ARTIFICE BY DEVRA


Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: PG-13
Category: Slice of Life, Hurt / Comfort
Season/Spoilers: None
Synopsis: Artifice (noun): a deceptive maneuver
Warnings: Sappiness abounds
Length: 59 Kb

"Yes, Jack?" Daniel stuck his cell phone between his shoulder and chin, then handed the bakery receipt to the girl behind the counter.

"Just checking."

Daniel rubbed his left hand across his forehead, trying to massage away the headache that had begun earlier, around the time Sam had deposited a turkey sandwich on his desk, with an order to eat. He had smiled, taken a bite, waved her away, then finished half the sandwich and the bag of accompanying chips. He'd been one mouthful into the other half when he'd suddenly realized he was no longer hungry.

Not only wasn't he hungry, but the sight of the unfinished sandwich was making him queasy to the point of gagging, so he dumped the remainder of the lunch in the garbage, covering up the evidence with some loose papers. Fifteen minutes later, he had downed three Tylenol for dessert and chased them down with two fruit flavored Tums.

His stomach had settled, but now the overpowering sugary odors of the bakery were once again stirring up uncomfortable sensations, and Jack's inquisitive voice on the phone certainly wasn't helping his headache. "I'm on my way. I told you I would be late. You knew that."

"I know. That's why I called to say that I was 'just checking'."

"I'm at the bakery, picking up the cake, like I said I would." Daniel smiled, then mouthed an 'okay' as the young girl opened the box and showed him the cake with the words 'Happy Birthday Janet', written in blue lettering. "Is she there yet?" Daniel handed the girl his credit card and prayed that Janet was already at Jack's house, because he wasn't in the mood to either try and beat her there or wait in his car two blocks from the house until she showed up.

"Fraiser showed up like ten minutes ago, threatened us with bodily harm when we all yelled surprise, so yeah, she's here, so upon arrival, you're free to land."


Daniel still ended up walking two blocks to Jack's house in the freezing cold because the street and driveway had been overflowing with the partygoers' cars, and the first available spot he'd found was two blocks away. So he had trudged through the remains of yesterday's snow, cursing while balancing the huge cake box. By the time he arrived at Jack's house, his teeth were chattering and his hands and ears were numb with cold because, if he remembered correctly, his scarf and gloves had been haphazardly thrown onto the passenger seat of his car when he'd tried to maneuver the cake box out of it.

Hands full, Daniel used his elbow to ring the bell, twice, then gave up and kicked the door to gain entrance. No answer. Loud voices and music from inside made it obvious that no one was listening for a wayward archeologist carrying a cake. With a growl, he stomped away from the front door and walked around to the back yard, hoping to get into the house through the sliding glass doors. Head down, concentrating on maintaining his footing while at the same time keeping the cake level, Daniel barely saved himself and the cake from colliding with Jack, who held two filled, plastic green garbage bags, one in each hand. Daniel stepped back and Jack reached out before realizing both of his hands were occupied.

"I told you, Fraiser was already here, why the hell are you sneaking around to the back?" Jack hurried to the garbage cans and dropped the bags into the open receptacles.

"No one let me in. I rang, banged, then gave up." Daniel lifted his chin and pointed at the sliding doors. "I was hoping that --"

Jack peered over Daniel's shoulder, his hand tapping the plastic square that enabled one to see the contents of the box. "Cake looks nice. Why don't you bring it inside?"

Daniel started to say that's what he had been trying to do, but just gave up, the warmth of the house too enticing to prolong his stay outside any longer. "Lead the way."


Hands appeared from every direction the second he stepped inside, removing the box from his grip and giving him a drink in exchange, slapping him on the back in greeting. The crush of people and the heat from the kitchen slammed into Daniel and in seconds, he found himself longing for the cold, refreshing outside air. A shove from behind forced him further into the kitchen.

"Join the party." Jack's voice boomed in his ear. He pushed Daniel's elbow up, forcing him to take a drink of whatever was in the plastic cup in his hand. "Take your coat off, stay awhile."


Daniel stood in Jack's spare room, stupidly staring at the mountain of coats piled on the bed and contemplated burrowing underneath their warmth in a last ditch effort to hide from the crowd and grabbing a quick nap. Daniel sighed deeply. He felt extremely sorry for himself, as well as headachy and cranky because he knew what he wanted was in direct contradiction to what he had to do. So instead of folding, mentally he bribed himself with visions of sleeping late tomorrow.

To fortify his psyche for the remainder of the evening, he took a quick gulp of whatever drink he had his hand, then smacked his lips and grimaced as the heat of the alcohol burned a path down his throat. Daniel allowed the liquor to settle before he held the glass up to the light, then put it to his lips and finished it. With a loud and exaggerate 'ahhh' he put the cup down on the dresser, shucked his coat and threw it onto the pile. He waited a second just to make sure that his jacket hadn't upset the coat balance, then he grabbed his empty cup and left.


A slightly drunk Jack hijacked him on his way to the kitchen, and begrudgingly Daniel allowed Jack to guide him to the living room where Janet jumped up from her seat on the couch and flung her arms around his waist, squeezing so hard he had to concentrate breathing through his nose so he wouldn't vomit in her hair, an action which definitely would have put a damper on the party.

Janet reeled Daniel down to her height by tugging on his shirt buttons until he was eye level with her. There wasn't any way he could fend off her affections without his actions looking suspicious, but since everyone in the immediate vicinity was a little tipsy, he didn't think anyone would notice when he averted her face and swept Janet off her feet with a bone crushing hug. He didn't have to have a degree in biology to know that fewer germs were being spread with this hug rather than the kiss Janet had been planning on planting on his lips. Daniel managed to murmur a "Happy Birthday" into the side of her neck.

"Thank you," she giggled when they separated, and he smiled at the dopey expression on her face. "I was ummm --"

"Surprised?" Daniel offered.

Janet nodded, then turned evil, squinty eyes on Daniel. "One word, Daniel. Payback. Remember that word the next time I have you in the infirmary."

Daniel saluted Janet with his empty glass and cautiously backed away from her in mock horror.


Daniel threaded his way through the throng of people, clutching his empty glass like a lifeline, getting as far as the kitchen before Sam plucked it from his hand and replaced it with a full one.

He tried to force it back into her hands only to be met with resistance. "It's a party. We've planned this for months --"

Daniel shook his head at her exaggeration.

Sam rolled her eyes. "Okay, if you want to get technical. Weeks," she amended. "So relax." Sam winked at him. "Loosen up, Daniel." She stood with her arms crossed, tapping her foot.

Daniel gave in and took a sip, pasting a tight smile on his face.

Sam sighed. "You're hopeless." She grabbed his bicep as she walked past and squeezed, hard. "Get drunk," she ordered. "Won't kill ya."

Daniel waited until Sam left the kitchen before he nonchalantly poured the drink down the kitchen sink, then filled the glass with water. He meandered over to the freezer, grabbed some ice cubes and plopped them into the glass. For good measure he added a slice of lime from the plate overflowing with half moons of limes and lemons that sat on the kitchen counter. He then grabbed the plate and walked into the living room with it, sliding it onto the makeshift bar, feeling a bit guilty that besides picking up the cake, he really hadn't helped Jack prepare the house for the party.

The living room was packed with people, even though Jack had brought in folding chairs and moved the dining room chairs into the room. There weren't any free seats, and Daniel really needed to sit.

The den was no better, though the windows were open a crack and it wasn't as stifling as the living room had been. Daniel found a blank wall and leaned against it, closing his eyes and bending his head back, rolling it slowly against the wall.

"Oomph," Daniel's eyes flew open and the water splashed over the side of the glass when an object was shoved roughly into his midsection. "Teal'c?"

"You must eat, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c's gaze fell on the plastic cup in Daniel's hand. "Alcohol must not be consumed without food to absorb it. Is that not what O'Neill is so fond of saying?"

"Yeah, he does, but it's okay." Daniel raised his glass, swallowing back bile at the plate overflowing with food that Teal'c had pressed up against his stomach. "This isn't --"

"Eat."

The plate was pushed harder into Daniel's abdomen, and he had no choice but to stick out his hand and grab it. "Thanks for thinking of me," Daniel finally said.

Teal'c bowed. "I have filled your plate with many items I have seen you eat on other occasions."

Daniel rotated the plate on his hand, nodding, hoping Teal'c read his grimace as a smile. "Everything looks wonderful." He paused and thanked Teal'c again but to Daniel's horror, Teal'c remained there, staring and watching, obviously expecting Daniel to take a bite of something as he stood guard. He looked at Teal'c, then shrugged apologetically as he lifted the plate and then the hand that held his glass of water.

"I will gladly assist you." Teal'c took the cup from Daniel, then reached into his pocket and extracted a fork, sticking the utensil into the mound of lasagna on Daniel's plate.

Under Teal'c's approving stare, Daniel broke off a minute piece of lasagna and stuck the fork in his mouth. He chewed then swallowed, but still his friend loomed over him, appraising the full plate. Daniel put the fork down, picked up the buttered roll and nibbled around the butter. He reached for the glass and Teal'c handed it back to him, raising his eyebrows in disapproval when Daniel downed its contents without coming up for a breath of air. He handed it back to him when it was empty, not even bothering to mention that the glass had contained only water.


It had taken another bite of roll and half a meatball before Teal'c actually left him alone. Taking no chances, he looked over his shoulder before he dropped the plate on the coffee table, then left the den. Daniel was on his way to the bathroom to down a handful of aspirin, when Jack waylaid him in the hallway.

"Where the hell have you been?"

He stepped back when the smell of beer on Jack's breath almost caused a resurgence of dinner. "I've been around, where else would you expect me to be?"

"Are you okay?" Jack asked, concerned.

He nodded. "Tired." That was okay, he could admit to being tired, what he couldn't admit to Jack was his need for a bottle of aspirin, a bed, pillow, quiet room and a mountain of quilts.

Jack's touch to Daniel's shoulder spoke the words that Jack couldn't. That he cared, he was worried, and that this tired thing when he was supposed to be enjoying a party would be discussed at a later date. "Honest," he lied, "I'm just tired."

The rest of whatever Jack was going to say was cut off by Sam's sudden appearance. "I think it's time to put the coffee on, sir."

"Already?" Jack checked his watch, his eyebrows rising in surprise. "Guess so. Time sure does fly." He pulled Daniel away from the wall, elbowed him in the ribs and winked, then made a motion with his hands, mimicking taking a drink. "Come on, you look like you need a cup of coffee, you party animal, you."


"Someone driving you home, son?"

"Huh?" Daniel turned abruptly, grabbing onto the counter when the room did a slight tilt to the left in conjunction with his rapid movement. Okay, so maybe he did look drunk, standing over the kitchen sink, head bowed, arms spread wide, holding onto the counter for dear life. Or it could be the fact that his head hurt so badly, he was spending an enormous amount of time squinting in a futile attempt to cut down the glare of the lights in the house. "No, General. I'm staying overnight."

"Glad to hear it."

Daniel smiled as the General poured himself a glass of ginger ale.

"Designated driver," he explained as he lifted the glass up for Daniel to see. "Want to make sure all my people are safe and accounted for. Here and offworld."

"Thank you, sir."


Daniel was still in the kitchen when Jack came barreling in. "Where the hell are the candles?" He flung open a few drawers, and Daniel didn't miss all the people running from the kitchen to avoid the colonel's wrath. He sighed, put his glass on the counter, then stuck his hand atop the fridge and patted the flat surface. "Jack."

"Not now, Daniel, I'm looking for the --"

"Candles. I know." Daniel tossed them over to Jack, who looked up in surprise when the box of candles skittered to a stop on the counter right in front of him. "I have no idea where the matches are, though."


The living room was wall to wall people, but even with the sheer number of bodies pressed together, Daniel was freezing, a step below teeth chattering cold. He could feel the goose bumps working their way up the length of his arms. His hands were tightly wrapped around a mug of coffee for its warmth more than a desire for caffeine.

To Daniel, the sound of all these people singing "happy birthday" was deafening, and with his hands glued to the mug he couldn't even join in the applause or the shout of hurray when Janet blew out the candles.


Jack waved a paper plate with a slice of birthday cake at Daniel. "Come on, it's your favorite."

Daniel rubbed his stomach and lied. "I'm really too full."

"It's chocolate."

"It's delicious." Sam stuffed a large piece of whipped cream covered cake into her mouth.

Jack shook his head. "Carter." He pointed to a corner of her mouth.

Her tongue snaked out and attempted to lap up the smudge of cream smeared in the corner of her mouth, but Jack just sighed and handed her a napkin. An exchange between the two that would normally have Daniel chuckling, but he wasn't chuckling today.

"Just taste the cake, Daniel."

"I really don't --"

"Bad luck," Sam piped in, licking the extra cream off her fork.

"Carter's right," Jack agreed. "It's bad luck to turn down a piece of birthday cake."

"I never heard of that superstition." Daniel backed away from the cake.

"Just because you're a genius, it doesn't mean you know everything."


There was a pile of wrapping paper at her feet and Janet was giggling hysterically as she held up a pair of pajamas with stethoscopes imprinted all over them. "Where's our present, Daniel?" Jack whispered into his ear, cutting through Daniel's misery.

Daniel closed his eyes and thought a moment. "Car?"

"You left it in the car?"

"Yup." In the car, on the front seat under his gloves and scarf, was the big purple envelope which held the gift certificate for a very expensive restaurant and two orchestra seats to the ballet.

"Well?"

"Well what?"

"Go get it!"

"Now?"

"No, on Fraiser's next birthday." Jack placed on hand on the small of Daniel's back and gently pushed. "Of course now."


Okay, he admitted when he shoved his hands deep into his pockets as he trudged the two blocks through the snow, back to his car. He was sick. Teeth chattering, sick to his stomach, headachy, feverish sick. He donned his gloves, wound the scarf around his neck more than once and grabbed the envelope, cursing Jack the whole walk back to the house.

"What took you so long?" Jack grabbed his arm and plucked the envelope from his grip the minute he walked through the door. "People are starting to leave." He pulled Daniel to where Janet sat, surrounded by discarded wrapping paper and boxes and waved the envelope in front of her. "From Daniel and me."

"Why, thank you, sir -- Daniel." She eyed him curiously, then turned the envelope over, shaking it. "Did you run out now to buy this?"

"No," Daniel sighed, embarrassed when it dawned on him that he was still wearing his coat.

"He left it in the car."

"Accidentally," Daniel added, unbuttoning his coat because it was the thing to do, not because he was warm, just the opposite.


Daniel actually surprised himself with his tenacity. Smiling as he helped with the clean up, picking up papers and half filled cups and plates, throwing them in the large green trash bag he was dragging through the living and dining rooms. Maybe the two Tylenol he'd snuck while no one was looking was the reason, or maybe he really wasn't sick, or maybe this whole thing was a fever-induced hallucination. Either way, he was doing a damned good job cleaning up.

Cassie was watching TV in the living room, dozing more than watching, waiting patiently to drive her mom home. Janet and Sam were in the kitchen -- Sam at the sink, washing bowls, Janet on a kitchen chair, not allowed to help because it was her birthday party. The two of them had been making a nice-sized dent in a bottle of wine the last time Daniel had stopped into the kitchen and he had begged off their offer of a glass, saying he'd had more than enough to drink for the night.

Jack and Teal'c were folding up chairs and rearranging the furniture back to its rightful place in the house, arguing over the merits of the Simpsons versus The Family Guy.

Daniel filled two garbage bags, tied them and placed them by the sliding doors, then slipped another green bag from the box with the intention of den cleanup. His exit from the kitchen was blocked by Janet as she stood and pulled the pink flannels with the stethoscopes pajama top over her head, arranged it over her shirt and modeled it for Daniel.

"Nice." He sidestepped her flamboyant model walk and waved the plastic bag. "Clean up in the den. And Janet, I'm thinking that should be the new uniform in the infirmary."

"Really?"

She giggled, then picked up her sleeve and examined the design. Sam snorted over the sink full of soapy water and Daniel walked out of the room, shaking his head.


It was the congealed plate of chicken something that was Daniel's undoing. The smell and the visual suddenly turned the tide, and the tenacity he had prided himself with just minutes before disappeared in a sudden, unexpected rise of bile. Daniel clamped his hand over his mouth, dropped the trash bag, rushed to the bathroom and threw up. And threw up again when he pictured the plate of chicken stuff sitting on the coffee table waiting for him to throw out.

Thankfully, he had had the foresight to use the bathroom in Jack's bedroom, which was more private. The problem had been that it was farther than the hall bathroom and as such, he really hadn't had the luxury of perfect aim. Twenty-twenty hindsight as he tried to clean up the bathroom rug with toilet paper made him realize that the smarter thing would have been to throw up in the garbage bag he'd been holding and not trying to make it to the bathroom.

The toilet paper wasn't working, it was just shredding into little pieces and the smell and indefinable texture of his upchucked stomach contents cut through Daniel's valiant attempt to hold on, and he scrabbled on his knees to the toilet, this time hitting the target.

Daniel raised his right hand and flushed. He was finished, he had to be finished since he had obviously thrown up more than he had eaten in the past year. With a moan, he sat back, his ass making painful contact with the tiled floor. Gingerly he unbuttoned his soiled shirt and slowly removed it, tossing it atop the now toilet-paper littered bathroom rug. He toed off his shoes and kicked them out of the range of fire. Lifting his ass, he slithered out of pants, throwing them to join his shirt on the rug.

He needed a shower, badly. The whole bathroom needed to be hosed down, definitely, but there was only one stinking hand towel in the bathroom, and Daniel certainly wasn't in any condition to traipse through the house so he pulled himself up, grabbed the hand towel and leaned over the sink, soaping up, rinsing and drying off the best he could with the flimsy material.

The bathroom still smelled and Daniel was still gagging, dry heaving as he used the small towel to clean up the mess on the floor around the toilet. He tossed the towel onto the rug, rolled it up and deposited the whole shebang in the bathtub, opening the window to let some fresh, cold air into the room.

Daniel stood at the sink, brushing his teeth, shaking as a winter breeze danced along his bare, sweat-covered back.


It was a no brainer. His body needed to be horizontal and it needed to be horizontal now. Clad only in his boxers and socks, Daniel eyed the closed door, not caring at this point if he had locked it or not. He didn't even bother to dress, he just stepped up to the bed, pulled down the quilt, moved the garbage can within reach as a precaution, and slid into bed. Moaning orgasmically as he sank into the mattress; he was first annoyed, then shocked and bewildered when his body betrayed him, punishing him for not going to bed sooner than this. Once the initial "ahhh" of lying down was done with, his body refused to relax and simply enjoy the sensation. Daniel tossed and turned, trying to find a position of comfort. Eventually he fell into an exhausted, restless sleep after sliding over to Jack's side of the bed.


"Nice shirt, Fraiser," Jack said, pointing to the Pepto Bismol pink pajama top that she wore over her shirt.

Janet petted the flannel, a lop-sided alcohol-induced grin lighting up her face. "Daniel said the same thing, sir."

"Speaking of Daniel, where is --"

"In the den." Carter waved the dishtowel at the garbage bags by the door. "Cleaning." She wiped her hands on the towel, then folded it crookedly and placed it on the rim of the sink. "Excuse me, but I have to go to the little girl's room."

"Little girl's room?" Jack mouthed to Fraiser, who just shrugged and rolled her eyes.

Jack picked up the garbage bags sitting by the door. "A word of caution, Carter, Teal'c's in the hall bathroom -- better use the one in my bedroom."


As Jack shut the sliding door behind him, Carter entered the kitchen from the hall.

"Sir?"

"Hmmm?"

"Did you know there's a naked archeologist in your bed?"

"What?"

Fraiser stood, wobbled a little then grabbed onto the table for support. "I thought it was my birthday." She pointed an accusatory finger at Jack. "How come he gets the naked archeologist?"

Janet sprinted out of the kitchen with Jack on her heels. He almost made it past Carter when she grabbed his arm. "Ummm, sir?" She pinched her nostrils together. "Your bathroom? I don't think Daniel was cleaning up the den."

"Shit."

"Nope, smells more like vomit."


Carter and Fraiser stood just inside the door. Sighing and gazing longingly at Daniel. A Daniel that Jack was definitely going to murder. He stood peering over Fraiser's head, hoping and praying that the two women were drunk-very, very drunk. And in the morning would not be able to recall a face down, passed-out, spread eagle Daniel, snoring on his bed, his muscled, tanned torso exposed, while the blanket covered him from the waist down.

"May I ask why we are all gazing at a naked Daniel Jackson?"

"A naked Daniel Jackson who just so happens to be in the colonel's bed."

"That is quite true, Doctor Fraiser."

"He's not naked," Jack interjected, wagging a finger at a foot sticking out. "Look, he's got his socks on."

"Oh, that's so cute," Fraiser giggled.

"Indeed."

"See, sir, even Teal'c agrees that Daniel's cute."

"I never said he wasn't," Jack replied indignantly.

"He's probably cold, I'm just going to cover him up. Wouldn't want him to catch a cold," Fraiser winked at Jack, "would we?"

"Go ahead." Jack shooed her towards the bed. "It's your birthday."

Fraiser practically skipped to Daniel's bedside with Carter two steps behind her, and all Jack could do was grind his forehead into the doorframe.

"Are you in pain, O'Neill?"

He rolled his head sideways and glanced at Teal'c. "It's just been a really long day."

"Colonel?"

He shook his head. "No, whatever it is, doc, the answer is no. Just look with your eyes and not your --"

"Daniel's not drunk." Fraiser pulled the quilt up, covering Daniel, then she sat at the edge of the bed, picked up his limp hand and held it.

"Oh for god's sake, stop babying him. Of course he's not drunk anymore." Jack crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. "He's passed out on my bed, which means in the morning I get a complaining archeologist with a hangover."

"He's sick."

"Pfft, don't I know it, from what Carter said, Daniel's been sick all over the bathroom."

"No, O'Neill, I believe Doctor Fraiser means that Daniel Jackson is ill."

Carter parroted, "No way. He was drinking and eating all night. He can't be sick."

"Yeah, what she said." He pointed at Carter with his thumb. "Daniel was up and around the whole night. Partying. He obviously overindulged."

"Sick." Janet's gaze shot past Sam and pierced Jack.

"Whaat." Jack threw his hands up. "How the hell was I supposed to know?"

"Fever." She rested a hand on the nape of Daniel's neck. "I'm guessing over 102, but I'd have a better idea if someone would get me a thermometer."

Jack pushed off the wall and began to walk in the direction of the bathroom. "Fine, if it makes you happy."

"Sir?"

He rolled his eyes before turned to face his 2IC. "What, Carter, should I get some Tylenol and a glass of water, also?"

"No, but I would advise you to hold your breath."

"It's vomit, Carter. I know what vomit smells like."

"Don't say I didn't warn you," she replied with a huff, pivoting, returning her attention back to Daniel.

"Oh, and Colonel?"

Jack glanced at Teal'c, expecting support, but he found none there. So when he also walked towards the bed, Jack just moved his gaze heavenward. "Yes, Doctor?" His smile was forced and his voice was sickeningly sweet.

"You could do me a favor, sir --"

Jack cringed over her sugar-coated tone.

"Please get me the bottle of Tylenol and some water."

Jack turned around before growling and mimicking her beneath his breath. He was neither crazy nor drunk enough to make fun of the good doctor to her face. It was truly unbelievable that the three of them, Fraiser, Carter and Teal'c, had actually bought into Daniel being sick. Please. Daniel wasn't sick, there was no way he could have missed that. He puked because he drank too much, that's all there was to it. And the fever-pffft-hot, sweaty and clammy from upchucking was more like. But sure, if Fraiser wanted a thermometer and Tylenol, who was he to argue. Hell, it was her birthday.


'Okay', Jack thought as he pulled the bathroom door shut with the tips of his fingers, cautiously balancing Fraiser's requested items, 'it did smell like vomit and needed a hazmat team, as well as a massive fumigation, but that's just what puke smells like.'

"Colonel?" There was no missing the tone of impatience in the doctor's voice as she waved him towards the bed. "Today would be nice."

Jack put the water and Tylenol on the night table then stood in silent amazement and downright awe the minute the thermometer made contact with Fraiser's hand. She became a doctor, the doctor, their doctor, the CMO of the SGC, and the only evidence that she had been drinking and giggling only moments before, was the pink flannel pajama top that she still was wearing.

Jack smirked as Daniel pushed at Fraiser in a sleepy attempt to get away from her, only to find his ability to move blocked by Carter, who was sitting next to him on the bed. In one fluid motion he sat up, eyes wide, his gaze flying around the room, landing eventually on Jack, who gave him gave him a two fingered waggle.

"Ow." Daniel dug the heel of his hand into his temple, then gave Jack a one-eyed squint. "What are all these people doing in your bedroom?" He looked down at the blanket that had pooled in his lap, exposing his bare chest. "Why am I undressed?" In one fell swoop, Daniel dropped his hand and picked up the blanket, hugging it to his neck.

"Indeed, Daniel Jackson, we were wondering the same thing regarding your state of undress."

"You were?" Daniel squeaked, looking towards Jack for guidance.

"How do you feel, Daniel?"

As soon as he opened his mouth to answer, Fraiser stuck the thermometer in, slapping Daniel's hand away as his fingers crept up to remove it. "Noth thick," he muttered around the thermometer.

Jack threw his hands up. "See, Daniel says he's not sick. I say Daniel's not sick. Why doesn't everyone go home and let the poor guy sleep it off?"

At the sound of the beep, Fraiser removed the thermometer, patting Daniel's arm with her free hand. "Of course you're not sick. See -- one oh three point two," Fraiser answered smugly, showing the digital piece of equipment to everyone. "Now everyone out, I want to examine Daniel."

"No."

"Okay." Janet stood and smoothed down her flannel top. "You don't want me to examine you, here, in the Colonel's bed?"

"No." Daniel pointed to the door. "If everyone would just kindly leave me and the Tylenol alone and let me sleep, I'll be fine."

"If you ask me, Daniel Jackson, allowing Doctor Fraiser to examine you in O'Neill's bed is better than the infirmary."

"Thanks, Teal'c." Daniel yawned, then rubbed his forehead. "I'll take that under consideration tomorrow."

"Colonel, could you do me a favor and go tell Cassie to get my medical bag from the car. Daniel and I are going to discuss his options."

"No offense, Janet, but go away." Daniel slid down and pulled the pillow over his head.

"Nope, I'm not going anywhere. It's my birthday," Janet said, gently tapping one of Daniel's hands anchoring the pillow in place, "and how often do I get to examine a naked archeologist in a colonel's bed?"

"Would you like pictures to commemorate the occasion, Janet?" Sam asked innocently. "My camera is --"


Jack paced the kitchen one more time, then stopped and peered out into the hallway, in the direction of the closed bedroom door.

Teal'c looked up from the piece of left over birthday cake he was eating. "Doctor Fraiser is merely being very thorough, O'Neill." Teal'c slid a chair out towards Jack. "Sit. A watched examination never finishes."

Jack opened his mouth to comment, but instead exhaled loudly and dropped into the seat. He accepted a slice of birthday cake and pushed a chair out for Carter to sit.

She sat, then stared at the piece of cake she had cut for herself, bending her head one way, then another before stabbing at it. "I saw Daniel eat -- didn't Daniel eat something?" Carter pointed at both Jack and Teal'c with a forkful of cake.

"Indeed he did, Major Carter. I, myself, presented him a plate of all the foods he enjoys and stood guard as he ate."

"I know he drank." Jack stuck a piece of cake in his mouth, chewing by rote, replaying the night's events in his mind. "Yup, he drank." He tapped his temple with the empty, white plastic fork. "I can see it in here."

"I must admit that Daniel Jackson seemed a bit aloof tonight."

Carter was playing with her cake, pressing the chocolate down, flipping her fork backwards and forwards, basically driving Jack nuts. "Carter!"

She threw down the fork and pushed the whole crumbly mess away. "I had to go find him. It was almost as if he --"

"Didn't feel well?" Jack forcefully stabbed his cake with the fork, pinging the handle with his forefinger.

"No, he doesn't, but he'll survive," Janet stated as she entered the kitchen, dropping her case on the counter.

"How is he?" Jack got up then grabbed both his plate and Carter's and dumped them in the garbage, motioning for Janet to take his empty seat.

She declined with a shake of her head, skimmed her finger along the top of the sheet cake, then stuck an index finger full of frosting in her mouth.

"You're taking the rest of that cake home," Jack announced.

"I'll take the cake, you can have the archeologist."

"So, how is he?"

"Sick, feverish, nauseous, complaining, contagious, though right about now he's more than likely sleeping." Fraiser broke a piece of cake off and stuck it in her mouth. "I drew some blood, which I want to drop off at the SGC, just as a precaution. But SG-1 hasn't been offworld in over two weeks, so this is likely just a good old fashioned Earth-style virus."


Jack looked at the clock, trying to judge if this would be considered very, very late at night or very, very early in the morning as he slipped into bed with Daniel. It was horrible, he knew it, but he loved a sick Daniel. An ill Daniel allowed Jack to mother hen him, fix him soup and coddle him, something he wasn't permitted to do if Daniel was injured or hurt. Jack never understood the differentiation in Daniel's mind, but he took what he could get and accepted Daniel's behavior without question.

The bathroom was clean, bleached, Lysol'ed, the washing machine was going, the dryer was running, the house was clean, he was showered and exhausted, and more than a little grateful that the SG1 was on downtime for the next forty-eight hours. Not that Daniel was going anywhere, but at least Jack got to stay home with him and obnoxiously smother him to the point where Daniel would want to commit murder. Been there, done that a number of times, and without an iota of guilt Jack could admit that he loved it.

Daniel was sleeping, taking over the majority of the bed and Jack had to maneuver around his lover's arms and legs without waking him, and he did, for all of five minutes.

"Jack?"

"Were you expecting someone else?"

Daniel sighed and inched closer to Jack. "Everyone leave?"

"No one here but us."

Daniel slid closer, and even without touching, Jack could feel the heat of fever. "Was Janet surprised?"

"I think she was. She threatened us. Don't remember, huh?" Jack's finger skimmed over Daniel's bare shoulder. "How are you feeling?"

Jack's response was Daniel, all of Daniel who draped his arm around Jack's waist while his knee battled to separate Jack's legs. Halfheartedly, Jack fought Daniel for position until in the end he ended up lying on his back with a sick, feverish Daniel plastered to him. Jack blew Daniel's short strands of hair away of his mouth, to no avail, so he settled on smoothing down the errant pieces with his hand. Daniel's skin was hot and dry, the heat burning through Jack's tee shirt and he drew the blanket up around their shoulders. "You're naked and you don't smell that great."

"Too tired to shower. Deal with it." Daniel rubbed one of his sock-covered feet over Jack's calves, then he grabbed Jack's hand and laid it on his plaid boxer-covered ass. "Warm enough."

"Yeah, you are," Jack agreed.

"Jack," Daniel exhaled into Jack's chest, and Jack smiled, tightening his hold on an already secure Daniel.

"What?"

"Was Janet really wearing pink flannel pajamas?"

Jack chuckled and Daniel burrowed under his neck. "Not the whole get-up. Just the top."

"Oh," Daniel sighed, squirming. Jack lightened this grip but Daniel didn't move away, he just adjusted the amount of his body lying atop Jack. "Thought I was delusional. Pink stethoscopes."

"The pajamas were pink, the stethoscopes were grey, I think." Jack lay still with an armful of Daniel, waiting. Listening as the breathing deepened, years of sharing a bed, a tent, a bedroll, enabled Jack to be familiar with when Daniel was just on the cusp of sleep. The time when questions could be asked and answered without inhibitions. "Why didn't you tell us you were sick?"

"Didn't want you to know."

"Why?"

"Not about me. Today was Janet's day." His chuckle was deep and hoarse against Jack's chest. "Almost pulled it off too, didn't I?"

There was no mistaking the pride in Daniel's last statement and there was no disputing the authenticity of it. Shamefully enough, Daniel was right, he had almost pulled it off. Wait, Jack realized, he actually had succeeded. He'd attended a party for one of his best friends in a house filled with friends and Jack, and no one had noticed. What did that say about them?

"We're sorry," Jack sputtered. "I mean -- I'm sorry."

Daniel placed his forefinger against Jack's lips, his shushing was low and drawn out. "Go to sleep, Jack. It's late."

Germs be damned, Jack clasped Daniel's finger, kissed it, then drew the digit away from his mouth, his comment lost in an exasperated sigh once Jack realized Daniel had already fallen asleep.


"Shit!"

The shouted curse broke through Jack's fog of sleep and he sat up with a start, squinting, then blinking as he forced his eyes to adjust to the dimness of the room. Eventually the dark form sitting on the edge of the bed morphed into Daniel. His bare back facing him, Daniel was bent over, his head cradled in this hands, the picture of misery.

"Hey, hey, hey." Jack quickly slid over to Daniel, forgetting, until he touched the broad shoulders, the heat of Daniel's fever jolting his memory. Then the mist cleared and Jack remembered: the party, sick Daniel, the wave of guilt.

"Just trying to get a Tylenol." Daniel reached down to grab the fallen bottle and Jack reached to grab Daniel before he joined the Tylenol on the floor.

"Let me help."

"It's okay."

"Damn it, Daniel, it's not okay." Jack pounded the bed in frustration, then got up and stood before Daniel, resting his hand on the bent head. "I'm not sure, but I don't think when you're burning with fever and ready to fall flat on your face-constitutes in anyone's book any form of okayedness."

Slowly, Daniel raised his head and looked up at Jack, bleary eyes blinking as if they were trying to focus. "Okayedness?"

Jack was pissed. Once again, Daniel was distracting him, like he had done during the party. "You know what I meant," Jack said, unable to smother the anger. He scooped the Tylenol bottle off the floor, popped the lid and shook two into Daniel's outstretched hand, then gave him the bottle of lukewarm water that he had placed on the nightstand before going to bed.

Jack watched as Daniel swallowed the Tylenol then shoved the bottle of water back at Daniel when he tried to return it to the nightstand after two sips. "More," he ordered. "You know the drill -- you puked enough to be dehydrated."

Daniel did manage more of the water and before handing the bottle back to Jack, he rolled it across his forehead. Even though it was warm, Jack realized, the condensation was probably refreshing. Jack flicked on the bedside lamp.

"Ow. Give a guy some warning." Daniel covered his eyes with his left hand while his right hand still held the water bottle against this forehead.

Jack stomped off toward the dresser, then jerked open a drawer, pulling out a pair of Daniel's sweats. "Time to get dressed," he said as he plucked the bottle from Daniel's grip, pushed the arm down and slipped the opening of the sweatshirt over his head.

Daniel fought against the sweatshirt and managed to push it back over his head. "No, quick shower first. I stink."

"Daniel."

"If I can't stand the way I smell, I can't imagine how you're managing."

Jack seethed as Daniel wobbled when he stood, and he angrily scooped up the sweats, then grabbed Daniel's elbow and pulled him in the direction of the bathroom. "I'm warning you, don't you dare fall or puke again."

It was Daniel's sluggish "I'm sorry" offered after the two of them were back in bed and a just showered, much better smelling, still slightly damp Daniel was tucked under the covers that melted him a little. With a sigh, he pulled Daniel against him. "Anyone ever tell you that you're a pain in the ass?"

"Not within the last few hours."

"Consider yourself told," Jack reprimanded, setting his anger on the backburner.


The rule of thumb was that when one was sick, they always felt better in the morning. Well obviously, Daniel thought as he buried his head in the pillow, some rules were made to be broken. He felt no better than yesterday and to add insult to injury, for some reason he couldn't fathom, he could remember Jack was angry. At him. And he was just too sick to deal with it at the moment. Experience had taught Daniel that separation worked best in these instances and since the running water and off key singing in the bathroom indicated Jack was taking a shower, there was no time like the present for Daniel to make his get away.

By the count of three he was sitting up, by ten he had flung his legs over the side of the bed, and by fifteen he was slowly wandering around the bedroom, trying to put his thoughts in coherent order. Jack was never one to linger in the shower, and Daniel wasn't too sure how long he had already been in the bathroom so he forced himself to focus. He was basically dressed, the sweats would do, he slipped on a pair of socks. His shoes, he looked down and wiggled his sock-covered toes and sighed, he'd left in the bathroom but, if he knew Jack like he thought he knew Jack -- yup, there they were, by the foot of the bed. Thank goodness for Jack's "everything in its place" tendencies.

His head was pounding, his teeth were chatting and he was freezing by the time he came into the living room, all fever-related, he knew that. But as far as the nausea went, Daniel wasn't too sure if he was hungry or just queasy, but he would attempt a bite to eat at home. Not here, he vaguely remembered Jack asking him not to puke again.

At the closet, he slipped his coat off the hanger as quietly as possibly, put it on, zipped it up, then patted his pockets for his keys, nodding at the telltale jingle they made. He had no idea where his gloves and scarf were, nor was he inclined to search for them, so he pulled the jacket collar up around his ears and walked out the front door.


Daniel fumbled with the keys, then swore when they fell out of his hand. Holding onto the door handle for support, he bent to retrieve them, only to find them gone by the time he had lowered himself to the ground.

"Looking for these?"

With his hand still on the handle, Daniel looked upwards, squinting. "Jack?"

Jack swung the keys in front of him. "Yup."

Daniel pulled his body upright. "Give me the keys."

"No."

Daniel slid his fingers under his glasses and rubbed vigorously at his eyes, then blinked at Jack, pointing at him unbelievingly. "What the hell are you doing out without a jacket?" He touched Jack's head. "You're still wet. You're going to get sick." Daniel leaned against the car, too exhausted to continue to play this game. "Just go home."

"No." Jack shoved the keys into his pants' pocket.

Daniel tugged at the door, foolishly hoping it was unlocked.

"I have the keys, Daniel," Jack explained, and Daniel wanted to punch him for the simple tone he used, like he was speaking to a child.

"I know that," he shouted back.

"What the hell is the matter with you?" Jack yelled, equally as loud.

"Nothing is wrong with me. Nothing that a few hours sleep in my own bed won't cure."

"Goddamn it, just come back to the house and let me take care of you."

"Nice attitude, Jack. Sure as hell makes me want to walk the two blocks back to the house and have you ply me with soup and Tylenol."

"I do not have an attitude."

"Hah!"

"You've got the attitude."

"Me?" Daniel snorted, wiping his runny nose on his jacket sleeve, ignoring Jack's roll of his eyes. "You think I have an attitude? I wasn't the one who lost patience this morning when I accidentally dropped the Tylenol bottle on the floor.

"I'm sorry," Jack yelled. "There, I apologized. Are you happy, or do I need to say it again. I'm -- Daniel are you okay?"

No, he was as far as okay as one could possibly be and not be bleeding or maybe even dying. Daniel knew Jack was talking to him, but he couldn't make the words out. The only thing Daniel could hear was his own harsh attempts to take a deep breath and thinking how incredibly strange it was that he could be freezing his ass off while sweat was pouring off his body. "Shit," he mumbled as his hand sought purchase along the smooth surface of the car. His knees buckled the same moment he felt Jack's hands grabbing his jacket.


Daniel's weight nearly pulled the two of them onto the ground, but Jack rotated their bodies and propped Daniel up against the car's fender, keeping him upright with the press of his body against Daniel's.

"If you say you're fine," Jack whispered, to the semi-conscious man, "I'm warning you, I'm going to drop you right here on the street --"

Daniel laid his forehead on Jack's shoulder. "Not fine," he murmured into Jack's ear.

Jack had the keys, the car and with a fair amount of awkward maneuvering, he was able to get Daniel into the passenger seat. He kept one hand on Daniel's knee the whole two-block ride home.

Daniel's compliance dissipated the minute the Thunderbird pulled into the driveway, staggering out of the car the second Jack put the car into park, giving into a self-hug as he stood on the walk as Jack hurried by him to push open the front door.


"Are you sure it's not some weird alien virus?" Jack hissed into the cordless. He walked into the bedroom, stepping over the coat and shoes that littered his path to the bed.

"No, sir."

"But he almost passed out."

"Not eating, vomiting, poor fluid intake, having a fever, being out in the cold, running from an annoying commanding officer would do that, sir."

Jack could hear Cassie and her friends in the background. "Did I catch you at a bad time, doc?"

"There is never a good time when one is shopping in the mall with three teenage girls and a hangover."

"Sorry."

"It's okay, Colonel. Daniel's blood samples show nothing more than a virus. Doesn't even warrant an antibiotic. Just Tylenol --"

Jack slipped the blanket down from covering Daniel's nose, shaking his head as he placed his hand on the Daniel's still too-warm forehead. "His fever is as high as it was last night."

"Natural for a virus, sir. Believe me."

"And he's going to be ..."

"Fine in a few days, by which time I'm sure you'll be down with it and I'll be having this same conversation with Daniel."


Daniel was lying in bed, his arm flung over his eyes to shut out the glare from the bedside lamp. "Did I really almost pass out in the street?"

Jack put Daniel's hot tea on the bedside table, then sat on the bed, reaching up to tug down the arm. "The truth?"

"Yes." Daniel blinked at Jack, the flush of fever visible under his five o'clock shadow.

"Yup, you did." Jack skimmed a finger over Daniel's rough, chapped lips. "Don't you remember?"

"I'd rather not. I'm embarrassed enough already."

Jack snorted. "You are? I think not."

Daniel groaned. "There's more?"

"More." Jack picked up the mug of tea and motioned for Daniel to sit up, then handed him the tea. "Drink," he ordered.

Daniel took a sip, then lowered the mug. "More?"

"Drink."

"Please, Jack," he begged, holding a free hand over his midsection, grimacing as he handed the mug back to him. "Later," he promised.

He took the mug from Daniel and placed it back onto the nightstand.

"So?"

"Carter and Teal'c stopped by when you were sleeping before. They brought some Chinese food."

"Later," Daniel quickly replied.

"Later," Jack agreed. "I wouldn't let them stay. Germs, you're contagious, the whole nine yards. But Carter can be very persuasive --"

"Very --"

"And she forced me --"

"Forced you?" Daniel replied, pulling the blanket up to his neck.

"Okay, okay, forced may be too strong a word."

"What did she do, Jack?"

"She wanted to take a little peek at you sleeping."

"How little?"

"Oh, come on." Jack patted the blanket-covered leg leaning up against his ass. "Carter always sees you sleeping."

"How little, Jack?"

"Miniscule." Jack looked skyward and whistled. "Though she did say you looked absolutely adorable when you slept." Jack touched Daniel's reddened cheeks and nose. "I gotta agree with her."

"You didn't tell her that, did you?"

"You were sleeping in my bed, curled up, snoring, hogging all the pillows, looking like you belonged there Truthfully, Daniel, I didn't have to mention how adorable I thought you were, she's one hell of a smart woman, I'm thinkin' she could read between the lines."

"I think I'm going to be sick --"

"No, no," Jack laughed. "Only kidding."

Daniel flopped backwards, dragging the blanket up. "Not funny, Jack."

"She did say you were adorable."

"Oh, thanks."

Jack cleared his throat. "Carter did ask one question, though, one I couldn't answer. I was hoping you could enlighten me, 'cause I wanted to know the answer as well, and come to think of it, so does Teal'c."

"What?"

"Why didn't you tell anyone you were sick?"

"There are some questions that can never be answered."

"And?"

"That's one of those questions."


Jack sat at the kitchen table, reading the paper and eating Chinese food directly out of the containers with chopsticks, one of the more memorable habits of Daniel's that had rubbed off on him.

"Save some for me."

"You don't like pork with vegetables." For emphasis, Jack shoved the piece of baby corn balanced on his chopsticks into his mouth.

Daniel leaned over the table and peered into one of the containers. "I like this one."

"Hot shredded beef? Ha, not your life." Jack ignored Daniel's pout, then smacked his inquisitive fingers with his chopsticks. "Soup. You get soup."

"No."

"Unless you're going to clean up your own vomit, which you did a horrible job of last time, thank you very much, there's no way you're getting anything more than soup." Jack put a spoonful of white rice in the container of egg drop soup and stuck it in the microwave.

Daniel waited until the bowl of soup was on the table before he sat.

"You look a bit better." He truly didn't. Actually Daniel looked sick, grungy and definitely pissed off that Jack had his pick of food, but he was up and acting annoyed, which meant that he was on the road to recovery. "Carter will be upset if I tell her you didn't eat the soup."

Daniel pushed the bowl away. "I'm not hungry."

Jack pushed it back with the tip of his chopstick. "She went to your favorite place."

"But you're eating all my favorite foods."

"There's even orange sherbet in the fridge."

"Yeah? I love orange sherbet."

"I'll let you have some when you finish the soup."

"I'm not a baby." Daniel took a spoonful of soup and slurped it down.

"You're behaving like one."

"Is Janet angry at me?"

"Yes."

"Oh." Daniel began stirring the soup, making a whirlpool that sloshed over the side of the bowl.

"We all are, actually." Jack dug the chopsticks into the opened container he held in his hands, fishing for a piece of pork.


How dare Jack? Aggravated, Daniel dropped the spoon in the bowl, not caring if it landed with a splat, sending broth over the side of the dish. "Why the hell would you be angry with me?" Daniel shoved the bowl away, sending droplets splattering in all directions, including the cuff of his sweatshirt. "I didn't purposely get sick, I thought I pretty much held myself together for Janet's party and the only one I feel I owe any apology to is Janet." Daniel picked up the napkin and began to blot up the moisture on his shirt.

"Arrrgh." Jack grabbed the napkin from Daniel's hand, wadded it up and tossed it in the general direction of the garbage pail. "We're not angry you got sick. We're upset you didn't tell us you didn't feel well."

Daniel counted to ten, then closed his eyes, exhaling loudly before he opened his eyes again. "It was Janet's day. We all worked hard to surprise her. Did you want me to come into the room with the cake and say 'happy birthday, excuse me while I puke on your shoes'?"

"Well, if you put it that way, no, of course not." Jack began to shred the napkins, head down, pulling off little pieces.

"What did you want then?"

"I wanted you to tell me because --" Jack used the minute napkin pieces, along with the whole pile of napkins, to wipe up the puddles Daniel's soup had made on the table. "I'm supposed to know you better than anyone," Jack mumbled, "and you fooled me."

Daniel sat back wearily, a wry smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "My getting sick wasn't a game. I didn't set out to fool anyone. Admit it. You're not angry at me, you're angry with yourself."

With a sweep of his arm, Jack wiped up the mess, then got up to throw the napkins in the garbage.

"That's what the Chinese food was for," Daniel sighed, shaking his head. "Sam feels guilty also. What about Teal'c?"

"He brought the sherbet."

"Oh, a guilty Jaffa isn't a pretty sight." Daniel stood, walked to the sink, poured himself a glass of water and shook two Tylenol into the palm of his hand. He swallowed them, downed the water in two gulps, then turned to look at Jack. "I didn't want anyone to know. Hell, no one would have known if I had gotten sick twenty minutes later."

"I would have known." Jack began to snap the white cartons closed.

Daniel patted Jack's back. "Yeah, the vomit would have been a dead giveaway."

"I thought you were drunk."

Still too-warm fingers found their way under Jack's shirt, and Daniel smiled as Jack moved against his touch. "My hot body in bed would have been the deciding factor."

"You're body's always hot in bed."

"I bet you say that to all the guys."

"Definitely, Daniel, all the guys that share my bed. Actually that's my pickup line, my secret is out." Jack moved away and began to carry the leftover food to the fridge.

Jack wasn't kidding. His tone was meant to deceive Daniel into believing everything was fine but he was so far off the mark, Daniel wasn't buying it.

"You're still angry."

"Yes."

"You know, if I had the day to do over again, I wouldn't have done it any differently. If I had called and said I was too sick to pick up the cake, everyone would have run to see how sick I was. It was a no-win scenario, and I opted for the one that would allow Janet to enjoy the night we had planned for her, and as it is, I feel guilty enough for interrupting it."

"You coulda told me."

"I'm thirty nine."

"Soon to be forty."

"Thanks for reminding me. I know you don't think my life started until I became involved in the SGC, but nothing could be farther from the truth, Jack. I was on my own for the majority of my adulthood." Daniel held out his arms. "And I don't think I've done such a bad job."

Daniel felt like a fool standing there with his arms out while Jack just smirked at him. He waited until Jack's head was buried in the fridge, rearranging the containers of food, before he dropped his arms and left the kitchen.


"I know you can take care of yourself." Jack dropped into the recliner, then picked up the remote, fiddling with it, not turning on the TV.

Daniel had been stretched out on the couch in the den, lights low, just drifting off when Jack intruded. Daniel fully opened one eye and gazed at Jack. "Thanks." He knew he sounded sarcastic, but he was tired, eight years was long enough to prove to his team and friends that he was a capable adult, and this may just have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

"You're right, I'm wrong."

"You know, Jack --" Daniel levered himself up on both elbows in surprise. "I'm right?"

Jack nodded. "I owe you an apology."

Daniel raised his right hand and rubbed his ear. "Excuse me, I must of heard wrong, did you say --"

Jack raised his hands in surrender. "Yes, yes, yes. You heard correctly."

Daniel lowered himself down, placing a hand on his forehead. "I must be delirious."

"Daniel." Even without the benefit of full lighting, Daniel could hear the exasperation in Jack's voice.

"Okay, okay. I just want to get this right for posterity."

Jack groaned.

"Oh, come on, it's not every day that I'm told I'm right, you're wrong and I get an apology."

"One for the record books?" Jack growled.

"Yup."

"Once, only once, so you better damn well be listening."

"Listening."

"I don't mind taking care of you." Jack shrugged, embarrassed. "I sorta like looking after you when you're sick, though I'm quite aware you can take care of yourself."

"But --"

Jack flung the remote onto the table and stood up, angrily pacing in front of the couch, his hands shoved deep into his pants' pockets. "What the hell are you talking about, there's no 'but'. I apologized, said I was wrong, you were right, said you could take care of yourself -- there is no but."

"But I love you."

"Oh, that but." Jack walked around and sat on the coffee table, so close that his knees were bumping into the couch. "That I can deal with."

"Good."

Daniel reached up and tried unsuccessfully to grab the afghan on the back of the couch, then he patted Jack's knee. "Could you get me --"

Jack stood, pulled the blanket atop Daniel's body and tucked it in. "Thought you could take care of yourself?"

"I can," Daniel said as he moved around, finding a comfortable spot. "But it's so much nicer to have you taking care of my six." He closed his eyes, the activity and conversation definitely taking a toll, and he pulled up the blanket to stifle a yawn.

"Go to sleep, Daniel."

He heard the slide of metal against the wooden coffee table as Jack picked up the remote, the thunk of the recliner being set into position, and the comforting, yet annoying drone of the ESPN sports announcers when Jack finally settled on a channel.

"Jack."

"No dice, you're sleeping, I'm not watching the Discovery Channel."

"Touchy, aren't you?" Daniel sniffed loudly, then coughed. "I just wanted to say thank you, and as much as you are an overbearing, mother hen at times, I know that you care."

"Why, Daniel, I do believe that was the nicest thing you ever said to me."

"Are you being sarcastic?"

"Who me? Naw, now just go to sleep so I can watch sports in peace. Is that too much to ask?"

On command, Daniel once again closed his eyes and focused on the sound of the TV, smiling at the comments Jack was making under his breath. All those little sounds that meant he was home, that Jack was there. That even though he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, there were others more than willing to help him when he needed it. That's what family, the family he'd finally found after all these years, did.


FINIS

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Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
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