Solving Riddles

Bearing Witness 8

By Annie

EMAIL: Annie

"Hey, I hear you're ready to go."

Daniel looked up and gave a half-shrug, half-nod in Jack's direction. "Sure. Whenever."

Walking across to sit down next to him, Jack turned the walk into sauntering, lending it a casualness as if it was every day he went to a kid's birthday party to pick up his thirty five year old best friend.

"So…" he said, sitting down, managing to make the arm around Daniel's shoulders seem part of the everyday, casual thing. "You've only been here an hour. Sure you want to go already?"

Daniel tilted his head back, gave him a 'well, d'oh' look. "They're all kids, "he whispered.

"Well, d'oh," Jack said. "It's Cassie's birthday party. Doubt she would have wanted to invite a bunch of adults."

"So why did she invite me?" Daniel asked and Jack cringed.

He should have thought about it more, should have realized what being invited to Cassie's birthday party, not as Dr Daniel Jackson, Cassie's much-loved surrogate uncle, but as Danny Jackson, recently downsized archeologist, would do to his friend's self esteem. "Sorry," he murmured, pulling Daniel in for a quick hug. "I just thought you'd have fun, you know? Like you did when we went to Cascade and you played in Rosie's backyard. You even asked to stop there on the way home."

Daniel surprised him by twisting out of the embrace and climbing onto his lap instead, his back resting against Jack's chest. He picked up Jack's arms and wrapped first one then the other around his middle, leaning his head back to rest on Jack's shoulder. "That was different," he said finally.

"How was it different?' Jack asked. "Hey, I'm trying to understand here, buddy," he prodded when Daniel didn't reply.

"Me too," said Daniel in a tone so sad that Jack felt his own heart sink in empathy.

He jiggled Daniel on his lap. "Try," he said finally.

"I want to do kid stuff when I want to do it," Daniel replied. "I didn't really want to at first when we were at Rosie's but then I thought, 'It's just me and Jack here' and I just did it and it was fun and I liked it."

"Yeah," Jack said slowly, wanting to understand but not sure he did yet.

"But tonight I didn't want to do kid stuff. I wanted to stay home with you and work on the translation from 723."

"Oh." Jack felt understanding bloom in his mind. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have made you come."

Daniel moved Jack's arms away so he could wriggle round and sit sideways, his small legs dangling down over Jack's thighs, one arm wrapping around Jack's neck to anchor him in place. "If it had been like Sam's birthday party, you know, when we had the big barbecue for her at General Hammond's place, or yours last year, I wouldn't have minded. They were parties for adults, and the fact there were kids there as well was incidental."

Jack raised a hand and stroked it hesitantly over Daniel's small head, doing it again when no objection was voiced. "And you would have come willingly tonight and probably had a good time if you'd been in the mood to be a kid," he said, sure he was on the right track now.

Daniel tilted his head back to smile up into Jack's face. "Yeah."

"You mean, I got it?"

Daniel nodded fervently. "You got it."

"Wow. So, you want to head home now, work on your translations?"

"I'm worried Cassie will be upset if I leave in the middle of the party."

"Yeah, probably." Jack pondered the dilemma. "What if I say you've been called back to the SGC on some urgent business that has to be taken care of tonight?"

Daniel slid down off his lap. "Think that'll fly?" he asked.

"Watch a master obfuscator at work," Jack replied, standing up and leading the way inside.

~oOo~

It had been the right thing to do, Jack decided, peering round the door of the study and watching Daniel, perched on his knees on his booster seat, hard at work.

The boy looked intently at the image on the monitor, muttered something incomprehensible in some foreign language Jack didn't understand, then picked up the large pencil next to his book. Slowly, laboriously, he made notes in the double-spaced notebook, sighing as he scribbled something out and then wrote again, even more carefully this time.

The fact that this small Daniel's motor skills lagged behind his lightening-quick adult brain frustrated the small archeologist immensely, Jack knew. Daniel had tried using his favorite gel pens to make his notes when he'd first been downsized but his smaller fingers found the pens hard to grip, sending pen and writing skittering across the page. One day, Jack had simply left a child's pencil next to Daniel's laptop and he'd been using the implement with increasing surety ever since. The notepads he'd been used to were sidelined too, their narrow spacing too small for Daniel's now-large cursive print. Jack had simply picked up several of the double-spaced ones on one of his grocery trips and now they sat waiting to be used in front of the discarded coffee can that served as Daniel's pencil holder.

Daniel looked over his shoulder at Jack and waved him in. "I'm just about done," he announced, sitting back on his haunches, an air of satisfaction evident. "Boy, is Major Bowles in for a surprise when he finds out what he found."

Jack sat down in the chair opposite the desk. "Which is?" he asked, imbuing his voice with the right amount of expectation.

There'd been times in the past when he would have "yadda-yadda-yaddaed" Daniel going on about his work but these days Jack took the time to really listen to what Daniel wanted to tell him. Time was too short to ignore friends, he'd learned. They had a way of dying on you, or being downsized, making you wish you'd just taken the time to listen to them before it was too late.

Daniel grinned at him, plonking the pencil back in its holder and slapping the book closed triumphantly. "It's a civic map," he said. He turned the monitor so Jack could see and began pointing out symbols and words, translating as he went. "See, this is where the public baths were," he said, " and this one tells you where Golfric the headman could be found."

"So it's not of much use to us strategically?" Jack asked.

"Well, no, the town doesn't exist anymore." Daniel climbed down off the booster and walked around to Jack's side, standing with one arm resting on Jack's leg. "But, it does tell us quite a bit about the people who lived there and how they became extinct."

"Well, that's important, right?" Jack asked. He grinned as Daniel pretended to fall into a faint. "Hey, I'm learning that life isn't all about fighting the Goa'uld."

Daniel used Jack's knee to pull himself up off the floor. "Yes, you are," he said seriously. "You know why this is important, Jack?"

"Tell me."

"Because the more you stop and listen, the more you learn."

Jack nodded. "You got that right, buddy." He stood up, waited till Daniel saved his work and powered down the laptop then led the way out to the kitchen. "So, what do you want for dinner? I was thinking of barbecuing some steaks."

"Maybe. I'm not all that hungry." Daniel walked in front of him and stopped by the table, a hand rubbing absently at his eyes.

"Hey." Jack crouched in front of him and took Daniel's chin in one hand, looking into his eyes. They *did* look a little red, he decided. "You okay?" he asked.

Daniel nodded, stretched, yawned. "Yeah, I am kinda tired. I might go watch TV on the couch while you're getting dinner, if that's okay."

Jack stood up, surreptitiously passed the back of his hand over Daniel's forehead in a temperature check and found it feeling what he thought was normal… a little clammy maybe. "Sure, go ahead. Yell when The Simpsons starts, though. The steaks can wait. I'll make the salad first."

~oOo~

"I think I'm sick."

Jack rolled onto his back, squinting up through the near darkness of his bedroom. "Define sick exactly," he said around a yawn.

"Sick… icky-"

"Icky?" Jack sat up, swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached out a hand to pull Daniel closer. "Okay, icky coming from you sounds like a problem. Icky where?"

Daniel sighed, climbed onto the bed and lay down, his head resting on the pillow next to Jack's. "I don't know. Everywhere. Can I sleep in here?"

"In here?" Jack's worry nudged up a notch. Except for when they were in Las Vegas, Daniel had never slept in his bed. He reached over and flipped on the bedside lamp.

Daniel's cheeks were flushed bright red, his skin looking dry and tight. "I'm thirsty," he said plaintively, his tongue licking at dry lips. "Can you get me some juice?"

Jack placed a hand on his forehead. Hot enough to call Fraiser, he decided. "Sure," he agreed. "Stay here. I'll be back in a few minutes." Detouring to the bathroom on his way, he dampened a washcloth and took it back to Daniel, placing it on the boy's forehead. "Keep it there," he warned as Daniel winced and grabbed for it. "We need to start cooling you down."

"Juice," Daniel murmured.

"Coming right up," Jack agreed. He leaned across the bed and patted Daniel's shoulder comfortingly. "Hang in there, okay, buddy?"

"Okay," Daniel whispered. "I'm sick, aren't I?"

"Yep… well, just a bit. Might be something you ate at the party," Jack replied reassuringly. He watched as Daniel closed his eyes then headed at a trot down to the kitchen.

Picking up the phone he dialed Janet's home number then hooked the phone between his shoulder and chin while he pulled out juice from the fridge, a plastic cup from the cupboard and the thermometer and Children's Tylenol from the first aid box. "Answer, dammit," he muttered as he slopped juice into the cup, watching, uncaring, as it overflowed the container and dripped over the counter top and onto the floor.

"Daniel's sick. He wants to sleep in my bed," he barked at Fraiser's mumbled hello.

"Colonel, 'zat you?" Fraiser's voice sounded muddy and sleep-blurred and Jack had a momentary twinge of guilt, remembering the woman had just hosted a party for twenty raucous youngsters and had probably not long been asleep.

"Yeah, sorry, Doc. Look, he said he feels icky."

"What's his temp?" Fraiser asked, sounding more alert now.

Jack looked down at the thermometer he still held in his hand. Yeah, probably would have been a good idea to have used that before calling the doc. "Um, I don't know. He feels hot."

"Maybe he just overate at the party," Fraiser replied, sighing. "Colonel, listen, I know you worry but Daniel's probably fine. He was upset when you left the party and maybe he just needs some comfort right now and this is his way of asking for it without saying so directly."

Jack nodded at the phone, sighed himself. "Yeah, you might be right. Daniel's always a little embarrassed to admit he just needs to be close to someone, especially these days."

"Tell you what," Janet said, "take his temperature and if it's over 102, call me back and we'll go from there. If it's not, then let him sleep with you. You won't be breaking any important rules by giving in to him."

Jack felt the tension unwinding from his gut. "Thanks, Doc. Sorry to wake you. I'll let you know."

"No problem, sir. Goodnight."

By the time he made it back to the bedroom, Daniel was asleep, head on Jack's pillow, his cheeks still flushed. Jack looked at the thermometer then placed it on the bedside table. He touched Daniel's forehead gently, lifting the damp washcloth from where it had fallen askew over one eye. Warm still but maybe not as much as before. Daniel sighed and turned onto his belly and Jack put the medicine and juice down on the table, flipped off the light and crawled in beside the child, careful not to wake him. Best to let sleeping archeologists lie, he decided, closing his eyes and letting sleep overtake him.

~oOo~

The bed was moving rhythmically beneath Jack's body. "Daniel, knock it off," he grunted, his eyes still closed, sleep wanting to pull him back under.

Daniel made a moaning, choking kind of sound and Jack was instantly awake, one hand going out unerringly to flick on the light next to the bed. "Oh Christ!"

Daniel was on his back in the bed next to him, his small body wracked with convulsions. His eyes were rolled up so far into his head that only the whites showed. Bloody foam dribbled from between his clenched teeth, highlighting the bluish coloration of his lips.

Jack was on his knees next to him in a heartbeat, rolling him onto his side, the stiffness of Daniel's body making the maneuver more difficult than it should have been. "Jesus," Jack whispered, his word as much a prayer as a curse, as he reached out with his free hand for the phone. He'd just managed to hook it into his grasp when Daniel's body relaxed under his hand.

"Thank God." Jack kept his hand on Daniel's hip, keeping the boy on his side as he placed the phone handset down on the bed, keeping it in place between his knees as he punched in the speed dial code for Fraiser.

"Daniel's had a seizure," he said tersely as soon as he heard her voice. "Get an ambulance here for me."

Hearing her suddenly alert voice give him confirmation, he tossed the phone onto the end of the bed and leaned over Daniel, wiping the blood away with the corner of the sheet. Then, not knowing what else to do, he pulled the child into his arms and held him in a loose embrace, his head bent close to Daniel's ear. "Hang in there, Daniel," he murmured. "It's okay, honey. You'll be okay."

He rocked Daniel back and forth as he waited, the age-old rhythm giving him some sort of comfort. When the ambulance arrived, he handed Daniel over to the paramedics reluctantly.

"Colonel, I want you to ride in with me."

Looking to where the voice had come from, he saw Carter at his elbow, her face white, her eyes wide with shock as they watched the gurney being wheeled from the house out to the waiting ambulance. Janet Fraiser was walking alongside it, her hand on Daniel's face, holding an oxygen mask in place.

"I want to go with Daniel," Jack replied firmly, already moving out from under the grip of her hand on his arm.

"There won't be room, sir," Carter said. "They can take better care of him if you're not in the way."

He looked at her, prepared to argue and saw the sheen of tears in her eyes. He gripped her hand tightly, gave it a squeeze. "Okay," he agreed, "but you stay right behind that ambulance, Carter. I don't want to take a chance on him waking up without me there."

She swallowed visibly, wiped a hand across her cheeks and smiled faintly at him. "They used to call me Speedy in Driver's Ed in high school," she said, ushering him forward, out to her car. "I'll get you there."

~oOo~

The waiting room seemed smaller than he remembered. Jack paced exactly nine and a half steps to the far wall then nine and a half back, turned and repeated the journey.

Sam was sitting in a chair nearest the door to the infirmary, one hand clenched tightly around a wadded-up tissue, her eyes red-rimmed. She looked up at him and gave him a tremulous smile each time he passed her but didn't speak.

Teal'c stood, stolid and… Teal'c-like next to Sam's chair, his hands clasped behind his back. He looked, Jack thought, like he was on sentry duty, guarding the entry to the infirmary, his stance suggesting that even if Death came knocking, he wouldn't get through Teal'c.

A hand grabbed his arm as he turned for another walk back and he looked down in surprise. Fraiser smiled up at him, looking as exhausted as he'd ever seen her. Hope blossomed at her smile. "He's okay?" he asked.

"Let's sit down," she said, leading him over to the chair next to Sam's.

He refused to sit, waiting till she sank down into it before asking again, "He's okay?"

She sighed, rubbed a slightly shaky hand over tired eyes then nodded. "For now, at least. We stopped the seizures and his fever's down a little…"

"But?" he asked, both wanting and not wanting to hear the rest of it.

"But his blood work doesn't look good. He's got a massive systemic infection that looks like it's secondary to measles. He's already showing the rash but he's far sicker than he should be for measles."

"Measles?" Jack shook his head. "Where the heck would he have caught that from?" He stopped, seeing her nod her head slowly.

"Apparently one of the kids at Cassie's party has a younger brother who has it. The child doesn't but is obviously a carrier. Sir, he shouldn't have gotten this sick so quickly."

"What about his blood work?" Carter spoke up almost hesitantly.

"His white cells are way high, but they're not fighting the infection. If I didn't know better, I'd say he has leukemia."

"What?" Jack felt as if he'd been gut-punched.

"What is leukemia?" Teal'c asked.

"It's a form of cancer that affects the blood cells," Janet replied. "It's not always fatal but it can be." She cast a stricken look up at Jack. "Sir, this isn't my field. We can call in some pediatric oncology specialists-"

"Do it," Jack said, his voice suddenly husky. "Can I see him, sit with him?"

"Of course. He's pretty sleepy from the meds but I'm sure he'll know you're there."

"Tell him we're thinking of him and we'll be into visit as soon as we can," Sam said, standing up.

"We need to keep visitors to a minimum for now," Janet replied, patting Sam's hand reassuringly. "Sir, we've got Daniel in an iso-unit. You'll have to wear a mask and gown."

Jack nodded his understanding then sketched a wave at Carter and Teal'c. "I'll tell him his team's waiting for him," he said, pushing open the infirmary doors.

The child in the bed looked far smaller than Daniel had before. His face and arms were covered in a faint pink rash; his lips were cracked and sore looking. Jack reached out a gloved hand, surprised at the heat that emanated from Daniel's forehead. "I thought you said his fever was down," he said to Fraiser.

"It is, compared to how high it was when he came in. Not enough for me to be truly comfortable but we've got him on anti-seizure medication and we'll keep giving him Tylenol suppositories…"

Jack winced at that and Janet patted his shoulder. "He can't really feel it," she said soothingly.

"So what do we do now?" Jack asked.

"Wait until we can get a specialist here to look at him," Janet replied. "I've done all I can at this juncture." She lowered her voice even more. "Sir, we do have to be prepared for the fact that even with specialist care-"

Jack shook his head, his hand wrapping around Daniel's small one and clasping tightly as if sheer will could keep the child with him. "He's not going to die," he whispered back harshly. "Even for leukemia they have treatments nowadays. Kids don't just die of it anymore."

"No, they don't," Janet said, "but the treatments can be pretty devastating and unpleasant and Daniel's already very weak. I just don't know if he has the stamina-"

"Stamina? Daniel's got stamina in spades, adult or kid." He leaned forward as Daniel stirred, stroking a soothing hand across the hot forehead. "It's okay, Daniel, I'm here."

The boy's eyes opened slowly, heavy-lidded with fatigue and red from the disease. "My eyes hurt," he said haltingly.

Janet turned to the light switch and turned it down. "Is that better? You're supposed to be asleep," she added, patting Daniel's hand gently.

"Am I going to die?" Daniel asked shakily.

"No," Jack replied firmly, "not for a long time. You're going to be fine. You just need to get lots of rest and take some special medicine-"

"What's wrong with me?"

"You've got the measles, that's all," Jack said, still rubbing his hand across Daniel's forehead. "Lots of kids get them. You didn't die when you had them the first time you were a kid, did you?"

"Didn't have them," Daniel murmured, eyelids drooping again.

"Well, that was probably because you were immunized," Janet said brightly, "and even though that was a while ago, that immunity will still help to stop you from getting too sick. Um, sir, could I have a word with you outside?"

Jack stood up, leaned forward to place a kiss on Daniel's hair then followed her from the room.

"What?" Jack faced the diminutive doctor and glared into her eyes as if his anger could make her tell him that Daniel would be just fine.

"If Daniel was immunized, and if he never had measles as a child, there's no explanation for why he's this sick. The immunization should have lessened the impact of the disease. He shouldn't be this bad." Janet looked up at him, her eyes filled with soft compassion, "I'm sorry, sir, but there is a very real chance that he could-"

"He's not going to die," Jack said firmly, "not on my watch."

"Sir," Janet placed a small hand on his arm but he pulled away, pushing back through the doors to the infirmary where he went through the hand washing and the gowning up again then went in to stand next to Daniel's bed.

Daniel was still awake, though his eyes looked bruised with fatigue.

"You should be sleeping," Jack said huskily, his throat feeling tight and dry.

Daniel lifted the hand that wasn't encumbered by the IV and Jack grasped it gently in his, curling his fingers over the back of it.

"I'm really sick, aren't I?" Daniel said, sounding more child-like than Jack could ever remember hearing him.

"Yes, you are," Jack replied honestly, "but we have great doctors here at the SGC and they can call in specialists from anywhere in the world to make you better."

"Can you get my wallet for me?"

"You won't be doing any shopping for a while, buddy," Jack said, smiling a little.

"No, I know, there's a card in there. Remember that doctor I met in Colorado Springs that day I ran away. Dr. House… Greg. He specializes in unusual diseases. He told me."

Jack nodded. "I remember. He'd have to get security clearance-"

"We'll get it for him."

Jack looked around to see General Hammond, gowned and masked, standing at the foot of the bed, his big hand resting on Daniel's blanket-covered foot, caressing gently.

"Sir?"

"Whatever it takes, whomever it takes," Hammond said and Jack could see the concern in his eyes. "You tell me who you need here and I'll speak to the President."

"Thank you, sir." Jack looked down at Daniel to see the boy was almost asleep again. He withdrew his hand from Daniel's. "I'll go get the card," he said.

"Hurry back," Daniel said, his voice edged with something like panic.

"I will. Get some sleep and I'll be back the next time you open your eyes."

~oOo~

"Dr. House, I presume?"

Gregory House looked up from the Gameboy where he'd been on the verge of actually winning a game of Technobot and glowered at the man standing in the doorway. "Clinic hours are over," he said shortly. "Go out to the desk and ask the receptionist for another doctor." He raised a hand as the man started to speak. "if you're about to tell me it's an emergency, go to the Emergency Room downstairs. There's a very good reason why they named it that. Yes!" he slapped his hand down on the desk in triumph as he saw his score.

"Technobot? I could never master that."

House looked up to find the man standing looking over his shoulder. "Do you mind?" he asked pointedly. "Look, if it's a Gameboy you're after go down to the Pediatric Ward. That's where I stole mine from. Any of the kids give you a hard time, tell them House sent you and I've got a selection of big, pointy needles for anyone who won't give up his Gameboy without a fight."

He sighed as the man didn't move. "Fine, have it your own way but if Cuddy catches you in here once I'm gone, you'll be doing clinic hours four days a week for the rest of your natural life." He stood up, tucked the Gameboy into his drawer and locked it then picked up his cane and hobbled over to grab his jacket. "Last chance to escape Cuddy," he warned as he opened the door.

"Oh good, Colonel, you found him."

House shivered theatrically as Cuddy hove into view, a bewildered looking Wilson bringing up the rear. "Damn! Two minutes." He glared at the interloper. "If you hadn't shown up I'd have been gone before she got here."

"Dr. House, this is Colonel O'Neill of the United States Air Force. He needs your help." Cuddy sounded impressed and House gave the guy another look-over. He shrugged. Knowing Cuddy she was probably imagining what the Colonel looked like in and out of a uniform, which was all fine and dandy. If Cuddy wanted to cuddle up with the USAF he wasn't going to stop her. "Yeah, cool. Nice to meet you. I'm going home now. I have a date with a steak and a beer."

"Dr. House, I need you to come to my office-"

House shouldered past her and nudged Wilson on his way through. "Gone over to the dark side, Wilson," he muttered sotto voce.

"What? No, the Colonel asked for me too," Wilson replied, sounding even more confused than he looked.

"The Air Force so short of doctors, they're rounding them up in pairs now? Like Mormons," House asked, turning and raising an eyebrow at the Colonel. "Look, if it's all the same to you, we can talk here. I'm never too sure I'll make it out alive if I enter the Dragon Queen's cave so…"

"All right," the Colonel said. "I'm Jack O'Neill. A few months ago you met a little boy in Colorado Springs-"

"Daniel," House said immediately. "He's a good kid, even paid me back the money I lent him, with interest."

"He's sick," O'Neill said and now House could see the worry in the man's eyes, the faint tremor in his hands. "Really sick. Our doc said he could die. He's scared. He asked me to come get you. Dr. Cuddy mentioned that Dr. Wilson is an oncology specialist and I remembered that's one of the kinds of specialists our doc said Daniel needed. So, I'm asking you both if you'll come to Cheyenne Mountain and try to help him."

"The kid asked for me?" House nodded when Jack said yes. "All right, you should have just said that in the first place instead of getting the Dragon Queen on my case. "Wilson, go pack a bag, will you? We're going to Colorado."

~oOo~

House leaned heavily on his cane as he and Wilson were led into the elevator at the Cheyenne Mountain base. Despite the fact that they'd flown to Colorado on a high-speed jet, the trip had still entailed him sitting jammed in a narrow airline seat for longer than his bad leg liked and he was paying for it now. He pulled the ever-present bottle from his pocket and flipped the lid, tipping two of the potent little pills into his mouth and crunching them up. "Medicine," he said when he saw O'Neill watching him.

"You're the doctor," O'Neill replied, shrugging.

"Oh, I don't self-prescribe," House said with a shocked expression. "That would be unethical." He hooked a thumb at Wilson. "James here lets me have as many as I want though."

"That's not true!" Wilson pushed himself away from the wall and glared at House then looked at O'Neill. "Colonel, I only prescribe him the recommended dosage-"

"It's fine," O'Neill replied, reaching out to press a button. "Daniel trusts him. I'll back his judgment any day. We're heading down a long way," he warned. He nodded toward House's leg. "You might want to hang on. This thing moves pretty quick."

House shrugged nonchalantly. He'd ridden motorcycles after all but the sudden downward jolt and rapidly escalating speed startled him anyway and he took a grip on the railing and watched in stunned surprise as the numbers on the wall flipped down quickly. "Jesus, what is this place? The doorway to Hell?"

"It can seem that way sometimes," O'Neill said obscurely, leading them out of the car when it bumped to an eventual halt.

"What you said about backing Daniel's judgment, it hasn't always been that way, has it?" House didn't sound accusatory but Jack felt the burn of shame nonetheless.

"No." He shook his head. "Let's just say I learned the error of my ways when I lost him one time too many."

"Well, let's make sure you don't lose him one more time," House said. He looked around as they walked up the hallway. "Guess you're still not going to tell me what this place is, right?"

"Maybe. If it's the only way you can help Daniel," Jack replied obscurely, ushering Wilson and House in through the doors of the infirmary.

"Ah," House replied. "A reply worthy of a politician. Well then, let's get work then, James, shall we?"

Wilson nodded agreement as they were led into the gowning up room for the Iso unit Daniel was in.

"Hey there, Daniel, remember me?" House laid a gentle gloved hand on the child's forehead. He smiled when Daniel opened his eyes. "Hi," he said.

"Greg," Daniel whispered. "You came. I told Jack you would."

"Well, of course I came." House sat down on the chair next to Daniel's bed. "It's not every day I get given a trip on a chilly Air Force transport plane to visit the doorway to Hell." He grinned, tapping Daniel's nose with his finger. "Silly boy. Of course I came. You'd do the same for me, wouldn't you?"

Daniel nodded. "Yep. I'm sick," he added.

"I can see that. How about we make you better?" House pointed up at Wilson. "I brought a friend. This is Jimmy."

"Hi, Jimmy."

Wilson snorted at the diminutive but shook Daniel's small hand firmly. "I'm glad to meet you, Daniel. I work with lots of people who have similar illnesses to you and I'm going to work with Dr. House to try to make you better."

"Okay." Daniel yawned. "Ouch. My throat hurts. Can you fix that first? Then my eyes or maybe stop me itching. I don't like itching." His eyes drooped closed and he fell asleep.

House stood up and pulled the sheet up over Daniel's chest. "Let me see his file. There's more going on here than measles."

Wilson nodded. "I agree." He leafed through Daniel's chart. "His bloodwork makes no sense. According to this he's got no immunity at all yet there's no sign of leukemia..."

House shrugged. "I think it's time we took Colonel O'Neill up on his offer of full disclosure, don't you?"

Bearing Witness8 part2

Solving Riddles By

Annie

House looked over at the two women who were helping him puzzle out Daniel's illness. "Which one's the doctor?" he asked.

Both raised their hands.

"Medical doctor," he added. The blonde, Carter, put her hand down. "Sorry, no offence," he said, "I'm sure you're very important too-"

"As a matter of fact she is," the brunette, Fraiser put in. "You said it might help you to know how Daniel was changed. Sam's the expert on stuff like that."

"I wouldn't say expert," Carter replied. "Unfortunately the inhabitants of the planet refused to let me see whatever they used to effect the change so I'm mostly going on guesswork and on what I actually observed."

"It's a start," Wilson said kindly. "I think we may as well start by treating this as if it was an autoimmune disease or a blood cancer." He shrugged at House's raised eyebrows. "It's a start," he said again.

"Yeah," House replied.

"You're thinking of a bone marrow biopsy, aren't you?" Fraiser asked. She winced. "Daniel's been through a lot already-"

"And if we do have to treat this as an oncological case he's going to go through a lot more," House said tersely. He softened his tone a little. "Look, I don't mean to sound harsh but in the end the only thing that matters is having that kid walk out of that iso-unit healthy again. If we don't succeed at that then his death's not going to be all that pleasant either."

"I know." Fraiser nodded. "I just-" She rubbed at her eyes. "Sorry."

"If you think you're too personally involved here-"

Fraiser looked him squarely in the eyes, even though she had to look up to do it. "I'm always personally involved with my patients," she replied firmly, giving a wan smile. "It's one of the perks and the pitfalls of my job."

"Fair enough." House nodded back at her. This was a woman he could work with, he decided. "James, get the biopsy organized. Doctor Fraiser can assist you. Major Carter and I will see what else we can come up with."

"I thought you wanted the brunette," Wilson whispered as he walked past him. "No offence," he added out loud as he saw both women grinning at him.

"None taken," they both said.

"Good, now we're all friends, let's get to work," House snapped, waving Wilson and Fraiser towards the door.

~oOo~

"You want to put a huge, honking needle into his hipbone?" Jack asked, his voice filled with horror.

"Colonel, please, if there was any other way-" Janet began.

"No, let me get this straight," Jack snarled. "You tell me it's going to hurt like hell and you want me to stand there and hold him down…" He stopped, swallowed down as much of the emotion choking him as he could then went on, "hold down that little boy, my best friend, who's already been through more pain, both physical and emotional than any one person should have to go through in one lifetime, let alone two. That about it?"

"Yes." Wilson walked across from where he'd been standing in the doorway. He placed a hand on Jack's shoulder and looked into his eyes, his empathy clear. "Because if you don't do this, you'll hate yourself for not being the one who was there for him."

"He'll hate me," Jack whispered, turning to look through the window into the iso-unit where Daniel lay sleeping, his cheeks hot and rosy with fever again.

Wilson shook his head. "No, he'll hate you if you're not there," he said softly.

"I don't know if I can-"

"Then you go in that room and tell him that someone else, someone he hardly knows is going to be in there with him," Wilson interrupted harshly.

Jack opened the door to the gowning room then turned and faced them. "Don't hurt him more than you need to because I'll be standing right there and-"

"I know," Wilson replied. "I'll be as gentle as I can."

~oOo~

"That's it?" House shot a jaundiced look at his assistant. "That's all the information you have on how a thirty-five year old man was turned into a five year old child, with- Ack, not finished yet," he snapped as Carter opened her mouth, "most of his memories and his intellect intact?" He slapped his hand down on the thick folder in front of him.

"I'm sorry," Carter replied. "The local population weren't happy about letting us look around and we wanted to get Daniel back to the SGC..." Her voice trailed off and she shrugged. "I should have been more forceful about it..."

"It's okay," House said softly. "I'm sorry for barking at you. I tend to do that."

Carter smiled shakily at him. "You're in danger of losing your reputation," she said.

"You know my reputation?" House arched an inquiring eyebrow at her and tried to look suitably impressed.

"Of course," Carter replied. "We had you checked out after the first time you met Daniel. Sorry, it's what we do."

"Fair enough." House opened the folder again. "Let's get to work, Major."

"Sam," she replied. "Call me Sam."

~oOo~

"Hey, buddy, how ya doing?" Jack sat on the side of the bed and patted Daniel's knee.

"Okay. Tired." Daniel yawned widely, grimacing as his lips cracked and a small drop of blood beaded there.

Jack grabbed a tissue and blotted it away then helped him sit up. "Here, drink some water. You want some of that cream stuff on your mouth?"

Daniel nodded and Jack got the cream and rubbed it gently on his lips. "You're not itching," he said.

"Janet gave me some medicine. That's what makes me sleepy."

"Well, sleep's good right now." Jack put the cream back in the drawer. "Daniel, Dr. Wilson needs to do a special test. It's called a bone marrow biopsy-"

"No!" Daniel was shaking his head, his eyes wide with fear. He shoved back the blankets and crawled from the bed, up onto Jack's lap, clutching him around the middle, his small fingers digging into Jack's back. "Please tell him no. I don't want that, Jack. Please!"

Jack grasped his arms and held him away, giving him a small shake as Daniel's breathing edged into hyperventilating. "Calm down!" he ordered, his tone holding an edge of command. "Daniel, just listen to me for a minute."

Daniel's eyes overflowed with tears, his chin quivering. "It'll hurt," he whimpered. "I don't want it." He shook Jack's hands free of his arms and slid off the bed, ducking beneath it.

"Oh for crying out loud!" Jack stood and then got down on his knees, peering beneath the bed into Daniel's frightened face. "Danny, come on. Out of there so I can talk to you."

Daniel shook his head firmly, tears still streaming down his cheeks.

"Fine, you won't come out, we'll talk here." Jack gave an exaggerated sigh then lay down on the floor, on his back, his head turned in Daniel's direction. "Sorry," he said, "knees."

Daniel smiled a little then frowned again, scrubbing at his face with his balled fists.

"Daniel, listen, I can't stop it hurting completely, but I can promise you that the doctors will give you something to make you sleepy so that it won't hurt as much."

Daniel looked at him, lower lip trembling. "Will you stay with me?" he asked.

"Undomesticated equines couldn't remove me," Jack replied.

Daniel snorted then sobbed, fat tears overflowing his reddened eyes to drip down his rash-red cheeks.

"Come here," Jack said softly, snagging Daniel's hand with his. He towed him out from under the bed and pulled him up to rest across his chest. "It's going to be okay, Daniel," he murmured, stroking soothingly over Daniel's back. "I promise."

Daniel clung to him, small fingers wrapped tightly in Jack's T-shirt, and sobbed out his fear and pain. When the crying had died to sniffles, Jack sat up and then moved Daniel to one side. Standing slowly, his own sore muscles kicking in, he picked Daniel up and put him back on the bed. "You're lucky the IV didn't come out," he observed.

"Stay with me," Daniel said as Jack went to move over to the chair next to the bed.

"Not going anywhere," Jack said soothingly.

"No! Here, with me!" Daniel patted the mattress, his movements still redolent of panic and Jack acquiesced, toeing off his shoes and lying down beside him. He turned to his side and rolled Daniel over to his back. Then he reached out a finger and began to run it hypnotically up and down the bridge of Daniel's nose. Daniel squirmed a little at first then he sighed a couple of times, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Jack did too.

~oOo~

"Anything?"

House scrubbed at his eyes and looked up to see Wilson slouched in the doorway of the lab. Carter had headed off to the iso-unit to see Daniel a half-hour ago and he'd spent that time trying to hack into the SGC computer to see if he could dig up any information she hadn't told him. Not that he thought she hadn't told him everything she could. It was obvious she cared about the kid, would do whatever it took to save him... "Sorry?" He waved Wilson over to a stool. "You bring coffee?"

Wilson handed him the cup he'd been hiding behind his back. "So I'm guessing you and Major Carter didn't come up with anything."

House shook his head wearily. "Nothing that's making any sense. Look." He slid the folder on the mission where Daniel had been downsized, across to Wilson. "Read it. Tell me if I've missed something."

"You're looking at alien technology," Wilson replied. "You have no way of knowing what that did to the child's internal organs, his blood chemistry-"

"It took away his immunity for a start," House replied acerbically. He stood, grabbed his cane and began to limp around the room, pulling his pill bottle from his pocket as he went. He popped two dry then grabbed his coffee on the next pass and washed the bitterness down with a swig.

"We may just have to treat this the old fashioned human way," Wilson said softly.

"Jesus!" House made it sound more like a curse than a prayer. "He's five years old and tomorrow you're going to drill into his bone with a large bore needle while he lies on the table and screams."

Wilson shot him a surprised look. "We do this sort of stuff all the time. Why is it getting to you? Yes, it's barbaric and it sucks like a Hoover to do it to a kid but I've never seen you so much as flinch at some of the tests you've put your patients through. Even the kids."

"He got to me, okay?" House sat down on the stool and looked up at Wilson. "There's something about him that I identify with. You know how sometimes I come up with an off the wall diagnosis that I have to prove because nobody believes I'm right?"

Wilson nodded.

House knew he knew, that Wilson had seen it often enough, House battling alone against a squadron of opposing opinions and more often than not being proved right in the end.

"For some reason I think he's been there too."

"He has." The voice came from the doorway behind Wilson and they turned to see O'Neill standing there. "It's too long a story for now," he went on, coming into the room and perching on the stool across from House, "but Daniel had some pretty way out theories before he joined the SGC. He was drummed out of academia because of them." He gave a sardonic grin. "He was proven right in the end but he's never been able to announce that little factoid to the world. Daniel's fought against adversity and odds that would cow most people most of his life. It's never embittered him." Jack looked pointedly at House. "Just seemed to make him want to press on harder, even when he knew there was no way he could stand up and shout to the world that he'd been right all along."

"That strength is going to help him survive," Wilson replied. "I've scheduled the biopsy for the morning."

Jack nodded and stood up. "I'll be there."

~oOo~ "Hey there, sleepyhead." Jack leaned forward as Daniel opened drug-blurred eyes. "How ya doing, big fella?"

"My leg hurts," Daniel said, his voice a whine of fractiousness and pain.

"I know. Janet's going to give you something for the pain soon," Jack said, soothing comfortingly with his hand over the warm brow.

"I was brave, Jack," Daniel said, sounding more like the child he'd become than Jack remembered hearing him since this whole thing had begun.

"Yes, you were. You were the bravest," Jack whispered, clenching down on his tears, trying to block the memory of Daniel fighting to get off the table, not wanting to remember him begging Jack to help him. He bent his head down till his mouth was next to Daniel's ear. "I love you, Daniel," he murmured.

"Love you too," Daniel mumbled. "Can I have the stuff for my leg now? I'm still being brave but it really hurts."

Jack straightened up and scrubbed at his eyes. "I'm on it."

"Meds on a cane delivered to your bedside."

Jack looked around and saw House limping into the room, a capped syringe held in one hand. "Thanks," he said.

"No problem. If you can't trust a drug addict to understand when someone's in pain, who can you trust?" House quipped but he placed a gentle hand on Daniel's head before he delivered the narcotic into his IV.

Jack waited till Daniel drifted back to sleep before standing up. "Tell me why," he asked harshly, "you couldn't have just put him to sleep for that procedure?"

"By putting to sleep I'm guessing you mean a general anesthetic not the lay term of what vets-" House grimaced. "Sorry, sometimes my mouth gets ahead of my brain... or my tact. I apologize. We didn't give him an anesthetic because he's already so weak and his system is already so compromised that the anesthetic could have overtaxed it. I know it seemed barbaric."

Jack shook his head. "It's fine. I just needed to know that."

"You want to step out for a while? Get some coffee?" House nodded toward Daniel. "He'll be out for a while."

Jack stretched. Coffee was appealing if the truth was told. "Yeah, sure."

~oOo~

"This is a pretty amazing place," House said around a mouthful of apple pie.

Jack shrugged. "It's just a mess hall."

House squinted at him as if unsure whether he was joking.

Jack relented and grinned. "Yeah it is."

"So all this traveling to other planets and meeting aliens and stuff? It's all real?"

"You signed the non-disclosure agreement, right?" Jack asked, smiling.

"Hell yeah. Wouldn't you?"

"I already did," Jack said.

"Right. Of course. I mean, who wouldn't though? You're told there's an amazing world-changing secret you can know but you can't tell anyone ever if you want to know what it is," House replied, smiling disarmingly. "You bet your life I signed the bloody piece of paper."

Jack pushed his empty plate into the center of the table. "So what happens now?"

House stood up. "Let's go find Wilson. He should have the results back by now."

Jack stood as well and followed him from the room. "You and Wilson, you're good friends, aren't you?"

"We get along," House replied as Jack slid his card through the reader at the elevator.

"You sound like the way I used to talk about me and Daniel." Jack walked into the elevator and pressed the button for the infirmary floor. "Now I'd tell the whole world he's the best friend I've ever had, if I could have him back the way he was."

"You mean as an adult?"

Jack nodded. "But at the same time, if it does happen, I'm going to miss this Daniel as much as I do my friend."

House said nothing. Maybe there was nothing more to be said, Jack thought.

TBC

Part three

Wilson looked up as they entered the lab. "Not much good news," he said. "Daniel's immune system is pretty much absent. His bone marrow biopsy shows signs of auto-immune disease, not leukemia."

"Well, if it's not leukemia, that's good news, right?" Jack asked hopefully.

"Not really," House said. He sat down heavily on a stool and frowned. "Basically it means Daniel's body is turning against him. It's fighting things that it shouldn't, killing off good cells, leaving him extremely vulnerable to infections."

"Anything on the device that did this to him?" Wilson asked.

"Not enough information," House replied. He shot Jack an impatient glance. "Are you sure these aliens won't let us go look at their bloody machine?"

Jack shook his head. "Don't you think we've tried?" His own voice matched House's in frustration. "They think they helped Daniel, stopped him getting the disease their people were dying from-"

"But instead they left him vulnerable to the diseases from his own world." Wilson sighed, sat down next to House and rubbed at his eyes. "I'm thinking we have no choice but to treat this the way we would an auto-immune disease."

House grimaced. "What? Put him on a waiting list for a bone marrow transplant? What are the odds someone's gonna match up before he dies?"

Wilson shrugged. "No guarantees," he said softly. "Unfortunately it's something I'm used to telling people." He gave House a sharp look. "You are, too."

House nodded. "Yeah."

"Best get on with it then. First step, we test everybody on this base that's willing to be tested. There's got to be a few hundred people working here. Even if only ten percent of them agree, it's a start."

House snorted. "You know how many people in the USA sign up just to be blood donors let alone agree to tissue matching? You'll be lucky if five people answer your call to arms."

"We'll see. I'm going to speak to the General about getting the word out then I'm going to bed. You coming?"

"I have something to do first," House said, limping quickly from the lab. "I'll see you in the morning. Oh," he pulled his pill bottle from his pocket and shook it, "I'm almost out. Think you can get Doctor Fraiser to write me up a script?"

Wilson shook his head, sighed heavily. "Leave it with me."

~oOo~

"You awake?" House poked his head around the corner of the Iso-unit door, grinning under the mask as Daniel turned over in the bed to face him, a broad smile creasing the boy's flushed face.

"Greg! You came!"

"Yeah, well, I had plans for doing a little one on one research with your Doctor Fraiser but seems she had other plans." House limped up to the bed and flopped down into the chair at the bedside. "Tell me, confidentially, is she married?"

Daniel smiled. "She's divorced. She's got a daughter though. Cassie."

House grimaced. "I don't really like kids."

"You like me."

"Ah, but you're not really a kid, are you?"

"They told you that?" Daniel looked surprised then nodded. "I guess they'd have to."

"How you feeling?" House touched the boy's forehead. "Your fever's down a little."

"I feel like crap actually," Daniel replied. "I'm aching all over and my leg still hurts from the biopsy..." He gave House a small smile. "Sorry for whining."

"You're entitled." House stood up, leaning on his cane. "You go to sleep, all right? I have a feeling tomorrow's going to be a big day."

"Why? What's happening tomorrow?" Daniel asked, settling back down on his pillows.

"Not sure yet. Just a feeling in my water, as Grandma House used to say." House bent and brushed a hand across Daniel's forehead. "Sleep," he commanded gently.

Daniel nodded, closed his eyes then opened them as House turned to leave. "Could you find Jack for me?"

House nodded. "Sure. Now sleep."

"Okay."

House waited, leaning against the chair till Daniel's breathing edged into the rhythm of sleep. Turning to leave he found Jack in his path, a crooked smile on the Colonel's mouth.

"Your soft underbelly is showing," Jack said.

"So your Major Carter tells me." House grimaced then shrugged.

"We've got a few people from the base coming for testing tomorrow," Jack said. "You might want to get some sleep. Doctor Fraiser could probably use your help with them."

"I'm sure she and her team can handle it," House replied. "I'm a diagnostician, not a venipuncturist."

"Sounds impressive but Wilson said you need to process as many people as possible as quickly as possible. The Doc's only got so many nurses and doctors to help." Jack shrugged. "She could probably bring in outside help but at the SGC we prefer to keep visitors to a minimum so..."

"I'm sure they can handle the twenty or so-"

"The Doc's got a list of a hundred people who've already called for appointments." Jack grinned as House stared. "Daniel's popular around here," he added.

House nodded. "I'll just head off to bed then," he said. "Busy day tomorrow."

Jack watched him hobble away then turned and peeked in at Daniel, who was asleep, his face pale now rather than flushed, the measles spots standing out in bright blisters over his face.

"Colonel?"

He turned to find an airman behind him.

"There's a call for you, sir."

Jack nodded, took one more look at Daniel then walked over to the desk and picked up the phone. "O'Neill."

"Jack, it's Jim... Jim Ellison. Hope it's not a bad time to call."

"No, it's fine. How the hell did you find me?" Jack asked.

Jim laughed. "I called your cellphone and got no answer so I called in a favor with a friend of Blair's who managed to track down someone who tracked down someone else... You okay?"

"Yeah," Jack replied. A sudden thought struck him. "Are you okay? Blair? What's wrong?"

There was another voice in the background and Jim said, "Hang on a minute, Jack. I'm asking him, okay, Chief. Give me a minute here." Jim gave an embarrassed-sounding laugh. "Look, the thing is Blair got a feeling that something was wrong, that's all. I mean, he sent the book to Daniel and then never heard anything and he said that wasn't like Daniel so... Is he okay?"

Jack shook his head, wondering just how far the abilities of this particular sentinel and his guide extended. "No," he said shortly. He sighed, scrubbed at tired, burning eyes then went on. "I don't know how Blair knew but Daniel's sick, really sick. The doctors think he has leukemia or something like that."

"What?" Jim sounded stunned and Jack could appreciate the feeling. He still felt the same way. "Okay," Jim's voice was determined and steady. "What can we do to help?"

"Nothing." Jack tried to keep the flat despair from his voice but he knew he wasn't succeeding. "The docs think he needs a bone marrow transplant. Trouble is all Daniel's family are gone and the chances of finding a stranger match are pretty well astronomical."

"We'll be there tomorrow. Can you organize transport and whatever security clearance we'll need?"

"What?" Jack's brain scrambled to catch up.

"I don't know a lot about this kind of thing but I'm guessing the more people you can get tested the better the odds, am I right?"

"Yes," Jack replied firmly. He had no idea if it would help or not but Daniel had beaten the odds before and if this time, Jack had to stack them a little more heavily in his favor, then so be it. He'd do whatever it took to keep from losing Daniel again. "I'll fax tickets and flight times to you. Someone will meet you at the airport and get you through the red tape. Jim, thanks." He hung up the phone and fixed the airman behind the desk with a glare that brooked no argument. "I need flights arranged for two people from Cascade, Washington to here ASAP. I also want them flagged through security the minute they get here. Make it happen."

The man didn't even blink. With a nod of understanding, he pulled the phone back over and lifted the receiver. "Happening, sir."

Part Four

House and Wilson rounded the end of the corridor into the infirmary and stopped dead.

"Guess he was right," House said laconically, pushing Wilson in the back to get him moving again.

"Who?" Wilson asked, pushing past the line-up of people blocking the doorway to the infirmary.

"O'Neill. He said Daniel was popular." House indicated the long line of on and off duty personnel, their status indicated by their clothing. "It's either that or he called Rent-a-Crowd."

Wilson excused himself several times before finally managing to push through the infirmary doorway.

"Hey, get in line, mister!"

House felt himself pulled back by a hand scrunched in the back of his shirt. "Look, I don't need to get in line. I'm-"

The Marine stepped forward and loomed over him, using all his six inch height advantage to glower down into his face. "You wanna help Dr. Jackson, you line up and wait your turn like the rest of us grunts."

Wilson poked his head back out the door. "If you'd only wear the labcoat, he'd have known you were a doctor," he remarked, grinning at the man. "It's okay, Private... Matthews. This is Dr. House. He's with me."

Matthews blushed all the way to the roots of his carrot-orange buzz-cut. "Geez, sorry, Doc. You get on in there and fix Doctor Jackson up, okay."

A meaty hand clasped House's own and he nodded as it was shaken up and down ferociously. "l'll do just that," he yanked his hand free, "the minute you stop mangling my hand."

"Sorry, Doc. We're all a little worried about Daniel." Another man, this one in civilian clothing, pulled Matthews away, back into the line.

"Sorry, Major Feretti, Doc," Matthews added. "The kid's gonna be okay though, right?"

House looked up at him and tried to think of a suitably Housean smartass reply. "If I have anything to say about it, he will be," he said finally then turned and followed Wilson into the infirmary.

"Ah, Doctors, nice to see you." Janet stepped around the line-up of people snaking through the infirmary and smiled broadly at them. "Grab a desk or a bed and start puncturing people."

House smiled at Wilson over his shoulder. "You see, I just knew I was going to like her."

He took up his post at one of the desks and bellowed in a stentorian voice. "Okay, anyone who's not likely to faint, line up here. If you're in need of a little TLC at the thought of being stuck with a needle, head on over to Doctor 'SoftTouch' Wilson's desk." He shook his head at the lack of response. "I thought you guys were Marines, toughest of the toughest…"

A small woman with an apron over her uniform walked over to him and grinned. "Stick me with your best shot, Doc. They don't call me Ptomaine Tilly for nothing."

House gave her his best smile. "Plant your ass, Tilly. Have I got a needle for you."

By the time Tilly had gone there were at least a dozen people in House's line. "See, I just knew you weren't *all* wimps," he said as he prepared another needle.

By the time House had processed twenty or so prospective donors, he was beginning to rue his certainty that they'd be lucky to have a hundred people show up to be tested. He glanced across at Wilson who was processing at least the same number of people. "That's fifty bucks you owe me," Wilson said, meeting his eyes.

"I'll need to borrow it off you," House replied. "You know I never carry money."

Wilson raised his eyebrows as the man sitting on the chair next to him took a look at the needle Wilson was about to puncture him with and keeled over to one side, landing with a thump on the floor. "Someone just move him to one side please," he said as a couple of nurses came to his aid. "He'll recover just as fast there as anywhere else." He waited till the SF was moved to a bed then called, "Next!"

A tall man with piercing blue eyes sat down in the vacated chair. "James Ellison," he said with a smile.

"You don't look like you're in the Air Force," Wilson observed, noting the slightly longer than regulation haircut.

"I'm a friend of Jack O'Neill's," Ellison said.

"You're not from around here."

"Nope, I'm a cop in Cascade. That's in Washington."

"It's great that all Jack's friends are so willing to come to be tested." Wilson drew the blood and capped the vial.

Ellison stood and smiled at the curly-haired man in line behind him. "You're not gonna faint on me, are you, Chief?"

"As if. I've been shot, remember? Hi, I'm Blair Sandburg, Jim's partner."

"You're a cop?" Wilson unsuccessfully tried to cover the skeptical tone of his voice and knew he hadn't succeeded when Sandburg grinned cheerfully at him. "No, I'm an anthropologist. It's a long story. Um, is there any chance we could visit Daniel?"

"That could probably be arranged. I'll check with Colonel O'Neill-"

"Daniel'd be damn disappointed if you didn't, Blair," O'Neill's voice interrupted.

Wilson looked up to see Ellison pulling O'Neill into a hug.

"Thanks for coming all this way for Daniel," O'Neill said, flashing a grateful smile at Sandburg.

"No problem," Jim replied, cocking his head to one side as if he was listening to something. "In fact, there are a few other people who need clearance to come and be tested too. As a matter of fact, you should be getting a call about them any minute now."

"Colonel O'Neill, please pick up on Line 2," said a voice over the loudspeaker.

Jack leaned across the desk and picked up the phone, listening for a moment. "Grissom," he said, sounding stunned. "No, of course I don't mind. I'll be right down to sign you in." He hung up the phone and turned to Ellison. "You organized this," he said.

"I might have made a call," Jim replied. "Look, I figured the more people you test the better, right?"

"Right," House interrupted from across the way. "Go, bring 'em up. Afterwards we'll go out and party-" He stopped suddenly, his eyes shadowed. "Sorry. Just call me Dr. Insensitive."

Wilson rolled his eyes but Jack waved the apology off as he left the infirmary. "Forget it, Doc. And we will have that party. Just as soon as you make Daniel better."

~oOo~

"Hey there, Daniel. Is it okay if I come in?"

Daniel rolled to face his visitor and Blair sucked in a shocked breath aty his appearance.

"Blair! Jack said you were here. I didn't think you were ever coming to see me. Sorry you have to wear the mask and stuff."

Blair smiled and hurried over to sit on the bed. "I don't mind," he said. "You know, there was this one time when Jim and Simon and I were on this fishing trip... Well, technically it was Jim's fishing trip but Simon and I kinda invited ourselves along. Anyway, I got really sick from some bug these Army guys had put in the water-"

Daniel's eyes grew round with shock. "The Army poisoned you?"

"Well, no, they weren't really Army guys as it turned out. They were trying to rob a train-"

"Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?"

"Yeah, kinda. Anyway, I got really sick and they took me to this tent and all the doctors there were wearing these weird suits. You know, like astronauts wear."

Daniel looked up at him, excitement making his tired eyes shine. "What happened? How did you get away?"

"Well, Jim knocked out one of the fake doctors and he put on his suit and he came in the tent and got me. Because it wasn't a real bug, I got better by myself..." Blair trailed off. "Sorry," he said after a minute. "I know it's not remotely like what you're going through."

"I don't mind," Daniel said, his small hand patting Blair's comfortingly. "I love hearing about your adventures. So, how did you and Jim catch the bad guys? Did Jim have to use..." Daniel looked up at the camera on the wall then lowered his voice to a whisper, "... his Sentinel senses?"

"He did," Blair replied. "After he got me out of the tent, the bad guys locked us in a freezer and Jim got us out..."

Outside the room, Jim grinned at Gil Grissom and shook his head. "Kid's got some imagination."

"Daniel or Blair?" Grissom asked, smiling back.

"Both."

The door to the infirmary pushed open and Jack hurried in with Dr. Fraiser at his heels.

"They've found a match," Jack said, emotion dampening his eyes. He gave Gil a broad grin. "It's Nick. He's going to save Daniel's life."

~oOo~

Jack felt unutterably weary. He'd thought he'd experienced exhaustion before but this was a bone-deep tiredness that sapped all his energy, leaving coherent thought just out of his reach. He wanted nothing more than to close his eyes but his exhaustion made him worry that he'd fall too deeply asleep and not wake up when Daniel did.

He leaned toward the child in the bed, his hand brushing over the newly-healed marks on Daniel's face, relieved to feel the skin cool beneath his touch with no sign of the fever that had ravaged Daniel's body over the past few days. Daniel stirred beneath his hand and Jack held his breath, wanting nothing more than for the child to wake up so Jack could see for himself that what the doctors had said was true - that Daniel really was better, that the transplant from Nick had worked - but knowing too that the boy needed the rest that this healing sleep was giving him.

Daniel had been so ill following the chemotherapy treatment to rid his own bone marrow of the leukemic cells that Jack had wondered whether the cure wasn't worse than the disease. Wilson had reassured him that the nausea and lethargy were a normal side effect of the treatment and when Daniel developed mouth ulcers that made him reluctant to eat or drink, leaving him looking once again a shadow of his former self, House had come up with a drug called Kepivance that helped enormously.

It had been four long weeks since then and in that time Daniel had been kept in an iso room to prevent him getting an opportunistic infection. As much as Jack had longed to be able to simply hold Daniel's hand without the barrier of the gloves, he'd known it was an essential part of the treatment and he and Daniel had borne it stoically for the most part. Carter had even come up with an ingenious way that Daniel could use his laptop by placing it outside the room in a container with gloves that reached into the box from Daniel's side like the ones the SGC used to handle items brought back from other planets that might be contagious or dangerous. It had taken Daniel's small fingers a while to get used to manipulating the keys with the bulky gloves on but eventually he'd found a way and once he did, Jack had begin to see the old Daniel come to life again.

Nick had been allowed to visit once the doctors were sure Daniel was on the road to recovery. He'd been up and around fairly quickly thanks to the doctors using a drug called Filgastim that apparently made the harvesting of the blood cells Daniel needed, much easier and less intrusive. He'd told Jack he still felt a little tired and achy which was a side effect of the drug but he'd brightened up as he looked down on the boy in the bed.

"Thank you," Jack said softly, giving Nick's shoulder a brief squeeze.

"I was happy to do it," Nick said. "I hope he can get out of here soon. Nothing worse than being cooped up in a glass box." He shuddered a little as he spoke and Jack turned an enquiring eye toward Gil Grissom who was waiting outside the iso room. Gil shrugged and Jack promised to find out the story behind that remark sometime soon.

Once Nick had left, Jack had sat down next to Daniel and just watched him sleep. He yawned and ran a hand over his aching eyes.

"Jack?" The voice was little more than a whisper but it jolted Jack awake nonetheless.

"Hey." He leaned forward and ruffled his fingers through Daniel's long hair. "You need a haircut," he said mock-chidingly.

Daniel gave him a tired smile. "Still trying to make a marine out of me, Jack?" he asked.

"Sure. You were a pretty good marine, anyway," Jack said. "How ya feeling?"

"A bit tired but I don't itch all over anymore. It worked, didn't it? I'm better?"

"Yep, the docs all say you're gonna be fine. You'll need to continue having blood tests done regularly over the next little while but they're pretty sure the transplant from Nick worked."

"I need to see him, say thank you…" Daniel yawned.

"He knows, Daniel. He's been in once already and I'm pretty sure he'll be back again tomorrow."

Daniel yawned again and closed his eyes. "We should have a party," he said, "when I get out of here. For Nick and Gil, and Jim and Blair, and the docs…"

"We will," Jack promised.

~oOo~

"What are you doing?"

Daniel turned from the open fridge, a beer held aloft in his hand, and looked up at his friend. "Getting a beer. Want one?"

"What? Uh uh, no way," Jack replied firmly, plucking the bottle from Daniel's fingers and placing it on the shelf. He maneuvered himself between the fridge and the boy. "No beer."

"Aw, come on, Jack, I just want to celebrate being out of the infirmary. Don't be a spoilsport."

"Daniel, please, don't give me a hard time over this. I'm stretching things letting you have coffee. No way am I going to sit by and watch a five year old drink beer."

"Fine. You were the one who said I should learn to like beer, when I came back from Abydos." Daniel spun away from the fridge and stormed over to the kitchen table, pulling out a chair so hard, it rocked dangerously and would have fallen if Jack hadn't moved quickly to grab and steady it.

"Hey, you were an adult then... physically, at least," Jack said. "Settle down, all right?" he added warningly as Daniel climbed onto the chair and stood on it, glaring at him.

Daniel set his jaw against the sudden burn of tears. "I still am mentally, and I just want to celebrate being better my way," he said mutinously, hating the tremble of his chin, the pout he could feel on his mouth.

"I understand that," Jack replied more quietly, sitting down in the chair next to him. He pulled Daniel down to sit then reached out a hesitant hand and patted his shoulder. "But whether you like it or not, you can't. Things aren't-"

"I get it, okay," Daniel snapped, shrugging off the hand and squirming so he was sitting sideways on the seat, away from Jack's sympathetic gaze. "I know things aren't the same now. I'm not the same now," he muttered, the half-sob sneaking into his voice and catching him unaware. "I see that every day when I get up, every time I have a shower, every time I take a goddamn leak-"

There was a snort from behind him and he took a quick look round to see Jack schooling his face into empathy again. "It's not funny," he growled in as deep a tone as his five year old voice could muster.

"I'm not laughing at you, I swear," Jack said, his big hands settling again on Daniel's shoulders, massaging gently. "It's just every time you say something in that tone of voice, I'm reminded that this is really you, that you're still Dr. Daniel Jackson."

Daniel shook his head. "Not really," he muttered.

Jack grasped him round the waist and turned him so they were facing each other again. "Yes, really," he said, "where it counts, here," he tapped Daniel's head gently with his finger, "and," his hand rested over Daniel's heart, "here."

Daniel nodded and gave him a tremulous smile. "I think you're the only one who sees it most of the time though," he said.

"No, Sam, and Teal'c, and General Hammond do too. They just don't spend as much time with you as I do so it's harder for them to make the connection sometimes," Jack replied.

"Janet doesn't," Daniel said morosely, remembering being in the infirmary just the day before when Doc Fraiser had given him a hug, right in front of everybody.

"Janet's a natural mom," Jack said. "And you like it, admit it."

"Well, yeah, I guess it doesn't bother me too much as long as it's just Janet doing that kind of stuff."

"See, it's not all bad, is it?" Jack leaned back in the chair. "And Blair treats you like an adult pretty much, doesn't he?"

Daniel gave a nod, smiling a little now. "Blair's cool. He always treated me that way, even when he did think I was a kid."

"So how do you want to celebrate being home," Jack asked, "excluding the beer?" he added quickly, raising a finger as Daniel opened his mouth.

"I don't know. Hey, we could have a party like you said we could when I was in the infirmary, get some steaks and make salads and stuff. Oh, and some of those sparkler things. Haven't played with one of those since I was a kid..." Daniel grinned ruefully. "Well, not since the last time I was a kid, anyway. We need to call Nick, and Gil, and Jim and Blair. Oh and Jimmy and Greg and even Dr. Cuddy cos she let them come when I was sick, and-"

"Whoa, slow it down, buddy." Jack grasped Daniel's chin in his hand and looked into his eyes. "So, which Daniel is this? The Dr. Jackson Daniel or the Daniel Daniel who sometimes likes doing kid things?"

Daniel smiled broadly. "It's just me, Jack. The Daniel who sometimes wants to be a little of both."

"Okay, just checking. I mean, it's okay then to invite Cassie to bring some friends and maybe ask Dr. Lee if he wants to come and bring his kids too, right?"

"Sure, Jack, that'd be great."

~oOo~

It had been a good idea, Jack decided, looking around at the crowd of people who'd turned up for Daniel's welcome home party. The living room was full of friends sitting around chatting, some on chairs, others lounging casually on the floor. Others had spilled out into the backyard, standing around the barbecue where General Hammond held court, a grilling fork gesticulating in one hand as he regaled his audience with a tale from his early Air Force days. A few of the SFs that Daniel considered special friends were clustered around the bar, talking and nibbling on the nuts and chips Daniel had helped Jack put there.

A high-pitched squeal made him turn sharply and he sidestepped just in time to avoid being mowed down by Tessa, General Hammond's granddaughter, who was being pursued by Josh Lee. Jack watched, trying not to laugh out loud as Josh grabbed Tessa and pecked her quickly on the cheek before yelling, "You're it!" and dashing off again, with Tessa in hot pursuit.

"So they still play kiss chasey these days," a voice said from behind him and he looked around to find Gil Grissom standing there, a smile on his face as he watched the kids rampaging through the backyard.

"Apparently so," Jack replied.

"So how is Daniel doing... really?" Grissom asked.

"How does it look like he's doing?" Jack pointed across the lawn to where Daniel was being pushed on a swing by Nick, Gil's CSI colleague from Las Vegas.

"He looks good," Gil said. "I always knew there was more to Daniel than meets the eye though."

"You got that right." Jack patted Grissom on the shoulder. "Wanna mingle with me? I've never been over-fond of these shindigs. Hey, you seen Jim yet?"

"We ran into each other at the buffet table," Grissom replied. "Let's go. We can shore each other up. I generally only come to these things for the food."

"And this one you came to for Daniel."

"And for Nick." Grissom nodded towards where Daniel was now sitting on Nick's lap on the swing as Teal'c stood behind them, his huge arm muscles bunching as he pushed them both on the swing. "Nick really needed to see that for himself, see that Daniel was okay." He placed a companionable arm around Jack's shoulder as they walked toward the barbecue. "That Teal'c's an interesting guy. You sure you can't tell me more about him?"

"I could..."

"But then he'd have to shoot you."

Jack and Gil turned and found Greg House limping up behind them, his cane tapping on the gravelly path.

"Hiding out?" House asked as he joined them.

"Yeah, kinda." Jack grinned at him. "Yeah, I know, rumor has it that I'm an absolute party animal but I'm really quite shy."

Grissom snorted and House laughed outright.

"So," House said, "where do you hide the good stuff?"

"Ah," came another voice from behind them, "if you gentlemen will follow me, I'll take you right to it."

"Jim. We wondered where you'd got to." Jack turned around and waited for Ellison to catch up to them.

"Where's your shadow?" House asked.

"Sandburg?" Jim shrugged. "Last time I saw him he was chatting up Doctor Fraiser and Sam simultaneously with some moral support from Dr. Wilson."

"Ah, the resiliency of youth." Jack smiled at them.

"Someone mentioned good stuff," Jim said. "Follow me, gents, and I'll take you to Jack's secret stash."

"Not much of a secret if you know where it is," House muttered but he followed along anyway while Jim tapped a finger to his nose and winked in response to Jack's inquiring eyebrow raise.

Jim opened the door of the small shed that abutted the back fence of Jack's backyard then strode inside and stood for a minute as if contemplating its contents. Then he walked unerringly over to the workbench under the window and pulled out a wooden box with a carved lid. Lifting the lid, he reached inside then stood up, a bottle of single malt Scotch held aloft victoriously in one hand.

"Glasses?" Gil asked.

"Oh for heavens sake, just pass the bottle here," House replied. He took the bottle, unscrewed the lid and took a deep swallow, smacking his lips appreciatively as he passed the bottle to Jack. "I don't have cooties," he said as Jack looked at the bottle suspiciously.

Jack shrugged, wiped the mouth of the bottle with his sleeve anyway then took a drink and passed the bottle onto Gil.

Jack looked around at the circle of friends, some old, some new, and couldn't help but give thanks to whatever deity still held him in some regard for bringing them to him. They'd been there at every turn, whenever he and Daniel had needed them. Regardless of whether Daniel could ever be returned to his adult self, Jack decided, this had been a special time. He and Daniel had weathered storms that had sometimes seemed undefeatable, yet here they still were, together, whole, more or less unharmed. He stood up and walked over to the door of the shed, pushing it open and looking out into the gathering night, across the yard to where Daniel sat on a bar stool, Teal'c behind him, Carter and Janet either side of him, Blair, Nick and Jimmy behind them - a closed, protective circle of friends. A hand grasped his shoulder and Jack turned around and saw Jim standing there, with Gil and Greg behind him.

"Good times, Jack," Jim said.

"Yeah, great times," Gil agreed.

House snorted, swallowed down another mouthful of scotch and handed the bottle over to Jack. "Drink up, Jack," he said. "You now have a perfectly healthy five year old to raise. Good luck! You'll need it."

Jack laughed, took the drink, and put the bottle on the floor then he headed out, across the yard to find Daniel.

The End!