The five Ne'sa contingent bent their heads together to discuss, yet again, the SGC's latest proposition. Daniel stood, grateful for the break and made a subtle motion with his head towards the door. Major Davis nodded as two airman brought refreshments to the table. Sam grabbed a cookie from the tray and grinned at Daniel as he moved away on stiff legs. He tried to surreptitiously stretch his aching back; sitting for hours on end with too little sleep was harder on a body than a vigorous walk through mountainous territory.
Paul joined him as he stepped out of the small meeting room and they walked down the hall, grateful for air that was relatively fresh and not incense-laden. "So, you think they'll find something wrong with the numbers this time?"
Daniel was too tired to even roll his eyes at his friend. Every single combination of arms, ammunition and other supplies they'd offered the Ne'sa had been refused due to religious constraints or long, drawn-out customs. "I'm beginning to think the plans they're offering isn't worth this."
"Are you kidding?" Sam hurried to catch up, apparently having overheard the two men. "A Naquada-propulsion engine that actually works?"
"We've been at this for four and a half days, Sam." Daniel stopped before the door to the men's room. "They're really starting to get on my nerves," he confided in a half-whisper after making sure none of the Ne'sa had followed them out.
Paul laughed and clapped Daniel on the back. "What, all those rituals and prayers they go through before even sitting down at the table? I'd have thought that'd be right up your alley."
"Yeah, well, it was fascinating the first time around, interesting the second, third and fourth times, but it's scary when I can admit I can now say the words right along with them."
Sam laughed. "Well, according to the rituals, we've got about fifteen minutes before they even touch the coffee so I'm going to go grab a quick shower." She smiled at Daniel and Paul as she brushed past them.
"Want to get something to eat?" Paul asked once they'd stepped out of the washroom.
Daniel contemplated what the commissary offered this time of night and realized he wasn't hungry despite not having eaten more than a muffin and coffee in the past several hours. He rubbed a finger across his forehead, acknowledging to himself that his growing headache might be hunger-related, but his somewhat acidic stomach told him it'd rather have a few Tums and try for breakfast instead in the morning.
"I'll pass, thanks. You know, I think if we don't move forward with this last proposal, we may as well call it a night and try again with clearer heads in a few more hours."
"Okay. I'll see you in a bit." Paul turned right and headed for the elevators while Daniel decided to return to his office. He took one look at the mass of emails waiting for his attention as he sat down, but didn't have the energy or the interest at the moment to even begin figuring out which most urgently needed his attention. He pushed his chair away from his desk and laid his head on the back. He could so easily go to sleep right here, right now. His hips ached from sitting so much and he contemplated moving to his couch.
Daniel jumped, startled from the cusp of sleep at the sound of Jack's voice. "I thought you'd gone home," Daniel said without moving.
"Hammond and I had a few last minute things to discuss." Jack walked into the room and stood behind Daniel's chair. "So... I take it the Ne'sa still don't like our offers?"
"Well, we managed to agree on the guns but the numbers for ammunition is still up in the air. Ditto for the instructions on how to make toilet paper; they've agreed on what foodstuffs we'll exchange, but all of those are sure to change when they decide whether they want zats or staff weapons to go along with the grenades or whether they'd rather look at junk food." Daniel closed his eyes against the slowly-encroaching headache. Reaching into his desk drawer for Tylenol felt like too much work at the moment.
"So they liked the toilet paper?"
"And the candy bars. And French fries. We had no problems with trading them potatoes," Daniel finished with a hint of annoyance.
He felt a wisp of a touch along the side of his neck as Jack leaned over his chair. The warmth of his body enveloped Daniel for a moment before Jack pulled back.
"You gonna answer your emails?" Jack asked.
Daniel shook his head back and forth in small increments and Jack reached forward again, this time leaning over his shoulder. He heard a mouse click and realized Jack had turned his computer off. "You should go home and get some rest."
"Can't. We're scheduled again in..." Daniel opened his eyes and looked at his watch. "Five minutes." He sighed as he finally reached over into the drawer for the Tylenol. He shook out two, stood, poured a glass of water from the sink and drank deeply.
"I'll head on home, then."
Daniel glanced at Jack as he put the glass down and got a sympathetic smile.
"I'll see you tomorrow?"
They walked to the elevator together and Daniel gave Jack a tight smile when Jack's car came first. He wished more than anything he was on his way home with Jack. His elevator arrived and he leaned back against the wall, envisioning the hot shower they could be taking together before cuddling up in bed and simply relaxing, something he hadn't done in several days. Hell, he hadn't seen the light of the sun or breathed air that wasn't recycled in nearly a week.
He stepped out of the elevator and made his way to the meeting room. Daniel was surprised to see only one of the two security staff standing outside the room. He wondered if any of the Ne'sa had uncharacteristically wandered off somewhere. Since they rarely left one another's side, he thought that unlikely.
The guard looked very uncomfortable as he silently opened the door for Daniel. He realized the second guard was inside, standing near the door. One of the Ne'sa – Vitha, Daniel realized, was lying on the floor, with Sam kneeling beside her. Jathan, much younger than the unconscious woman, was leaning back in his chair, his eyes closed. The other three Ne'sa were hovering over both, while Janet tried to examine the heavily sweating man. With the door open, the air seemed a little fresher although the acrid scent of incense still caught at Daniel's throat.
Captain Flannigan, assigned to help with the clerical duties, hurried to Daniel's side. "Vitha and Jathan said they were feeling lightheaded and nauseous. I called the infirmary but Vitha fainted before Doctor Fraiser could get here."
"Not feeling well? Maybe something they ate?" Daniel glanced at the trays of sandwiches, cookies, muffins, coffee and bottles of water with a suspicious eye, suddenly worried that the aliens might have eaten something that might not have agreed with their systems. They had eagerly tried everything that had been placed before them, having a preference for greasy, fast-food type meals. "Food poisoning?"
"It's possible," Janet said as a small commotion outside the door revealed two gurneys. Daniel stepped away from the door as medical personnel entered and began placing the two ill visitors on the gurneys. Sam got up and went to stand beside Daniel while Janet turned to the remaining three Ne'sa. "How do the rest of you feel?"
"I am fine, as is Dithien," Stathiel, leader of the visiting Ne'sa stated. "Janyth is not feeling well. Perhaps you could—"
"Of course." Janet pulled out a chair and the pale woman sat down. Daniel pushed back his fatigue and headache along with the feeling of irritation when he realized that the days they'd spent cooped up in this room may have been all for nothing if the visitors didn't recover soon. He should be concerned about them but his own frustration over this new development was stronger.
After a moment, Janet straightened. "All three of your people appear to have elevated temperatures. I'd like to examine you two also," she stated as a medic helped Janyth up. Stathiel nodded regally and she and Dithien followed their companions out of the room. Janet turned her gaze to Daniel, Sam and Captain Flannigan. "What about you three?"
"I'm fine," Daniel said just as Sam replied in a similar vein. Captain Flannigan echoed their statements a few seconds later.
"I want you all to come to the infirmary for a checkup and some blood work, just in case this is more than exhaustion or food poisoning. Who else was—" Janet broke off when Paul entered the room, looking at them in confusion.
"Some of the Ne'sa are sick," Sam explained. With a small grimace, she informed him of Janet's request as they followed her to the infirmary.
- - - - - -
"Ow," Daniel complained as a nurse stuck a needle into his arm. He squinted against the light's glare and glanced over at Sam, who was sitting on the bed next to him while another nurse took her blood pressure. He could see Paul and the captain behind her, each on their respective beds, being examined by medical personnel.
Janet walked over to Daniel and smiled at him. "So far everything looks good," she said as she consulted Daniel's chart. "I'm afraid that all five of the Ne'sa are showing signs of some kind of infection. Low grade fever, headache, nausea," she explained when Daniel raised his eyebrows at her in question. "I don't know what's causing it; it could be viral or bacterial, or simply an allergic reaction to food. I'll know more when the blood work comes back."
"You don't think they caught germs from us, do you?" Exposure to germs, be it with visitors to Earth or offworld teams to other planets, was always a concern, especially after the parasitical virus that had spread like wildfire early in their exploratory years and had turned half of the SGC into hulking Neanderthals.
"It's too early to say." She scanned his chart, then flipped it shut before giving him her full attention. "You mentioned a headache earlier?" Janet hugged the metal clipboard up to her chest.
Daniel nodded cautiously, partly not to aggravate his headache and afraid that admitting to the pain might earn him a stay here, in this bed, for the remainder of the night. He had a perfectly good bed assigned to him a few floors above; he'd much rather conk out up there than in here. "You would too if you'd had to breathe that stuff they burn for four and a half days. Anyways, I took some Tylenol."
"Sam and the others haven't mentioned any problems; have you experienced any other symptoms? Nausea? Chills? Fatigue?"
Daniel shook his head, but when Janet tilted her head slightly to the side and looked at him quizzically, he admitted to being a little tired. "I haven't had much sleep over the past five days. You know their customs prevent them from breaking the negotiations for more than five hours; otherwise we'd have had to change parties and all the progress we've accomplished would have been for nothing."
"Yes, and I know that you've been burning the candle at both ends for the past couple of weeks getting ready for this meeting. And you do know that exhaustion lowers your immune system."
Once again he wished he'd managed to go home with Jack; he'd be in bed right now, curled up against Jack's body. He sighed softly as he continued answering Janet's questions.
"Okay. It doesn't look like our guests will be up to finishing the negotiations, Daniel. I think it's safe to say you and the others can go get some sleep. I don't want you to leave the base, at least until I'm sure none of you are affected by whatever is making them sick."
Daniel closed his eyes in relief. Eight hours' sleep, without any interruptions, sounded like heaven. When he opened his eyes, Janet was still looking at him, her lips upturned at the corners.
"I'll prescribe you something stronger for that headache," she said, patting his knee. "Then I want you to go straight to bed. Doctor's orders."
"Thanks, Janet," Daniel said as he gently stretched his neck side to side, hoping to get the kinks out of his neck and shoulders while ignoring the pressure it caused in his head. He took the pill from the nurse and swallowed it down with the water she offered, then carefully slid off the bed. With a wave to Paul, who was Janet's next patient, Daniel left the infirmary.
Massaging tight neck muscles with one hand, Daniel rode the elevator and made his way to the VIP room assigned to him for the seven and a half days allotted for these negotiations. He entered the room, shut the door and headed straight for the bed. Without even bothering to take off his boots, he stretched out on top of the comforter.
He'd expected to fall asleep the moment his head hit the pillow but to his frustration, his head pounded more fiercely once he was lying flat. After tossing and turning a few times, he folded his pillow in half, trying to elevate his head a little, and turned onto his side.
His mouth was dry. Probably a side effect of whatever medication Janet had given him which wasn't making much of a dent yet in his headache. With a sigh, he got up and trudged to the washroom to get some water. While drinking down a glassful of water, Daniel debated taking a shower, thinking the hot water might help loosen up some of the tenseness in his back and neck, but decided even the effort of toweling off afterwards was too much trouble. Instead he filled the plastic water glass with more water and sipped it as he returned to bed.
He placed the water on the bedside table and with a groan, began unlacing his boots. He shucked his pants and slid beneath the blankets. This time his head didn't seem to hurt as much; Janet's pill must be finally kicking in, although not fast enough for his liking.
Daniel tried to ignore the constant ache in his hips and upper back and tried to relax. After a moment, the blankets felt heavy and hot against his legs so he kicked them off. Ten minutes later, after more tossing and turning, he pulled the covers back up, their weight now strangely too light to completely keep him comfortable. He curled his chilled feet together, trying to lump the blankets around them to keep them warm and toasty.
A short while later his feet and the rest of him were too hot so he threw off all but the sheet. He turned onto his back and tried counting off 'gate symbols to all the known addresses he could remember.
Instead of the familiar glyphs, he saw rolls of toilet paper, grenades, chocolate bars, P-90's, vegetable seeds and every other item that was up for trade with the Ne'sa. Along with those were constantly changing numbers of said items, accompanied by the droning chants and prayers despite Daniel's attempts to force them out of his head.
The chants soon took precedence, the words and intonations finally forcing Daniel to cry out in frustration and to pound the mattress with his fists. He sat up, suddenly restless, and threw his feet on the floor and leaned forward, elbows planted on top of his knees, his palms pressing into his temples, wishing he could squeeze those memories out of his brain.
"This isn't going to work," Daniel said to himself. He reached over and turned on the light, grabbed his glasses and looked at his watch. It was just past eleven. He didn't feel like reading, now that his headache had gone from pounding to mere throbbing, he had the impression that reading or watching TV, might just make it start up again. What he needed was a massage. Were he home and in Jack's bed, he'd be on the receiving end of one already.
"Damn it all to hell," Daniel growled as he got up and restlessly prowled the room. His legs complained; they felt shaky and his knees and thighs ached as he paced. He felt jittery, as if he'd had drunk too much coffee too fast, which had left him twitchy and restive in a body that suddenly had too much energy with no outlet for it.
He walked around the bed and back, then stopped to drink more water. As he put the empty glass down, the energy suddenly left him as he felt goose bumps rise on his arms.
Daniel quickly rubbed his hands against his chilled arms, feeling the hairs brush against his palms as they stood upright. He felt drained and the few steps back to the bed felt like a mile. He shivered, and that was enough incentive for him to climb into bed once again. Pulling the blankets up to his chin, he curled up on his side. As the shivers continued to wrack him, Daniel realized he should get up and go to the infirmary. Something definitely wasn't right.
The idea of getting up and even calling the infirmary right now was just too much trouble so he opted to just close his eyes, rest a few more minutes, and then go see Janet. He just needed to get warm first.
- - - - - -
Something warm and soft touched his face and he turned so his cheek was enveloped by the heat.
"Daniel, wake up." He opened heavy eyelids as the cajoling voice continued, his vision blurred as tremors wracked his body. He pulled the blankets up higher around his shoulders as his teeth chattered together. His whole body hurt; his joints and muscles burning at even that slight movement.
He blinked and focused on a familiar pair of brown eyes near his face. Brown eyes he'd woken up to many a times, but not the pair that he'd rather have looking down at him.
"J... Janet? What's going on?" Daniel asked the doctor, who was seated beside him on the bed. Confused, he glanced at Paul who was standing behind the doctor, looking over her shoulder.
"Your blood tests came in," she said as she wiped the sweat from his forehead with a corner of the bed sheet. It was only when she spoke to him that Daniel noticed she was wearing a mask over her mouth and nose. "You've all been exposed to some sort of virus, that's what's making you sick."
"All... who else is sick?" Talking was difficult with his teeth clacking against one other. He clamped his jaw tightly to try and stop the embarrassing noises.
"The whole Ne'sa delegation. Sam. Captain Flannigan. Major Davis. Airman Saunders."
Daniel pulled his gaze from Janet's face and looked at Paul, who was also wearing a mask. The movement hurt his eyeballs and he scrunched his eyes closed, eliciting more discomfort while trying to force his brain to work.
"The guy who kept us plied with coffee and other goodies," Paul said as he took a step closer to the bed.
"I've ordered blood tests from everyone who's been in contact with the Ne'sa," Janet said as she grabbed the blankets and pulled them away from Daniel's body despite his attempts to hold onto them. "You need to be in the infirmary. Do you think you can sit up?"
Daniel nodded and sat up, surprised at how weak he felt. Paul handed him his pants and he slipped into them, then sat back onto the bed to put on his boots. He stuffed the laces into the tops, too uncoordinated at the moment to attempt tying them. He stood again with Paul's help as his legs trembled beneath him. Janet wrapped him up in the bedspread and he clutched at the edges gratefully.
"Just a second." She took a mask from her pocket and placed it over Daniel's mouth and nose. "Keep this on until we get you into isolation, okay? We don't know if you and Paul are contagious."
"You don't look sick," Daniel mumbled to Paul as he awkwardly looped the mask over his ears with one hand.
"Major Davis hasn't exhibited any major symptoms yet, but he's definitely been exposed to the virus."
With Janet and Paul each holding onto one of his arms when he rejected the offer of a wheelchair, Daniel was escorted to one of the isolation rooms that already housed more than half a dozen patients. There were several empty hospital beds on the right side of the room; Janet led him to a vacant bed beside Sam while Paul took the one next to him. Sam appeared to be sleeping. She was turned on her side, away from him and didn't move as a nurse came to help him take his clothes off and replace them with scrubs.
The nurse stepped away a moment and he wrapped himself in a blanket, ruing the fact that someone had taken away the comforter. She then handed him a couple of Aspirin and some water. He had to let go of the blanket and use both hands to take the glass of water to keep from spilling it. He stuttered his thanks as he took the mask off and gulped down the pills and water.
Daniel squinted at the five occupied beds at the far end of the room; he made out Vitha's distinctive flaming red hair spread out on a pillow. Those must be the Ne'sa lying there, he thought as he lay down.
He slid under the covers, trying to bring the blanket with him. Janet flipped it over the bedcovers, then piled on several more thick blankets and he gratefully curled up onto his side. He closed his eyes, wishing he could get warm again as someone took his temperature and wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his bicep.
He lay in a pain-filled haze, his joints and muscles burning as he shook with fever. He was dimly aware of people walking and talking softly around him. He swallowed the prescribed pills, drank the water which followed, even knocked back the apple juice someone gave him which made an embarrassing reappearance seconds later. He suffered the humiliation of having to be bathed, too miserable and sick to do much except to turn when asked. He barely felt the pinprick when someone placed an IV into the back of his hand. Daniel's skewed sense of time felt like forever as his universe became a nightmare of cold and burning pain.
Until he broke into a sweat and realized he was hot. Very hot. Burning in the fires of Hades type of hot. The blankets couldn't come off fast enough. He couldn't breathe; their weight was crushing him and his legs became tangled in their midst in his haste to rip them from his body. Then someone, thankfully, pulled them to the foot of the bed and fresh air flowed over his drenched body.
"Try and get some sleep, Daniel."
He turned to look at Janet as she used the back of her hand to push back a strand of hair that had fallen free from her normally well-coiffed hair. Despite the fuzziness of her face, Daniel could tell she was tired, and part of that fatigue, he knew, was due to him. Janet leaned over him and used a damp cloth to wipe the sweat trickling down his temples and along his neck.
"Hot," he complained, restlessly moving heavy and burning legs.
"I know, it's the fever." Gloved fingers traced his brow and she smiled softly at him.
"Jack?" He blinked up at Janet, not sure if he was asking her if Jack was all right or if Jack could come and visit.
"Colonel O'Neill hasn't reported in yet. It's still very early. I'll let him know you were asking for him when I see him, okay?"
Daniel nodded. He turned onto his side and looked at Sam. Her eyes were closed, her face was pasty white except for two small circles of color high on her cheekbones. He wondered if he looked half as bad as she did.
Someone walked past his bed, and the ensuing breeze wafted over his sweat-dampened body. For a moment it felt good, refreshing. But his overheated skin suddenly decided it didn't like the gust of air and puckered up into goose bumps. The shiver started low in his spine and worked its way up to his shoulders. He was reaching for the blankets before the second tremor shook him and his teeth were chattering by the time he'd dragged them up to his chin.
- - - - - -
Jack whistled tunelessly as he leaned against the back of the elevator, watching the floor numbers count down. The heat from the Starbucks coffee bled through the cup, the aroma coming from the small hole in the cover tempting him to take a sip of the rich brew. But he'd gotten this chocolate espresso concoction especially for Daniel, along with a muffin and chocolate croissant, and he wasn't about to hand over half a cup. Not after seeing how tired Daniel had looked last night.
What Daniel had needed last night was to be dragged home, placed underneath a hot shower, followed by a nice, long massage and then be thoroughly fucked by Jack. Then maybe nine or ten hours' sleep in Jack's arms before Jack returned him to the base. Refreshed.
He prayed that the Ne'sa had finally come to some kind of agreement overnight. Although technically they still had two more days of talks and rituals, it wouldn't be too much to ask that an early settlement might have occurred.
The elevator doors opened and Jack went to turn right towards the meeting room where he'd ask an airman to bring the goodies in to Daniel. But the moment he stepped out of the elevator, he saw Teal'c standing stiffly before him, hands clasped behind his back. Just from Teal'c's body language, Jack's heart leaped into his mouth.
"What happened?" he asked softly, barely aware of the personnel passing on either side of them.
"DanielJackson and MajorCarter have been taken ill. They are in Isolation Room 3."
Without a word, Jack turned and in one movement, shoved the coffee and treats into a passing airman's hands. "Enjoy," he mumbled before turning back to the elevator. Once on the floor, he hurried past the doors of the isolation room and ran up the steps into the observation room.
What he saw shocked him. At first glance he saw beds filled with patients. Impatiently he gazed over them, searching for only one face. He spotted Carter's blond hair in a bed on the right side of the room; the bed beside her held a faceless, blanket-covered blob, and Paul Davis lounged on the bed beside that one. There were two others that Jack couldn't make out but one was definitely female and the other was black. Process of elimination, the blob had to be Daniel – the size seemed about right. Once he knew where Daniel was, he looked around the room more carefully.
"All of the Ne'sa are sick?" Jack asked when he realized the implications of what he'd just been told.
"As are all of those who had contact with them. One of the guards assigned to watch duty has reported being ill; DoctorFraiser is now attempting to contact everyone who has spent time in their presence."
"You think they brought some kind of bug with them?"
"It's too soon to say," Janet Fraiser said from the doorway, "but I'd bet my bottom dollar this virus doesn't come from Earth." She stepped into the room and she joined Jack and Teal'c by the window. "We've sent samples of the virus to the Ne'sa home world but it'll take a while for them to get back to us. I have my own people researching the virus but so far we've come up with nothing."
"How bad is it?" Jack took a step closer to the window and gazed down on Daniel who'd turned around in the bed while Jack's attention had been drawn elsewhere. Now he could see the bed itself shuddering as Daniel seemed to convulse. "Doc!"
"It's okay." She touched Jack's arm gently. "He's experiencing muscle tremors." She grimaced. "Both Daniel and two of the Ne'sa are experiencing more severe symptoms than the others. Temperatures fluctuating around 105, rapid pulse, high blood pressure, severe muscle and joint pain, migraine. At this point there's nothing I can do for them except try and keep their temperatures down and make them comfortable. Sam and the others have the same symptoms, except milder, while Major Davis, on the other hand, has only a low grade fever and flu-like symptoms."
"Maybe he didn't catch the bug?"
"Oh, he's got it, all right. I just don't know if he's got a natural immunity or if the symptoms show up in varying grades of severity."
"Can I go..." Jack waved towards the beds below him. "Just for a minute... just to let him... them, him and Carter," he quickly corrected, "know I'm here."
"I'm afraid I can't do that, sir. We don't know how contagious this virus is at the moment and can't risk anyone being exposed."
"I can put on one of the suits." Jack indicated the medical personnel walking around with hazmat suits inside the Isolation room.
"Sir, I can't let you in there." She smiled tiredly at Jack and Teal'c. "But I will let them know you're here, okay?"
Fraiser left the room; a minute later Jack saw her enter the Isolation room below him, wearing mask and gloves. She went straight to Carter and Daniel's beds. She leaned over Carter and pointed in his direction. Carter raised her head and looked at his blearily before waving weakly at them. Jack raised a hand and waggled his fingers until she smiled faintly and laid her head back down.
Then Fraiser turned to Daniel. She leaned over him for what felt like a long time before reaching down and turning his head in Jack's direction. Daniel's eyes were open but Jack could tell, even from where he stood, that Daniel wasn't seeing him. It was only when he felt Teal'c's hand on his shoulder did he realize he was standing there with his hands clenched tightly into fists. He drew a deep breath then forced himself to relax as Fraiser looked up at him and nodded. Okay, maybe Daniel couldn't focus on him right now, but he knew Jack was here.
It'd have to do.
He pulled up a chair and sat, placing his elbows on the minute ledge, leaning in close enough to the window for his breath to fog up it up.
- - - - - -
"Doctor Jackson, I need you to turn onto your back, please."
The impartial hands tugged at Daniel's arm even before he could garner the strength to respond to the request. He rolled onto his back, only to gasp as waves of pain rolled up his spine and down into his hips and his head exploded from the movement.
"Oh God," he mumbled as his body began twitching again. The pain was easier to deal with when he could curl up on himself; lying flat on his back was just... embarrassing. He lay there helplessly as the blurry figure took his vitals, then slowly he clawed his way back onto his side.
His breaths coming in small gasps, he finally managed to turn and pulled his knees up to his chest. Even this position hurt but the shaking seemed to ease a bit when he lay like that, trapping in his body heat.
"I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson, I need to take more blood. I need you to turn onto your back again." More hands pulled at him, forcing him to where he didn't want to be. He shivered his way through another needle and poke, and attempted to turn onto his side again when she finished.
This time when he finally managed to move onto his side, he couldn't seem to catch his breath. He heard Sam and Paul's voices beside him but he couldn't seem to make out what they were saying; he was too busy trying to force the next breath of air down into lungs that didn't seem to be very receptive.
"It's okay, Daniel, try and relax," a familiar voice said close to his ear. Hands were touching him again and someone pulled his head up slightly, away from where he'd tried to bury it under the covers. He expected to be turned onto his back once more and this time he simply gave up. But instead something hard was slipped over his face and suddenly he found he could breathe again.
Someone was rubbing his back, easing some of the tenseness and knotted muscles. "That's it..." Janet's voice crooned. "Slow and easy..." The hand moved from his back and arranged the blankets around his shoulder, smoothing them gently around his fingers still clutching their edges.
His breathing eased, almost to the point he didn't feel he was fighting to do what should have been an automatic action. The whole episode had left him exhausted and he closed his eyes, permitting himself to drift into that feverish twilight zone somewhere between sleep and awareness.
- - - - - -
Jack noted there were slight reddish marks from where the mask had rubbed against Fraiser's face. She looked tired, but her eyes were bright and alert as she raised her head to answer Hammond's question.
"We have an epidemic on our hands. The Academy Hospital have confirmed six cases, all of whom are relatives to SGC personnel. Mrs. Saunders was the first; she obviously caught it from her husband. Major Dawson's two children are sick, as is his wife, as are Captain Flannigan's mother and brother.
"So far we have twenty sick, three of which are in serious condition. Sir, we have to take immediate preventive measures, otherwise this will spread like wildfire."
"I've already closed down the mountain as a precaution, although I'm afraid it may be too late to stop the spread of this disease. What do you suggest, Doctor?" Hammond clasped his hands together and looked at her with a worried look on his face.
"Quarantine everyone who's been in contact with our personnel, especially those who've had first hand contact with the Ne'sa. The incubation period of this illness has to be within two to four days, given the amount of time the Ne'sa have been here on base and the duty rosters of those who have already infected their families."
"That assumption is only correct if the illness has indeed originated from the Ne'sa."
"How the hell are you going to quarantine all these folks?" Jack picked at a small rip in the chair's armrest. "Family members are one thing, but how do you trace back everyone who went to the market? To the movies? Unless you shut everyone up in their houses..."
"We can't, of course. The virus *is* contagious but not virulently so, if the proper precautions are taken. None of my staff have gotten sick—"
"And we've traced back every occurrence to people who have had direct contact with the Ne'sa and those involved in the negotiations so we're pretty confident that—"
"What if it starts spreading through the ventilation systems? People are still getting sick here, who knows who or what else has those germs in them – for all I know, I'm infecting all of you here in this room."
"It's not that contagious, Colonel. And why would you be—"
"I saw Daniel on the night he got sick... he was in his office and I told him to go get some sleep..."
Fraiser suddenly sat up straighter. "We don't know if Daniel was contagious at that point and even if he was, we don't know how long an exposure is needed to become infected. Still, sir, I'd like you to report to the infirmary for some blood tests."
Jack nodded at the table as he dug his fingernails deeper into the growing gash in the chair.
"Have you yet discovered the origin of this illness, DoctorFraiser?"
Jack looked up. Fraiser grimaced. "We're still going over the Ne'sa's quarters and the meeting room before we attempt to disinfect it, but there's a lot to test and my staff is a little overworked at the moment with all the new cases." She looked at Hammond with a small raise of her eyebrows.
"I'll assign some people to help you, Doctor, if you can find someone to instruct them on what to do."
"Yes, thank you, General. I—"
Fraiser broke off as Walter Harriman ran up the stairs and hurried to the General's side. With a short apology for interrupting, he handed Fraiser a sheet of paper, and hurried back to his post.
"We've found the source of the virus," Fraiser said as she perused the information before her. "Oh my God!"
Jack immediately leaned forward at the tone of Fraiser's voice. Teal'c tensed slightly beside him.
"Sir, there's no question that this was a deliberate attack... the virus was found in a bottle of scented oil in the Ne'sa's quarters."
"In oil?" Jack exclaimed. "Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think germs would—"
"No, sir, not the oil itself, but the virus is housed in some sort of... I'm not even sure what this is but..." she looked up and met Jack's eyes. "It's unmistakable that the virus was transported in the oil and released when exposed to skin."
Jack thought back to something Daniel had complained to him about the Ne'sa's cultures. "Daniel mentioned something about having to be anointed in some sort of oil every time they came back from a break... said the stuff always got on everything, stained the papers they were working with..."
"Yes, Sam mentioned that to me, too." Fraiser wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "She mentioned how she hated the smell."
"Then this is a deliberate attack on the SGC." Hammond stood, his chair rolling backwards with the force of his action. Before Jack and Fraiser could stand, Hammond was hurrying out of the room and descending the stairs. They all filed behind him as the general ordered Technician Harriman to dial the Ne'sa planet.
"General," Jack said in a soft voice as he stood beside Hammond. "We know that the Ne'sa have enemies... and not just the Goa'uld." Although they had asked, the Ne'sa had never told them exactly why they wanted to trade for arms. They knew the Ne'sa had encountered the Goa'uld but a few statements by the Ne'sa had led them all to believe they were also at war with a neighboring continent.
"And that's what I'm planning on finding out." Hammond gave Jack a sidelong look before stepping in front of the camera once the 'gate activated.
"General Hammond." The older Ne'sa appearing in the monitor bowed and Jack held back a sharp retort as he waited for the usual long-winded greeting. To his surprise, Arithiel went straight to the matter at hand. "We were just about to contact you. We regret to advise that we have no records of the virus in our database, but we are more than willing to send our foremost experts in the field to assist you in finding a cure."
"That won't be necessary, Arithiel." Hammond's face was stony as he answered. "We've discovered the source of the virus – it was contained in a bottle of oil found in the belongings of one of your people."
Arithiel frowned. "I don't claim to be a student of medicine, but I would think that oil is not conducive to the survival of bacteria."
"It is if the microorganisms are encased in an artificial ecosystem," Fraiser said from Hammond's right.
"We saw nothing out of the ordinary in the samples you—"
"It wasn't evident once it hit the bloodstream. The ecosystem was meant to keep the virus alive until such time as it was released – which was probably when the oil was used."
"General Hammond. I assure you, we know nothing of this. I am also positive we do not have the skill to indefinitely preserve living organisms."
"You'll forgive us if we don't believe you," Hammond began, only to be interrupted by Arithiel.
"General, do you believe I would have allowed my own son to be exposed to a virus?"
"Jathan is my son. And he is also very ill, as stated from your last report."
"I'm sorry, Arithiel," Fraiser said. "I didn't know. Your son's condition hasn't changed; nor have any of the others."
"What about your enemies?" Jack shifted slightly so he was closer to the microphone. "Could someone have snuck the virus into the oil without anyone knowing?"
There were sounds off camera, and Arithiel glanced to his right. After a moment, he nodded. "We apprehended a spy in our midst several weeks ago... but we never—"
"Could he have tried to sabotage the negotiations?" Jack interrupted.
"Yes, it is possible," Arithiel said with a heavy sigh. "He had infiltrated our midst by pretending to be a cleric and the oils and incense brought to your world for the discussions had been blessed by our priests."
"And of course since we've been planning these *discussions* for more than a year, waiting for the right *omens* to show up before you settled on a date—"
"Colonel..." Hammond warned under his breath.
Jack bit back the rest of his retort and clenched his teeth. There had been more than ample time to plan an attack, but something still didn't feel right.
"Why us?" Jack said, turning to Hammond.
"O'Neill is right. If this attack was premeditated, it would be more logical for the Ne'sa to have been infected rather than the SGC. This assault was aimed at the SGC and not the Ne'sa."
"But my people have been infected," Arithiel rebutted.
"Casualties of war." Jack couldn't help but picture Daniel, huddled up in the bed, fighting for breath. "Answer me this. You all underwent some religious ceremonies before sending your delegation here?"
"Yes, of course. We performed Ma'th—"
"Then that should have been when the strike was made. Infect you, infect the team, and they in turn come through the Stargate and infect us while you infect everyone else on the planet. Did you use the same kind of oil that was—"
"No, of course not. And before you ask, our enemy is familiar with our rites as they themselves follow it as religiously as we."
"So there is no question it was a deliberate attack against the SGC." Teal'c's voice hadn't changed but there was a muscle in his jaw that popped convulsively as he clenched his teeth together.
"We shall question the spy, General Hammond. We *will* get an answer."
"Arithiel, if we may..." Hammond glanced at Jack and Jack raised his chin ever so slightly, showing interest and knowing where this was going. "I'd like permission to send some of my people over during the... interrogation. Perhaps together, we can get to the bottom of this."
"I have misgivings about this," Arithiel replied. "Not that I do not wish your participation, but I am concerned about your people spreading the virus here."
Jack bit his cheek to stop himself from yelling at the man that this was all his fault to begin with. But he allowed Hammond to answer more diplomatically, despite the tension he could hear in his superior's voice.
"I understand, and I assure you my people will take all precautions to prevent the—"
"Can we not do the interrogation via the Stargate? This way there won't be any chance of—"
"How about you send the prisoner here... perhaps the threat of infection might encourage him to speak?" Jack offered.
"And you are more than welcome to accompany him here," Hammond quickly added. "So far the rate of infection is low if preventive measures are taken. I'm certain your people have suitable attire you can use."
"Of course," Arithiel answered immediately. "It will take a few hours to have him moved to these facilities. I will confer with my colleagues and let you know our decision."
"We appreciate it."
The Stargate winked out and Hammond sighed. He turned to Technician Davis, on his right. "Dial up the Tok'ra."
- - - - - -
Jack was vaguely aware of the door opening; the cooler air that breezed in from the hallway reminded him how long he'd been cooped up in the small room, staring discouragingly into Observation Room 3. He knew who it was; he'd heard the klaxons a few minutes earlier.
He finally tore his gaze from Daniel's bed and looked up at Jacob, whose attention was on his daughter lying next to Daniel. To his surprise, Anise had followed Jacob into the room and she smiled at Jack before looking down at the patients in the room below. "Hello, Colonel O'Neill."
"Anise. Jacob." Jack turned away to stare again at Daniel's still form.
"Jack. I... How are they doing?"
"Not so good," Jack replied, his voice thickening slightly. Carter lay shivering much as Daniel had earlier that morning. Daniel lay in the bed beside her and Jack prayed he was sleeping. The tremors prevented them from resting and Fraiser had said how painful they were with the joint and muscle sensitivity they were experiencing. "Ten more have come down with this thing; three of them outside the SGC."
The most frustrating thing out of all of this was watching Major Davis' fidgeting, because apparently the man was still suffering from nothing more than a slight fever and headache.
Jacob seemed to pull himself together and turned to Jack. "Anise is our expert in viral infections—"
"Yeah, I remember." Jack still hadn't forgiven her for the bracelet incident.
"Well, I'd better bring her to the lab. Janet's waiting for us and... I'd like to spend a moment with Sam before they bring the prisoner over. I'd..." Jacob lowered his voice. "Would you like me to tell Daniel anything?"
"Just that I'm here," Jack said after a moment. "Me and Teal'c, we're here for them," he quickly amended. Jacob squeezed Jack's arm a moment before he left the room. Jack waited until he saw both the Tok'ra enter the room, envious that Jacob, thanks to Selmak's protection, could go give his daughter a kiss on the temple while Jack was relegated to simply watching his loved one suffering alone down there.
He felt his throat clamp tightly again when Jacob turned to lean over Daniel, brushing his cheek gently with his thumb. Jack was too far away to see if Daniel reacted, but Jacob's lips were moving so he prayed Daniel was hearing him. "I'm here, Danny," Jack said softly before clearing his throat of the lump that had suddenly formed.
He watched jealously as Jacob sat on Carter's bed and held her hand. He'd give anything for just sixty seconds to do the same with Daniel. Then again, maybe in another day or two he might just be doing that, if it turned out that he'd been infected. Fraiser had said two minutes together was probably not long enough but there was still that faint chance. Why spread a disease if it wasn't going to make everyone sick? There had to be some reason and they still didn't know what it was.
The klaxons sounded again; slightly muted in this room and non-existent in the one below. Jack leaned forward and pressed the mic. "Jacob."
The Tok'ra looked up at Jack and nodded. He leaned down to kiss Carter's forehead again, stood, then moved to Daniel's bedside and spoke to him a moment before he left the room. Jack went down the stairs and met Jacob at the Iso room's entrance.
"Daniel said to tell you to make sure you took your vitamins," Jacob said the moment he reached Jack's side.
"That's what he said." Jacob was silent a moment as they walked towards the elevator. "I think he meant to say to be careful to not get sick. That was the first thing he asked... how you were doing."
That lump was back and Jack swallowed it down with difficulty once more. "Thanks," he finally managed to say. "How did he...?"
"He's pretty weak, Jack."
The elevator doors opened as they arrived and they entered, both silent, Jacob probably thinking along the same lines as Jack. Father and daughter; friend and lover. The stakes were high and Jack could only pray that they would hit the payload.
They ascended to Level 16 and to the first of the holding cells. Teal'c had already escorted the prisoner there, along with Hammond, Arithiel and another Ne'sa, both of whom were ensconced in protective gear.
Without further ado, Jacob walked up to the seated prisoner, who was glaring at everyone with a defiant air despite having his hands and feet chained together. Jacob pulled something from a pocket and pressed it into the man's temple. "Tell us who gave you the virus."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Despite the man's words, a holographic picture of a face appeared in front of the man.
"Son of a bitch." With difficulty, Jack refrained from punching out the prisoner.
"You know him?" Jacob asked in a surprised voice.
"Newman. NID. Remember that sting operation last year?"
"Right." Jacob walked around the prisoner, who was staring at the hologram with shock. "Why'd you do it?"
"He said it would discredit you," the prisoner said, turning to Arithiel, apparently realizing the gig was up. "He and his people promised to trade whatever goods you agreed to with us instead, but we never heard from him again."
"Well, being in jail sorta does that to a person. You know, lose touch with your friends and fellow traitors." Jack rubbed his eyes, feeling a headache starting behind them.
"So when we realized the negotiations were going to transpire, we went ahead with the plans in an attempt at retaliation. Your people are not honorable," he finished with a scornful look at Jack and Hammond.
"Who the hell are you to talk about honor, when you sneak in germs to another world to punish someone you've never even met? Jack yelled.
"The germs came from your own people."
"That man is a traitor," Hammond interjected as he pointed to the hologram. "You can't judge a whole planet based on the actions of one person."
"Then you must hear our cause," the prisoner said quickly. "We wish to negotiate with you and can offer—"
"Not interested." Jack moved forward and leaned over the prisoner. "My team, my *friends*, are sick because of your *cause*. I don't give a shit what you guys believe in or what you can offer. I just want you to tell me if there was any cure to this illness you might have forgotten to mention."
"N... No, there's no cure. The illness isn't serious, just debilitating." The man's tone suddenly changed as he saw the glares from everyone in the room. "It was just enough to discredit Arithiel's representatives and persuade you to turn to us for trade."
"Who else works with you?" Arithiel quickly asked. Several holographic images of faces appeared in succession, and Arithiel grinned behind the clear facemask. "I know all of them," he said in triumph. "Thank you, General Hammond. Today we have gained much knowledge."
"Yeah, and we know squat," Jack mumbled as the prisoner was forced onto his feet once Jacob had removed the memory recall device from his temple. His headache was growing exponentially and a small voice in the back of his head wondered if he was catching the bug.
"That is not true, O'Neill," Teal'c said as they followed the group down the hallway. "We know the virus was originally acquired by one of the NID's rogue teams. Perhaps if we question this Newman, we may learn more of the virus' origin."
"That's exactly what I was thinking," Hammond said as they stood waiting for the elevator. "I'll make the arrangements for you and Teal'c to make a trip to—"
His words were interrupted as the elevator doors opened and Fraiser rushed in. "General Hammond. I'm afraid I have bad news."
- - - - - -
Okay, he was officially sick. Fraiser had taken one look at him and had ordered his butt into the Isolation room. The good thing was that he was in the same room as Daniel, sitting on Davis' bed next to him while Davis had been moved to a private room since he wasn't contagious. The bad news; Jack was.
Daniel looked even worse this close up. Eyes sunken, face more grey than white, hair damp with sweat, his eyelids had barely twitched when Jack had leaned over him and called his name. His breath had hitched slightly under the oxygen mask but he hadn't woken up.
"The painkillers finally kicked in, I see," a hazmat-suited nurse informed Jack as she awkwardly wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his bicep with thick-gloved fingers. "He's been suffering terribly from muscle pain." She stuck a thermometer into Jack's ear and he sat still until she got her reading. He stared at Daniel while she finished attaching the rest of the medical stuff on him. Gone were the days when human touch would tell the tale; with all the layers the medical staff in this room now wore, they'd never be able to take Jack's pulse, let alone know how hot his forehead was.
"You can lie down now," she said as she pulled the sheet back. There was a pile of blankets at the foot of his bed, presumably for when his fever spiked and he'd start getting the shakes, like Carter was now experiencing. Jack kicked off his slippers and slid underneath the top sheet, then turned so he was facing both Daniel and the observation room.
He could see Jacob and Anise talking with General Hammond, Teal'c and Doctor Fraiser up in that small room where he himself had spent all those hours watching Daniel and Carter. This must be the bad news Fraiser had come to report, interrupted when she'd realized Jack had come down with the virus. She'd shoved a mask into his hands, ordered him to put it on and had announced that patients were contagious in the "headache" phase of the illness. Then she'd whisked him out of there so fast he wasn't sure if he'd left anything behind.
He had been worried before when it had been only Daniel who'd been sick. But now he was terrified because he was stuck here and there was nothing he could do to help his lover, his friends or himself. He had to trust in others to take care of everything, and he could only lay back and wait. Something he wasn't always particularly good at doing.
His attention was brought back to the bed next to his when Daniel coughed. He moaned softly as his legs shifted restlessly beneath the blankets. Immediately, Jack sat up in bed and leaned over as far as the wires and other contraptions he was hooked up to allowed him. "Daniel?" When he was brought up short, he impatiently disconnected himself from the machinery and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.
"Jack?" Daniel cracked open two watery and bloodshot eyes. "Whacha..." He licked a white-coated tongue over dry lips, his eyes closing almost dreamily before opening again. "What are you doing here?" he slurred.
"Thought I'd drop in for a visit," Jack said as he reached for a half-filled glass of water next to the beds with a straw sticking out of it. He moved Daniel's oxygen mask aside so he could place the straw against Daniel's lips. Daniel took a couple of weak sips, then made an attempt to smile his thanks. Jack replaced the mask, noting the hot, dry papery feel of Daniel's skin as he did so.
"You've caught it, haven't you?" Daniel's words were breathless and his voice sounded frail under the mask.
" 'M sorry."
"My fault. I was sick... I infected you." Daniel closed his eyes and tried to bury his face against the pillow.
"It would have happened sooner or later; people are dropping like flies."
"...Sorry," Daniel whispered again, his eyes closing and staying shut.
Jack wasn't sure if he'd apologized because he still felt guilty about infecting Jack, or else he was sorry he couldn't stay awake. Jack made sure the oxygen mask wasn't digging into Daniel's cheek, then lay back down on the bed.
He glanced at Carter, who appeared to be sleeping. He wondered how long it would be before he was oblivious to everything here.
Jack jumped, the sudden movement making his head pound harder. He hadn't heard Teal'c, or Jacob, for that matter, approach his bed. Jacob was smiling and Teal'c didn't look quite as tense as he'd been earlier. Jack sat up and waited as Jacob went to check on Carter. Teal'c came to stand at the foot of Jack's bed, his hands clasped behind his back in a stance Jack was very familiar with.
Teal'c glanced at Daniel, his gaze softening a moment before he turned to look at Jack. "The Tok'ra have a cure for the illness."
"Really? Why didn't you say so before?" Jack exclaimed as he turned to look at Jacob, who was leaning over Carter and easing damp strands of blond hair out of her face. She mumbled something to her father, her voice too soft for Jack to hear.
"Anise just identified the virus," Jacob said, turning around to look at Jack over his shoulder. "Doctor Fraiser was coming to inform you that Anise recognized it as one of several created by the Goa'uld centuries ago. She's just further narrowed it down as one used by the Goa'uld to decimate a planet full of humans about a hundred years ago. This virus was bio-engineered. It's made to look fairly harmless; the person infected at first is only contagious during a few hours at the start of the illness. But every time someone passes the virus on, it mutates, makes the next person sicker faster, and making them contagious for longer periods, so the disease spreads quickly and surely before anyone realizes how serious the situation is."
"Well, that's encouraging," Jack said sarcastically.
To Jack's surprise, Jacob chuckled. "The Tok'ra had also found a few survivors on an isolated island and upon further examination, discovered a second virus that destroyed the first."
"Another bug? That Goa'uld sure was busy, wasn't he?"
"And one that won't harm uninfected humans. That's the good news. We can introduce it into the water system and everyone will be cured or immune by the end of the week."
"What's the bad news?" Jack asked, realizing that nothing truly good ever came of Tok'ra-related news.
"Some of your people are too sick for the treatment." Jacob pursed his lips together and looked at Daniel for a moment. "The virus, when it dies, releases toxins into the bloodstream... Daniel's too weak to go through that, as well as at least a dozen more infected... the others will survive, maybe get a little sicker first, but they'll recover."
"What'll happen to Daniel? If he can't have the cure?"
"The virus will kill him," Anise said emotionlessly as she approached their beds. "There is no other cure for it."
"What about MajorDavis?" Teal'c asked in an equally emotionless voice.
"What about him?" Anise asked, her eyes widening in confusion at Teal'c, some sign of life finally showing up in her Goa'uldy, oh, excuse me, Tok'ra-y voice.
"He appears to have recovered fully. DoctorFraiser does not believe there is any sign of the virus in his system."
Anise's eyes seemed to lose focus for a moment and suddenly her face was more animated, her voice more human. "That's incredible. If he's truly recovered, then he has a natural immunity and there will be antibodies in his blood and we can use those to try and form a cure for those who can't be treated with the second virus." Freya smiled widely at Jack before excusing herself and hurried out of the Isolation room.
"Can that really work?" Jack asked as a shiver coursed through his body. He reached down for one of the folded blankets and awkwardly spread it over his legs and hips.
"Believe it or not, Anise and Freya can work miracles." Jacob stood, reached for a second blanket and unfolded it before arranging it over Jack's body. "Hang in there, Jack. The Tok'ra will have the cure in a few more hours. Hopefully by then, Anise and Freya will have something to help Daniel. And the others," he added.
"It's not me that has to hold on; it's Daniel."
- - - - - -
Jack raised his pounding head from the pillow and squinted at the activity around Daniel's bed. The cure, he'd been warned, was worse than the illness and for once the Tok'ra hadn't pulled their punches. Between bouts of nausea and migraine-level headaches, Jack felt he was boiling and freezing, at the same time.
"What are you doing?" he managed to ground out between jaws that were tight with pain and tension.
"I have altered Major Davis' antibodies in the hopes that they'll help ease some of Doctor Jackson's symptoms," Freya said as she injected something into Daniel's IV, "along with a powerful stimulant. If I can stabilize him, he'll survive the cure."
"You said those bugs would kill him." Jack sat up in a rush, then regretted the movement as his head erupted in pain.
Jacob placed a hand on his shoulder, preventing him from falling off the bed as the room tilted sickeningly. "The virus will kill him anyway. At least this gives him a fighting chance."
"We cannot wait too long," Anise said as she placed some alien doodads on Daniel's forehead. "I'll administer the second virus in two hours. It should be enough time for the antibodies to do their work." The doodads were connected to some sort of monitor, which she placed on the bedside table. "You will monitor him while I go treat the others?"
"I'll stay." Jacob's face was grim as he helped Jack lie back down. "It's his only chance, Jack," Jacob told him needlessly.
"I know. I just..."
"I understand," Jacob said softly. "Daniel's strong. He'll pull through."
The next couple of hours were torture for Jack. He had no idea whether the beeps coming from Anise's monitors were good or bad. Fraiser did tell him just before the Tok'ra returned that Daniel appeared to be better, that his heart was stronger and his lungs clearer. His temperature, though, hadn't gone down by much.
"It's not a cure," Jacob warned as Fraiser appeared excited by the readings. "It'll help for several hours but then the virus will take hold again. We hope that in this time frame we can give Daniel and the others the second virus and pray they're strong enough to survive the side effects."
When Jack had been given the injection containing the bugs, he'd gone from feeling sick to feeling god-awful within an hour. So when Anise gave Daniel the injection, Fraiser was taking no chances and had a whole contingent of medical personnel standing around with a crash cart.
It only took twenty minute before every alarm Daniel was hooked to began wailing.
"He's coding. Get the crash cart." Nurses were moving before the words were out of Fraiser's mouth and within seconds Jack's view of Daniel was lost behind orange-clad backs and bulky helmets. He could hear the thwap of the paddles as they jolted Daniel, the hiss of oxygen as they intubated him and forced air down his lungs, the desperate catch in Fraiser's voice as she ordered the nurse to charge the defibrillator one more time.
Jack hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath until he heard the rhythmic beep of Daniel's heart when it started beating normally again. He could hear Carter's pained gasps, knew she was crying, but couldn't turn to look at her. He kept his gaze on the nurses' backs, anxious to see beyond them once they moved away.
And it wasn't a pretty sight. Daniel's skin was pasty white, a tube stuck down his throat with his bared chest rising only thanks to the hiss and pump of the ventilator.
Fraiser herself looked a little shaky through the plastic shield but she met Jack's eyes and gave him a wobbly smile.
- - - - - -
Jack leaned closer to the bed as Fraiser called Daniel's name again. This time Daniel's eyes twitched and opened just a crack. They fluttered closed, but opened again when Fraiser put a hand to Daniel's cheek.
"Can you wake up for me just a little?" she coaxed. "That's it," she said with a smile. "You're doing great, Daniel. Look, you've got visitors." Fraiser pulled back, out of Daniel's direct line of sight and allowed him to see Jack, Carter and Teal'c, who were all standing around the bed.
Daniel blinked, unable to speak due to the tube down his throat, but his fingers twitched as his gaze met Jack's.
Without hesitation, Jack took Daniel's hand and felt a weak squeeze in return. "You're gonna be fine, Danny," Jack told him as Carter leaned forward to give Daniel a quick peck on the top of his head. Daniel's eyes closed but he squeezed Jack's fingers again before his own went lax in Jack's grasp.
"We'll start weaning him from the ventilator," Fraiser said with a wide grin. "With any luck, he'll be breathing on his own by the end of the day."
Jack let go of the limp hand and stood there, looking down at Daniel. After four days of watching Daniel fight for his life, experiencing just that small sensation of movement and recognition had bolstered Jack's confidence that Daniel was finally, truly going to be all right.
"Okay, enough gawking. Both of you, I want you to get some rest," Fraiser ordered. "Technically you're cured but you're still recovering and I don't want anyone to have any relapses."
Carter gave Fraiser a grin and a one-armed hug before returning to her bed.
Jack took a moment and ran his fingers along Daniel's arm one more time to assure himself that his skin temperature was normal and not at the dangerously high levels it had been over the past three days. Daniel's fever had broken around midnight, Jack being the first to spot the sweat running off of Daniel's body and happy to announce it to everyone.
He slowly sat down on his own bed; he felt better. Much better. Except for a lingering headache, weakness and exhaustion, he was fine. Carter had less endurance than he did; of course she'd gotten the full blown effect of the virus whereas Jack had simply been in the beginning stages.
"I told you Anise and Freya were miracle workers," Jacob said as he moved in between Jack and Daniel's beds."
"It was damned close," Jack amended.
Jack waited and watched anxiously for the next several hours; Daniel would wake up whenever asked, but he'd go right back to sleep seconds later. It was obvious he was pretty weak but Jack's heart soared every time Daniel actually *looked* at him.
Finally that evening Fraiser decided the breathing tube could come out. The procedure was done quickly and efficiently, Daniel curling up onto his side the moment he stopped coughing. Jack laughed softly as he listened to Daniel's soft breaths and ruffled Daniel's hair.
"How are you feeling, Daniel?" Fraiser leaned closer to Daniel, who mumbled something before opening his eyes and squinting at her.
Awareness seemed to fill Daniel's face as he looked around. Emotions flitted over his face as his eyes darted over everyone. His jaw dropped slightly, his bottom lip moving away from his top as if he were about to speak. And that was when Jack saw the panic fill Daniel's face.
- - - - - -
Daniel's existence had become a series of short, quick dreams where he'd hear snippets of Jack's voice punctuated with those of Janet, Sam and Teal'c. He thought maybe Jacob might have made a guest appearance a time or two, but the dreams seemed too muddled together for him to be sure of anything.
He woke up to an unpleasant coughing jag, his throat felt oddly irritated but the coughing eventually eased and he curled up onto his side. The voices, along with the feel of hands running through his hair, tugged at him incessantly until he finally opened his eyes and complained. "Trying to sleep here," he mumbled into his pillow.
There was soft laughter around him so he opened his eyes and peered around. He was right; Jack, Sam and Teal'c *were* here. Only he wasn't dreaming; at least he didn't think he was.
It took him a few seconds to figure out where he was; *that* became clear when Janet showed up at his bedside.
"How are you feeling, Daniel?" Janet asked him.
He mulled the question over a moment. His head hurt, but somehow he thought that was a familiar pain which had accompanied him throughout his dreams. His body felt strange; heavy, lethargic, weak. He tried to remember what had happened, since he *was* in the infirmary, which usually boded no good.
Meetings. Research. Chants. Non-ending discussions. Feeling so tired he just wanted to crawl under his desk and sleep. Jack telling him to rest. Feeling sick. The Ne'sa being taken to the infirmary. The virus.
Oh God, the virus. It had been bad. Sam had caught it. People here were sick. He'd heard the nurses talking, it was getting out of hand, out of control, spreading outside the SGC. In the town. Then Jack had caught it.
He had to know, but he couldn't seem to find the words. He caught Jack's eyes. Jack. Jack was sick, but he didn't look – Sam, Janet – they didn't look sick either. He looked around to see who else had fallen ill but he his view was hampered with people and he couldn't seem to focus beyond the edge of his bed.
"How bad...?" he finally managed to ask, his throat sore, his voice raspy.
"We only lost two," Jack said in an oddly gentle voice. "Captain Flannigan and one of the Ne'sa."
Daniel could feel himself begin to shiver; shock, he realized as Sam leaned over to rub his shoulder and arm. He took a deep, shaky breath and tried to relax. He couldn't concentrate, his mind was beginning to grow fuzzy. Two people had died; he had survived. He wasn't sure if those odds were acceptable.
A hand clasped his and he looked down at the familiar fingers.
Jack had survived. Daniel had survived. Those odds sounded a little better, he thought.
Sam slowed her strokes, her fingers moving more softly over his arm. Sam had survived also. The odds were even better.
He squeezed the hand still holding his, closed his eyes, and allowed himself to slip towards sleep.
The odds were looking pretty damn good.
- - - - - -
Jack watched Daniel move restlessly on the bed, as he'd had for the last ten minutes. Daniel had slept most of the evening and through the night. But it was now early morning, Jack was pretty sure the sun wasn't peeping over the horizon yet, and the nurse wasn't due to check on him for another little while.
Daniel shifted again, and Jack reached for the call button, thinking the worst.
"I'm hungry," Daniel said in a surprised voice as Jack pressed down the button.
"Hungry. My stomach's growling." Daniel wiggled his shoulders as he tried to find a comfortable position on the bed.
"You're... hey, that's great." Jack beamed as the nurse hurried towards them. "He says he's hungry," he told her excitedly, trying to keep his voice low so as not to wake anyone else. Carter shifted in her sleep as the nurse stopped beside Daniel's bed and he reiterated his words.
"I'll be right back with something," she said in a pleased whisper. She hurried away and Jack wondered what she was going to get from the commissary.
"Do you think she'll bring me back pizza or something?"
"Ya gotta be kidding. You'll be lucky if you get Jell-o."
"I want something salty. Chinese maybe?"
"At this time of day? Jell-o."
"What time is it anyways?"
"It's early. Chinese restaurants aren't open yet; no fire under the woks, chopsticks haven't been chopped yet."
Daniel's mouth twitched and for a moment Jack thought he'd stick his tongue out at him. Daniel sighed and closed his eyes.
"Ack, don't go to sleep. You'll waste that nice bowl of Jell-o the nurse is getting you."
"Sorry." Daniel cleared his throat and tried to sit up.
"Here." Jack grabbed the controls and raised the head of the bed. Daniel adjusted his pillow as his shoulders rose.
"Thanks." He wiggled a bit, sighed again, and closed his eyes again.
"I'm not sleeping," he muttered.
"You will be if you don't keep your eyes open."
"Can I have some water?" Daniel cleared his throat again, opening his eyes and looking around.
"You can, but you won't have room for the Jell-o if you do." Despite his words, Jack poured Daniel a bit of water from the bedside pitcher. He watched as Daniel took a sip, swallowed slowly, then took another. He handed Jack the glass as the nurse came back with a tray.
"I brought some applesauce and some Jell-o," she said, placing it on Daniel's lap. "I wasn't sure which you'd prefer."
"Thanks." Daniel took a spoon and with a look of defiance at Jack, took a spoonful of applesauce. After making sure Daniel's body wouldn't reject the food, the nurse left them alone. Daniel ate another bite before moving on to the Jell-o.
"Tell me about what happened," Daniel said softly before spooning some Jell-o into his mouth. He kept his eyes down at the bowl of red squares as he moved them around with the spoon.
"It was the Goa'uld."
That caught Daniel's attention. His gaze rushed upwards to meet Jack's.
"They sold the virus to the rogue NID team... remember the sting operation last year...?" Jack added when Daniel scrunched his forehead, truly hating to bring it up because of the hardship their budding relationship had endured at that point. At Daniel's cautious nod, he continued. "The rogue team sold the virus to the Ne'sa's enemies, who in turn planted the virus in one of the oils they used in their daily ceremonies."
"Why?" Daniel looked at his food again and took another bite of Jell-o.
"To kill every last Tau'ri on the planet," Jack added.
"I meant why did the NID sell it to someone who'd...?"
"Kill every last Tau'ri on the planet?"
"The NID didn't know it was a Goa'uld – Teal'c and Jacob just figured that out last night after flying out to question Newman – the guy who'd been in charge of the offworld team I arrested–" Jack passed a hand over his face, realizing he'd probably need some more sleep before duty called in a couple more hours. "I hate to think how many more time bombs are out there that we don't know about, no thanks to them."
Daniel eyed the applesauce and dipped the tip of his spoon into the colourless mixture. He put the spoon into his mouth and twisted it upside down, sucking on it while he stared at Jack.
"You look tired. Are you and Sam really all right?" Daniel glanced over Jack's shoulder as he played some more with the applesauce and looked at Carter, who was still sleeping.
"We're fine. We'll be going home this afternoon, to recuperate, after... there's Captain Flannigan's memorial services... a little later... this morning."
Daniel's hand suddenly trembled and he dropped the spoon with a clatter. "That's... today?" Daniel's face had suddenly turned pale.
"I'd like... do you think...?"
"I don't think Fraiser would let—"
"What about the..." Daniel raised a hand in the air and Jack half-expected him to make that little twirling motion when he couldn't quite come up with the words. But Daniel's whole arm shook and he quickly clasped his hands tightly together in his lap. But Jack could still see them trembling despite how he tried to hide it. "... Ne'sa," he finally finished.
"They've taken their people home." Jack moved to the edge of his bed, leaning over and taking the tray from Daniel's lap and placing it on the table between the beds.
"H... home?" Daniel's face twisted with emotion. "I want to... I want... I want..."
"I know." Jack slid off his bed and reached for Daniel just as the shaking started. He sat and quickly pulled Daniel into his arms and Daniel buried his face into his shoulder. "You'll be home soon. Just a few more days," Jack whispered into Daniel's ear. He looked past Daniel and along all the filled beds; nobody moved, most were turned away from the small emotional scene being played out, hopefully all were sleeping.
"There was nothing you could do. Nothing I could do. Just one of those things – the enemy got the upper hand for a little while, but things worked out in the end."
"Not for C... Captain Flannigan," Daniel whispered back in a choked voice. "Which of the N...Ne'sa...?"
"She... she was the youngest." A shiver went through Daniel and Jack pulled the blanket up over Daniel's shoulder. Daniel rested his head against Jack's neck and within seconds, his body became heavier. As much as he'd love to hold Daniel, the position was awkward, his back was feeling the strain already and he sure as hell didn't want anybody waking up to see Daniel in this vulnerable state.
"Gonna lie you back down," he whispered as he eased the half-asleep man back down.
"Sorry," Daniel managed to say before he succumbed to his still-recovering body.
"It'll be fine," Jack answered as he pulled the blankets up to Daniel's chin.
- - - - - -
Jack opened the door and stepped aside while Daniel made his slow and careful way into the house. With a hand held against the wall for balance, Daniel made his shaky way down the hallway.
Fever-free for the past three days, Daniel was still weak. Very weak, Jack thought as he watched Daniel descend the three steps into his living room. It scared him to see Daniel like this, to tell the truth. It scared him to see how the thirty minute drive from the Mountain had taken so much out of his usually energetic and animated lover, reduced to holding onto walls for support when he thought nobody was watching.
Jack shut the door and went to the kitchen to get a bottle of water. He twisted the cap, loosening it, then screwing it lightly closed again, and went to join Daniel on the couch.
"You'd be better off in bed," Jack chided as he handed Daniel the water.
"Too far," Daniel said, making slurping sounds as he drank half the bottle of water in one go.
"Like it wasn't easier just walking down the hall than going down those stairs?"
"Going to bed makes me feel like I'm sick." Daniel leaned against Jack and rubbed his nose against Jack's neck, then slowly raised his head to smile softly at him.
"That's because you are—" Jack's reply was cut off when Daniel kissed him. "Mmph," Jack mumbled around Daniel's tongue.
"Wanted to do this ever since we left the mountain," Daniel said, peppering Jack's face with kisses before diving in again.
Surprised but pleased, Jack melted into the kiss, giving as good as he got until he noticed that Daniel was shaking from the effort of maintaining his position.
He pulled back, ignoring Daniel's moan of complaint. "Lie back." He shifted so Daniel was half lying on the couch, then leaned over him, moving so that most of his weight was on the edge of the cushions.
Before he could lean over to kiss Daniel, he was pulled forward, one hand was wrapped around his neck and Daniel's tongue and lips were devouring his.
Daniel let go of Jack's neck and still kissing him deeply, ran his hands along his abdomen and chest. Jack didn't play fair; he went straight for the prize. He quickly unzipped Daniel's pants and released his cock from its confines. Daniel gasped as Jack grasped his cock, allowing him the freedom to move lower and come down on him.
- - - - - -
The soft snores against his ear told Jack that he might have been a tad too enthusiastic in his welcoming Daniel home. His own erection throbbed unabated, but Jack decided the pain was worthwhile, even if he developed a case of blue balls for his trouble. Moving slowly so not to wake Daniel, he laid his length along the couch and leaned against the welcome warmth of his lover.
Daniel might be down but he certainly wasn't out. He'd more than proved that just now. Jack smiled as he contemplated trying the welcome home thing again later, when Daniel had rested and had recuperated a little more. There'd be more time for fooling around – but right now, Daniel was home, and Jack was happy.
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Jmas, for trusting in me and publishing this story in her E-zine 'Ancients Gate IX - Devotion'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
And HUGS to the sisters of my heart, who always keep me in check
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