified he'd been given a bare taste of something, and now he was going to lose it.

Jack had been given time to realize just how much he was taking on in this relationship. Daniel swore he wasn't fragile, but Jack hadn't been able to see him as anything else. It wasn't until the Colonel had sat here for days that he clued in on what his friend had been trying to tell him.

Those dreadful events had happened years ago. Daniel had survived them, then survived the time after wards, and had even managed to pull himself through a relationship or two afterwards. Yes, Daniel had limits. Sex with Jack was a terrifying prospect to the young man, and he had a few daemons to exorcise before he could attempt it. What Jack had missed completely was that Daniel was willing to try. He wouldn't have entered the relationship if he wasn't.

As vulnerable as Daniel seemed after his confession, Jack had forgotten a very important part of his best friend's personality. With the right motivation, Daniel would fight through anything. Underneath the kindness, the gentleness, and the naivety, Daniel had a core of tempered steel that had seen him through experiences that would have shattered weaker souls.

"Ah, Danny, I've been such a fool. What made me think so little of your heart to believe that you wouldn't fight just as hard for us?" Daniel didn't want his past to matter. He had a goal in mind, and he was going to bust his ass to make it. "I would have lost you, wouldn't I? If I had kept trying to treat you with kid gloves? You trusted me to support you, help you, and I was ready to smother you instead. You have to have patience with me, Danny. I forget, sometimes, the trials you've overcome. I forget to see past that lost little boy inside you. I've learned my lesson. Please come back to me so I can show you."

Jack turned from his lover when he heard voices approaching Daniel's side of the room. Daniel's usual guest bed had been available for him, of course. Placed at the far end of the infirmary, it had the most space to accommodate Daniel's usual barrage of visitors, as well as his permanent shadows, SG-1.

"We can try, George, but I'm not promising," Jacob finished as they landed.

Jack frowned. "Try what?"

"We're sending a sample of the virus to the Tok'ra. Hopefully, they might be able to do something with it that we can't," Hammond answered. Jack nodded. He wasn't exactly a big fan of the Tok'ra. Snakes were snakes, in his books. But the SGC medical staff was stumped. There was nowhere else to go, no other options to try.

"We need a fresh sample of Daniel's blood, since he was the first one infected, even if it is dormant now, as well as a sample of the vaccine Doctor Fraiser concocted from Jack's blood," Jacob explained as they hailed a nurse.

"Just do what you can, Jake." Jacob Carter nodded, and smiled, accepting of Jack's attempt at levity.

"Is there anything you want us to do in the meantime?" General Hammond asked, willing to devote any resources needed to help. Jacob smiled and reached down and patted Daniel's arm.

"Just keep him alive until I get back."

~*~

Three days later, the base was free of the virus. Only one problem remained. Daniel hadn't awakened from his coma as yet. Janet tried to hide her concern from SG-1, knowing they knew the longer Daniel stayed comatose, the more dangerous it was. They hadn't even been able to remove the ventilator.

She approached Daniel's bed, and saw Sam sitting in the chair. Jack had retired for a few hours to finally get some sleep. The man was difficult to deal with. He varied between ranting at her for not being able to help Daniel, to begging her to do something. It was heartbreaking to see him so undone.

"Hey Sam. Are you all right?" she asked her long time friend. Sam nodded.

"Yeah, Janet. It's just hard, you know? We were all so convinced that once the virus was cured, he'd wake up. We're all just a little lost now. We don't know anything else we can do for him."

Janet smiled. "We're doing everything we can. We've got him on thiamin, glucose and naloxene drips. I'm a little worried about the effects the cure for the virus will have on his weakened system. That's why I've increased the naloxene now that I'm sure the virus is gone. The sooner we can flush his system of all this foreign stuff, the better. It's been a hell of a few weeks, Sam. We've put his body through a lot. It's not too far a leap to think that it's decided it needs time to clean up, and regain some strength."

"So, if you had to count, how many times would you say you've delivered that speech? I'd put money on at least ten."

Janet laughed. "The Colonel wants answers. He forgets that a lot put Daniel here. It just might take a lot to get him out."

"Colonel O'Neill just wants to take him home and look after him. He doesn't like things he can't shoot," Sam teased lightly. Then she frowned. "He's afraid, Janet. We all are. It's just so typical for Daniel to get the raw end of the deal. He's cut it close a few times. We're all terrified that each time it happens, it'll be the last."

Janet nodded sympathetically. She understood that fear all too well, and would not belittle it by making a joke out of it. The jokes would come when and if Daniel pulled another miracle out of his hat, when they could rest assured that he was safe, at least for now. She patted her friend's shoulder.

"Just give it time, Sam. The human body doesn't like having so much thrown at it. Give him time to clear his system, and let his body clean itself out. Especially since half the chemicals now floating around in there are alien. The Tok'ra weren't exactly forthcoming about what was in that cure." A fact that had pissed her off to no end!

Sam gave her friend a small smile. "They just don't want to admit that you pretty much had it, and it only needed one more little ingredient," Sam joked, knowing she was probably close to the truth. Janet laughed. Sam realized how long it had been since she'd heard laughter around the base. "Thanks, Janet."

~*~

Jack looked up from the book he was reading. Moby Dick had been finished the day the ventilator came out. It had been a small victory, but a celebrated one nonetheless. 'If' had become 'when'. Daniel lay still, the clear nasal prongs and tubing making him seem vulnerable, as well as all the other tubes and leads they had on underneath the scrubs. Machines beeped merrily away. Daniel's pallor made the crisp white sheets look bright in comparison.

"You're still so sick, Danny. Got a long way to go. I'd really appreciate it if you woke up, though. Would love to see those baby blues. You should really have some compassion for the comfort of others. You know I'm driving the medical staff nuts. Not to mention my desk is full of paperwork just begging to be done. General Hammond is getting ready to order you to wake up, just so I can get some work done. And you know how he is about obeying orders. I forgot our Teddy Bear of a General could be a grizzly bear, too!"

Jack set down the book and leaned over his partner, taking his hand and gently rubbing his thumb over the thin knuckles. Oh yeah. Long way to go. Weeks in a coma hadn't exactly helped Daniel's weight situation. He watched his thumb move as though he were speaking to it, instead of the still form of his friend.

"These knees are getting too old for this chair. I need to get Fraiser to order me a special chair. 'Course, it would be nice if you'd stop ending up in here. That would be a big help!" Jack paused as the machines blipped. They'd been doing that a lot over the last few days. Janet didn't seem concerned about it, so neither was he, but it was annoying. "Gotta tell you, Danny, that this whole bedside vigil gig is getting old, too. Truth is, I'm seriously thinking about retiring. Again. It's been fun, really, but this old heart just can't take this anymore, Mei Carus. The knees aren't in such great shape anymore either. Don't know what you see in this worn out Colonel, but he's all yours, mind, body and soul."

Jack laid his forehead on that hand as his voice cracked. He had to admit that he was very privacy curtains prevented anyone in passing from seeing. Even if they hadn't, he simply didn't care anymore. The man he loved had been comatose for weeks. Nothing else mattered.

"J'ck?" Jack's head rose quickly to see two blue spheres looking at him. He hardly dared breathe as he stood and reached for the call button, just in case he was imagining this. But those eyes tracked his movements. It was real! Daniel was awake!

"Yeah, I'm here." He felt a wave of relief strong enough to almost topple him. His knees wanted him to sit again, but he refused to take his eyes from Daniel's, as if Jack could keep him awake by not losing eye contact. So many emotions washed through him, he almost felt as though he was going into shock. Relief warred with anxiety, love mixed with guilt, so many thoughts and feelings. It was hard to pick out one. So he relied on instinct. Daniel needed him, so he had to be strong.

He heard the click of heels hurrying across the floor. Jack reached his hand to brush his knuckles across Daniel's cheek just as the curtain was yanked back.

"Colonel... Daniel!" Janet dropped the reprimand as soon as she saw her patient was awake. She hurried about him, checking vitals, flashing that damned pen light into his eyes, taking his pulse with her fingers on his wrist, as though she didn't trust the machines. God, Daniel was awake! Jack wanted to dance with joy, to sit down and sob his relief at the same time.

"Daniel, can you tell me your birthday?" Daniel shook his head "no", and Jack felt his heart drop. Was there brain damage? Then he saw the glint in Daniel's eyes as a smile formed on those pale lips. Janet frowned.

"Why not?" Daniel looked over to Jack, and licked his lips, slowly, deliberately. Jack breathed a sigh of relief, as he understood. He left, and came back with a cup of ice chips. He fed some to the weak man slowly, and was rewarded with a brilliant smile.

"July 8th." Daniel coughed. Even with the ice chips, his throat was dry and raw.

"Take it easy, Buddy. No more questions. Doc, would you be so kind as to gather the rest of the mob?" Janet beamed a smile at him and nodded. She understood Jack wanted a minute or two of privacy. Daniel's vitals were weak, but well. She saw no reason to deny him a short time with Daniel.

After she left, Jack turned back to his lover.

"How are you feeling?"

Daniel coughed, then let his eyes rake over the older man. "You... look... like... shit..."

Jack could hear how painful it was to talk, but smiled anyway. "You aren't exactly a pageant queen yourself."

Daniel laughed weakly. "You... kidding? With... my looks... and charm? That crown... is mine."

Jack laughed, loudly, and freely, for the first time since Christmas Eve.

"Watch it, or I might start thinking you have some interesting hobbies!" He teased. Daniel smiled. He had managed as much as he could, Jack could tell. Approaching voices told him Carter and Teal'c were on their way.

Jack reached down and gripped the frail hand as tightly as he dared. They had missed the holidays, a virus had taken over the base, he had a massive stack of paperwork waiting for him, Daniel still had a long way to go, and he had at least a handful of new grey hairs. But Daniel was awake, Carter and Teal'c would be here soon, the team was back together, he had gained back something he might have lost through his own over protective tendencies, and a profound understanding of a strength forged under fire.

Yep. All was right in the world of one Colonel Jack O'Neill.

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

AN: Next is Sands of time, and do keep in mind about the language note. I don't believe in online translators, but I also have to trust that what my friends told me was right. European languages aren't exactly my forte.

Ah yes, and maybe some reviews? They would be nice. In fact, not going to post Sands of Time (3/7) until I get some.

The dark stuff is almost over. There's one more little section, tiny, really, but not nearly as disturbing as what was offered in the first Chapter. The rest is just good, ole fashioned Adventure with just a touch of angst.