Practicing Christmas

"Daniel, how much longer?" Jack complained. He'd been standing around watching Daniel dig in the dirt for the past hour. He was bored, he was hungry, and he was frustrated. This mission was turning out to be a bust, and he was anxious to get moving along.

"Won't be long, Jack. I just need to see if there are more artifacts buried under this sand." He had found a fat little jade figurine buried in the sandy floor of the long abandoned shrine, and he was hoping there might be more forgotten treasures.

"That's what you said 15 minutes ago. Come on, that's enough. Let's go. Carter and Teal'c are probably on their way back now anyway."

Wiping his hands on his pant legs as he stood up, Daniel grabbed his packsack and carefully stowed his find inside. As they made their way through the woods back towards the town, Daniel stopped suddenly. "Jack, did you hear that?" he asked.

Jack turned back towards Daniel. "No, what?"

"I'm not sure, it sounded like a child crying." He turned slightly, trying to see if he could hear the sound again.

Jack suddenly pointed off to the right. "Over there," he said, as he started running off the beaten path into the bushes, Daniel following swiftly behind. They came upon a small clearing and found a young girl huddled against a tree. As Jack and Daniel slowly approached her, she looked up and started crying in earnest when she saw them.

Jack watched Daniel kneel before her and speak to her softly. She nodded her head at his words, and lifted her arms to be picked up. Daniel lifted her easily, then turned to Jack and said, "Jack, I think she's sick. She feels feverish."

Jack reached over and touched the young girl's cheek. "You're right. Let's get her back to town." He radioed Teal'c and Carter, informing them that they were heading back; and that they should meet them in the town square.

As they entered the square, Daniel spoke to the first person he saw, and asked for the Mayor. The town's leader was quickly summoned, and Jack could see the frown on the tall, elderly man as he quickly approached them. SG1 had not gotten a very friendly reception when they had entered the town earlier that afternoon. The elders had reluctantly permitted them to have a look around the area, with the stipulation that they leave before dark.

As the man took the child from him, Daniel explained that they had found the little girl not too far from the shrine. At least Jack surmised that was what Daniel was telling him. He hated planets where the people didn't speak English and he was dependent on Daniel to do all the talking.

A woman ran down the main road and took the little girl from the Mayor. Ah, obviously the child's mother. As Jack watched the woman carry her home, he heard Daniel talking with him again. Well, the old shit was smiling now. What a change from a few hours ago. When the townsfolk had discovered that their visitors had come through the Stargate, they had been ordered out in no uncertain terms. It seemed that these people had an aversion to anyone travelling through the Stargate. As if that wasn't enough, they also had strict protocol they insisted upon. Deviation from these rules was tantamount to insult. Jack snorted slightly to himself as he thought that these folk should at least have had instructions posted outside the town limits for unwary travellers.

SG1 had 'gated to P3S 9Q5 with the hope of setting up an alliance to either mine or trade for some of the rare minerals of which the UAV had found traces on this world. Since their first attempt at contact was unsuccessful, Jack had been planning to walk to the next town to see if they'd get a more positive reception there.

Daniel was still talking with the Mayor, so Jack took the opportunity to look around. The people surrounding them appeared to be much more relaxed now than they had been a few hours earlier. Before too long, Jack spotted Sam and Teal'c on the outskirts of the small town, making their way towards them. They had been out gathering soil samples while Daniel and Jack looked over the small abandoned shrine.

"Jack," he heard Daniel say. Turning towards his friend, he saw him gesture towards the Mayor, who was still smiling at them. "Jassen wants to thank us for rescuing the little girl. Seems she wandered off earlier this afternoon, and nobody had realized it."

"Did you tell him that she's sick?"

"Yeah, he said it's just a common childhood ailment, nothing serious. But it could have been if she'd stayed out much longer. Anyway, we're invited to a small banquet, and he said he'd like to hear more about our request for a trade alliance."

"Had a change of heart, did he?"

"That little girl was his niece."

"Ah, that would explain a lot. Fine, tell him we'd be happy to start discussing an alliance. And where's this party being held? I'm starving."

- - - - - -

Nibbling on a piece of fruit, Jack sat back in his seat and watched as Daniel spoke with Mayor Jassen and several of the elders. They were all very jovial and appeared to be quite accommodating. Carter and Teal'c were smiling politely at the others at the table, looking nearly as bored as he was. Well, Carter looked bored, Teal'c just looked like Teal'c.

"Seems like we're going on a trip, Jack." Daniel's words drew Jack from his reverie.

"Huh?"

"Jassen wants to take us to the next village, about a day and a half's walk from here. Seems leadership runs in the family. Apparently, his brother is Mayor there. Both towns own the land around here, and he's sure that with his recommendation his brother will agree to join in negotiations for mining rights. He wants to leave in the morning."

"So they're amenable to working something out?"

"Yeah, from what I understand, they still have tons of rules to follow, but Jassen's willing to start the talks; and he's sure his brother will too."

"Okay, that's what we came here for. Teal'c, Carter, get back to the gate. Tell Hammond that we'll be incommunicado for a few days – then get back here so you can rest up before we hit the road tomorrow."

- - - - - -

Daniel groaned when Teal'c shook him awake the following morning. "What, is it morning already?"

"You should not have stayed up so late reading that book, DanielJackson."

"Yeah, I know. But I wanted to get an idea about the rules these people follow." He sat up, rubbing his eyes with one hand, and groping for his glasses with the other. "Do you know that that's only the first volume? They have two more, just as thick." He sighed, realizing he had one heck of a job ahead of him if they reached managed to reach an alliance with Jassen and his brother.

As Daniel rolled over and maneuvered onto his hands and knees, he silently berated himself for going to bed so late. He felt unusually tired this morning, although he was used to getting by with little sleep. After eventually leaving the tent and washing quickly, he joined the rest of his team for breakfast.

- - - - - -

As they made their way down the well-worn road, Jack contemplated how yesterday he had driven to Cheyenne Mountain in what appeared to be the start of a major snowstorm. And then several hours later, he was stepping out of the Stargate onto a planet that was in the midst of summer. It was hard to believe that it was nearly mid December on Earth.

Jack had yet to invite his team over for Christmas Eve this year. For the past three years, he'd been trying to get the whole team together for either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Unfortunately, every time the holidays came along, his plans fell through. One year they'd all spent the holidays in the infirmary, unconscious. And twice they'd ended up being off world during the festivities. Last year, Jack had sworn to them that he wouldn't invite anyone until the last minute so as not to jinx them. He still wasn't going to say anything yet to his teammates, he'd wait until they were back home first. But he just knew that this was going to be the year when they finally got to do it right. He began humming 'Jingle Bells' under his breath as he walked behind Daniel and Jassen.

- - - - - -

By the time they stopped for the night, Sam was beginning to worry about Daniel. He was looking pale and seemed to be slightly unsteady on his feet. Once she'd finished her duties in setting up camp, she saw him rummaging through his pack. By the time he'd emptied the pack, Sam had squatted down beside him.

"Sam, do you have any painkillers? I can't find mine." Daniel asked, stuffing everything back into his pack haphazardly.

"Yeah, why? Are you feeling sick?" she asked with concern, as she reached for her own pack.

"Yeah, just a headache," he admitted, taking the packet of Tylenol from his friend. He swallowed two with a sip of water before handing the remainder back to Sam.

"Carter, got anymore of those?" Jack asked.

"Sir, you too?" She hadn't realized that the colonel was sick, but then he tended to hide his illness better than Daniel did.

"Yeah, headache started a few hours ago. Might be something we ate. You feeling okay?"

"Yes, sir. I feel fine. Colonel, if both you and Daniel are sick, maybe we should turn back."

"Oh for crying out loud, Major. It's just a headache. Look, if we get worse, we'll turn back. I'm sure it's nothing. It's not that bad anyway."

Sam wasn't so sure she agreed as she looked at Daniel's pale face.

"MajorCarter is right to be concerned, O'Neill. It is strange that you are both suffering from the same ailment at the same time."

"Yeah, well, maybe we got too much sun today. But this sunshine sure beats a snowstorm, right?"

Sam laughed. "It does feel weird knowing that it'll be Christmas in a few weeks, and here we are sitting outside in the middle of summer. Have you finished all your shopping, Colonel?" Because many of their missions were unpredictable, they often had to do their shopping very early in the season to be sure they were ready for Christmas.

Sam saw Jack look over at Daniel talking quietly with Jassen. "Yeah, except that I'll need your help with getting Daniel's gift together when we get back," he said in a low voice, careful that Daniel wouldn’t overhear. "Would you mind?"

"No, not at all. Just let me know when, I'll come and help." Jack nodded, grateful for her help.

- - - - - -

Teal'c was sitting by the dying campfire, waiting for Daniel to wake up. The others had gotten up earlier and had walked down to a nearby stream to wash up. Teal’c saw Daniel stir slightly before opening his eyes – and quickly closing them with a grimace. "DanielJackson, are you ill?" he inquired of his friend.

"Headache's back," Daniel told him, eyes still closed.

"I have medication, if you wish." Daniel nodded. As he sat up slowly, Teal'c handed him two of the painkillers; and watched him swallow them dry then pull his knees up and rest his head on them.

"The Colonel also has complained of a headache this morning. I do not believe it is wise to keep on. We should return to the Stargate," Teal'c said, observing his companion.

Not raising his head, Daniel replied, "Teal'c, we'll be at the town in a couple of hours. If we turn back now, we won't reach the Stargate till late tonight. It makes more sense to keep going. Maybe we caught a bug or something. You never know, they might even have a local cure that would help."

"What about the child that you and O'Neill found? Was she not ill? Perhaps you have caught her ailment."

He saw Daniel think about it for a moment. "Do you think we could have caught whatever she had this fast? It's barely been 36 hours – Daniel trailed off and contemplated the situation for a moment before deciding on a course of action. "Where's Jassen, I think I'd better talk to him about whatever it was his niece had." The rest of their party returned before Teal'c could reply.

As Daniel began speaking with the mayor, Teal'c turned to his commanding officer. "DanielJackson is also suffering from a migraine, O'Neill. I am concerned that you and he may have been infected by whatever ailed the young child you rescued."

"Damnit, I didn't think…you're right, she could have been contagious. Jassen told Daniel it was a childhood thing, something common."

"Sir, it might be common for the people here, but none of us probably have any immunities to it. If you're infected, it could make you seriously ill."

"Sam's right," Daniel said. "Jassen said most kids get this thing, it's just fever, aches and pains, nothing serious. But if we've never been exposed to it…lots of times when adults get childhood illnesses, don't they get a lot sicker than the kids?"

Jack squinted his eyes shut and rubbed his temple with one hand, sighing. "Look, we don't know if we've caught what she had. But if it is and we go back to the Stargate, we could chance infecting the whole SGC. Do Jassen's people have a cure for this?"

"He said that they didn't, but they do have medicine that'll help with the symptoms. And you're right, we can't chance going home and spreading this around," Daniel replied, feeling as bad as Jack looked.

"Okay, tell Jassen that we're turning back. We'll go back to his town, at least we'll be nearer the Stargate, and to the SGC if we need help."

"Sir, I don’t think that's a good idea. We're closer to Jassen's brother's village, it's only a few hours away. I think the sooner we get you both into bed and medicated, the better off you'll be. You can't tell me that you're looking forward to walking all that distance again."

Teal'c saw O'Neill's face blanch at the thought. "MajorCarter and DanielJackson are right, O'Neill. Perhaps it is best to continue on. At least in the next town, you will have medical assistance."

- - - - - -

Six hours later, Daniel found himself lying on a soft bed in a darkened room. His head was pounding fiercely, his body ached, and he felt totally miserable. He had been sick twice on the way to the town, and his stomach muscles were sore from continuous dry heaves.

Jassen had hurried on ahead when they had nearly arrived at the town, getting rooms readied for the ailing travellers. Daniel had been escorted into his room by a young woman, who had dosed him with a concoction of herbs that had tasted horrible, but which had quickly settled his stomach. She said it would help his headache and fever also, but so far it hadn't done much good.

Hearing the door open, he cracked open his eyes. Teal'c came in and sat down in a chair beside Daniel's bed. "Teal'c, where did they take Jack?" he asked through clenched teeth.

"He is in a room similar to yours. He is sleeping, as you should be."

"Head hurts too much to sleep," he admitted. "What about Sam?"

"I am afraid that MajorCarter is also beginning to suffer from the illness. She is also resting nearby."

"Teal'c, what about you? Will your symbiote protect you?"

"It will. Do not fear for me, DanielJackson. I have come to inform you that I am returning to the Stargate to apprise General Hammond of your condition, and to advise that no rescue party come in search of us. I did not wish you to worry when I did not come to see you."

Daniel nodded slightly, trying not to worsen the pain. He suddenly laughed softly. "Looks like we're jinxed, Teal'c. We're not gonna make it out of here by Christmas, are we?"

"It is still too early to say how long this illness will be upon you. We may yet make it to O'Neill's party." He laid a hand on Daniel's shoulder in farewell. "I shall endeavor to return as soon as possible."

As Teal'c took his leave, Daniel's thoughts went to their aborted Christmas plans. He had been looking forward this year to spending Christmas together with his friends. It had taken him a long time to actually want to celebrate Christmas, and he thought it wasn't fair that each year something happened to prevent them from doing so.

Growing up in orphanages and foster homes had reinforced Daniel's belief that Christmas was a time to be spent with family and friends. He came to recognize that it was more than a time for gift giving. Having lived the first eight years of his life in Egypt, his parents had never made a big deal of the holiday. Sure, he had received small gifts from them on Christmas day, but it had always been a very quiet and private affair.

After his parents died, there was no joy for young Daniel in the few gifts that he did receive. He remembered his first Christmas without his parents, sitting there in the common room of the orphanage, watching all the children excitedly ripping open their presents, and thinking he would have given anything to just be with his own family. Most gifts that he did receive were badly needed clothes, rarely was a gift given just for the joy of giving. Even most foster families he’d lived with hadn’t put much thought in what the young boy needed. With the exception of one foster parent who, knowing that Daniel had lived in Egypt, had found a slightly battered stuffed camel, and had wrapped it up as a gift for young Danny. He had cherished that toy for years after.

In later years, as he put himself through school, Daniel didn't have many close friends. Most students stayed away from the 'freak', nobody wanted to hang around with a kid who was several years younger and way smarter than they were. Daniel used to think that they were afraid that perhaps his genius might be contagious. He ended up spending the holidays alone, wandering through the shopping malls, admiring the decorations, watching the hustle and bustle of people rushing through their Christmas shopping. At first, on Christmas day itself, he would end up burying himself in his studies, trying to forget that he was all alone when everyone else seemed to have somewhere to go. Later he started volunteering his time in hospitals and seniors' homes, where he could make himself useful to those who were also alone.

And just a few years ago, living happily on Abydos with Shau're, Christmas had come and gone without his noticing. Daniel had been so wrapped up in his new life, that he hadn't kept track of the Earth holidays. Then a few months after returning to Earth, Daniel had been trying to pick up his life after his wife had been abducted by Apophis. Jack had taken the pains of inviting one lonely archeologist, one exiled Jaffa, and one extremely busy scientist to spend the holiday season with him. Daniel, knowing the effort it must have taken Jack to put aside the memories of his dead son, was touched that his friend had wanted to spend Christmas with his newly founded team. Of course, fate had decided to intrude, and they ended up spending the holidays offworld that year. But to Daniel, he'd felt as if he'd finally gotten his first real Christmas gift. He had found the big sister he'd never had, the best friend he could ever have wanted, and the respect of a warrior who had accepted him for what he was. He had a family again. And for the first time in his life, he truly wanted to celebrate Christmas.

In the past three years, even though they hadn't actually been able to officially celebrate Christmas together due to the unforeseen circumstances their jobs put them through, at least he had been together with his teammates when Christmas Day came around, no matter where they were. Last year, while offworld at Christmastime, Jack had actually pulled a pine bough out of his packsack while they were getting ready to eat their supper, complete with a few strands of tinsel and a plastic ornament. They'd gotten together later and exchanged gifts once they arrived home. Even though it had been an impromptu off world celebration, it had actually been one of the best Christmases Daniel had ever had.

Daniel turned onto his side with difficulty, the pressure in his head seemed to be getting worse. Surely the medicine he was given should have started relieving his headache by now? Maybe he should have asked Teal'c to give him some more painkillers before he left. He didn't know where his hosts had placed their packs.

- - - - -

When the healer checked on Daniel an hour later, she was shocked to see Daniel lying in agony. It was rare for someone to become so ill when taking the healing herbs, although not unheard of. But that it happened to one of Mayor Jassen's guests was a bad omen, and she hoped that it would not reflect on her healing skills. She quickly sent a messenger to her mentor. The older healer was also more skilled than she was, hopefully he'd have another potion to give this poor man. Unfortunately, it would take time before he arrived; in the meantime, her patient would become very ill.

- - - - - -

Jack didn’t know what had woken him up, but for a moment he thought that Daniel was in trouble. His head wasn’t pounding quite as fiercely, and he actually felt a little better than he had yesterday. He remembered arriving at the town, and being led into a large house. Thankfully his stomach hadn't rebelled like Daniel's had. He was given something awful tasting to drink, but as soon as his head hit the pillow, he’d fallen asleep.

As he sat up and reached for the glass of water sitting on the small table beside his bed, he heard the sound again. Oh, that was definitely Daniel; and worse, he was calling Jack’s name.

Hurriedly throwing the covers off, Jack got up and rushed out of the room. He found himself in a narrow hallway, with several closed doors to choose from. He heard Daniel call again, and it seemed to come from the room next to his. Opening the door, he saw Daniel lying restlessly on a bed in a room similar to his.

Going to his friend, Jack sat on the chair beside the bed. "Daniel?" Jack said hesitantly. Daniel’s eyes were closed, and he appeared to be in the middle of a dream. Reaching over to try and wake Daniel up, Jack could feel the fever coursing through his friend’s body. "Shhhh, Daniel, it's just me. Wake up."

"Don’t tell me to shut up, Jack." Jack drew back in surprise. Okay, he knew what Daniel was dreaming about. Damn that incident on Euronda.

"Daniel, it’s okay. It’s time to wake up now." He reached out again and gently shook his friend’s shoulder.

"You never listen to me. You told me to shut up." The words brought up feelings of horrible guilt in Jack. He'd admitted that he'd been out of line that day, and he still wasn't sure what had gotten into him. He was usually more receptive to Daniel's way of thinking. Of course he'd be the first to admit that there were times that Daniel would try the patience of a saint, and Jack was far from being one. He figured that the lure of finally getting his hands on advanced technology had gone to his head. Normally Daniel was there to temper his military tendencies, but that day he had chosen to overlook Daniel's cautions. After having made a fool of himself, Jack had invited Daniel for supper the following night and had apologized profusely.

Their friendship had been slightly strained and awkward for a week or two afterwards, but they had fallen back into their old habits when the pressures of work didn't keep them on base. Jack thought they had gotten over the incident, but it was obvious that it was still prevalent in Daniel's subconscious.

"Sir?" Carter’s voice in the quiet room startled Jack. He looked up to see her standing in the doorway.

"He’s having a nightmare. I heard him call out."

"He’s delirious, sir. He’s allergic to the herbs they gave him for the fever. They’re having trouble controlling it. I’ve been giving him our supply of meds, but I’ve run out. I think they’ve sent for another healer, they’re not sure what to do for him."

Jack put a hand to Daniel’s hot forehead, trying to ease his friend out of his dream.

"Shut up, you told me to shut up. You don't care, do you, Jack?" Daniel batted Jack’s hand away. "Leave me alone."

Jack got up, feeling a little hurt. "Well, I guess I know where I stand with him."

"Sir, I’m sure he doesn’t mean what he’s saying. He’s probably focusing on that because he’s so sick, associating the memory of his emotional pain with the physical…"

"Yeah, sure, right. I’m going back to bed, Major. Do what you can for him." Jack got up, and made his way unsteadily back to the door.

"Sir, I’m sure he really wants you here with him. You don’t have to go."

"I’ll come back when my presence doesn’t upset him as much." He looked down at his friend again from across the room for a moment, then up at Carter. "So, how are you doing? Did you catch this bug too?"

"No sir, I mean yes, but I don’t have it as bad as you do. Nothing more than a low grade fever and a mild headache."

"Teal’c get back yet?" he asked as he leaned his head against the closed door.

"No, but he radioed in a few hours ago. He should be here soon." She looked up at him in concern. "Sir, are you all right?"

"Headache’s coming back. I’m going back to bed."

As Sam accompanied Jack back to his room, Daniel opened his eyes. Seeing the door close behind Jack’s departing back, he whispered, "Jack? Don’t go…Sam?" His head felt like it was going to fall off. He wanted to try to get up and go after his friends, but the effort was too much and he fell back onto the mattress. Closing his eyes, he fell back into his tormented dreams.

- - - - - -

Three days later, Jack stuck his head into Daniel’s room. He had been checking up on Daniel regularly, but whenever his friend heard Jack’s voice, it would trigger nightmares for Daniel where he’d relive their argument on Euronda. Finally, Jack decided it was best to stay away. He steeled himself to do so, even when he heard Daniel calling for him.

Teal’c had appointed himself Daniel’s nurse, and had remained with him day and night. Another healer from a neighbouring town had arrived two days ago with different herbs, to which Daniel had finally started showing some improvement.

Jack himself had started feeling much better the previous day. He was still weak and the headache would return if he tired himself out, but at least he was able to get up and about. Jassen had been very apologetic, Jack couldn’t understand the words but he definitely got the body language. He was anxious for Daniel to get better so they could get the preliminary negotiations over and done with and start back for home.

"How’s he doing, Teal’c?" Jack whispered. He could see Daniel lying huddled on the bed, facing away from the door. Teal’c was sitting on the chair near Daniel’s bed.

"He is much improved, O’Neill. His temperature appears to be almost normal. He has been sleeping quietly now for several hours."

"Really?" Jack entered the room and quietly approached Daniel’s bedside.

Upon hearing their voices, Daniel roused and turned towards his friends. "Jack?" Daniel asked weakly. Seeing that Daniel was awake, Jack sat down on the bed beside him. Teal’c handed Jack a glass of water.

"Hey, you back with us?" He helped Daniel sit up while helping him take a few sips of the water. "You had us worried there for a while."

"Dreaming. I kept dreaming of…something. It’s gone now." Daniel’s eyes scrunched together as he fought for the elusive memory.

"It’s not important. What is, is that you’re finally getting better. You’ve been pretty sick the past few days."

"You? Sam?"

"We’re better now. You were allergic to the medicine, so it took you longer to recover."

"Allergic? Why am I always so lucky?"

"Good ol' Jackson luck." Jack pulled the blankets up over Daniel's shoulders, fiddling with the edges. "Get some rest, Daniel." He smiled gently at his friend. "It's good to see you alert finally. You were really sick there for a while."

Daniel closed his eyes, then opened them to look at Teal'c. "You were with me, weren't you?"

"I remained by your side while MajorCarter and O'Neill were recuperating," Teal'c said.

"Thank you. I remember you being here. I…it was nice knowing someone cared."

"Daniel, we all care. I'm sorry I wasn't here." Jack felt guilty for not telling Daniel the reason he hadn't stayed with Daniel was because his presence kept disturbing his friend's rest.

"You were sick too, Jack."

"Yeah," Jack said. Damn, but he felt guilty.

- - - - - -

"Jack, we've got a problem." Daniel was sitting up in bed, three large tomes spread out around him. He had been talking with Mayors Jassen and Millner for the past couple of hours. He'd had to ask one of them to go find Jack for him. He had barely seen his friend in the past days. "The people here have set customs when it comes to starting new alliances. One stipulation is that serious discussions have to start on certain days of the year. General Hammond can either send a team to start talks with them in eight days' time, which makes it Christmas Eve on Earth, or they'll have to wait about a year and a half until the next suitable day.

"Okay, eight days sounds good. We can get a team together by then. Not a problem."

"No, Jack, you don't understand. I have to go through these three books and translate them all before the team comes here. There are so many little rules and conditions that these people follow, if our team makes a mistake, it can seriously hamper the results. Jassen's offered to have someone help me go through and find all the text that's relevant to the upcoming meeting, but I'm still going to have to translate them and apprise the team."

"Can you do that in eight days."

"Do I have a choice?"

"Daniel, you're still recovering. You don't want to push yourself."

"I can't do much of anything right now anyway except read. I just wanted you to know that it's going to be tight."

"Do what you can, but if you think you won't be able to swing it, let me know. We'll try something else."

Nodding, Daniel picked up the heavy volume once again as Jack walked to the door. "Jack," he called out. As his friend turned towards him, he asked with trepidation, "are you mad at me?"

"No, why would you think that?"

"Oh, I don't know, maybe because you've been keeping your distance. I get the feeling that maybe I did something wrong…said something, maybe?"

Jack contemplated lying to his friend again, but realized that his distancing himself from Daniel really wasn't Daniel's fault. Putting his hands in his pockets, he took a few steps towards the bed. In a low voice he said, "When you were sick, you were pretty delirious. Your mind kept going back to our little…disagreement…on Euronda."

"I did? I don't remember…" Daniel sighed. "Or maybe, yeah. I think I do." Daniel hung his head and fiddled with a page of the book sitting on his lap. "I keep getting a vague feeling of unease when I think back on that. My dreams were really weird." He looked up at Jack, "I'm sorry, I guess that must have made you uncomfortable."

"Yeah, it did. But the worst part was that I was the one triggering those dreams. You got really upset when I was around."

"I did? That's weird, because I kept dreaming you were leaving me here. I couldn't keep up and you just walked away."

"Aw shit, Danny. I'm sorry, I should have stayed here with you."

Embarrassed, Daniel couldn't bring himself to look at Jack. He cleared his throat, then said, "Is that why you're staying away now?"

"Actually, yeah. Maybe. I guess I wasn't sure why you had those flashbacks, possibly you were still angry at me."

"I thought we had put that behind us."

"Yeah, so did I. So, we okay?"

Daniel grinned. "Yeah."

"Good." Taking his hands out of his pockets, Jack started for the door once again. Turning, back, he repeated, "Don't push yourself over this, Daniel." As the door closed behind Jack, Daniel looked at the pouch containing the various herbs that Jassen had given him. One contained a powerful stimulant. Not yet, Daniel thought, but he was sure he was going to need it before the week was out.

- - - - - -

On his way to Sam's lab, Daniel shifted the small statuette he was carrying from one hand to the other in order to wipe the sweat from his forehead. Balancing the small figurine along with the handful of notes, Daniel attempted to shrug his jacket off his shoulder with his free hand. It was December 23rd, the temperature in the Cheyenne mountain complex shouldn't be this warm.

The fat little figurine he was carrying was only several inches long, but it was solid jade, and was covered with ancient script. He was going to ask Sam to help him use her equipment to help enlarge the pits and grooves that were found all over the piece. He thought that there might be hidden text in the shadows. Daniel had discovered the enticing archeological find on P3S 9Q5, and was now eager to finish working with it. What he had found written on the figurine so far wasn't pertinent to his translation work, but it did give him a better understanding of the people's culture. Plus, he had several free hours before he met with SG15.

SG1 had only returned to Earth three days ago, spending a full day in isolation until Janet had determined that they were no longer contagious. Daniel had barely seen his teammates since his return due to the fact that he'd been working nonstop, literally day and night, translating all of the documentation he'd brought back from P3S 9Q5. Daniel and the rest of SG1 had worked hard getting this trade alliance set up. He had been making sure all the relevant information pertaining to their various cultures was clearly translated and properly interpreted to ensure that no misunderstandings would occur when SG15 'gated out tomorrow to finalize the details.

Daniel was pretty sure Sam was still in the complex, and was anxious to catch her before she left for the evening. Nearing her lab, Daniel could hear Jack's voice coming from inside. Smiling to himself, he made to enter the room as he was folding his jacket over his arm. As he looked in through the doorway, he saw that both Sam and Jack were leaning over Sam's worktable, with Jack pressed intimately over Sam's back. Very intimately. It appeared to be a very private moment between the two. As Daniel hesitated in the doorway, he heard Jack murmur softly to Sam, "So, you and me, Christmas Eve?"

As Sam replied, "I can't believe we're doing this, sir," Daniel quickly backed out of the room, not believing what he was hearing. Sam and Jack, together? Come to think of it, they had seemed to be much closer these past few months. Jack and Daniel hadn't been getting along all that great lately, after Jack had humiliated Daniel in public while on a mission on Euronda, but Daniel thought that those problems had been put behind them. Granted, Daniel had been making a nuisance of himself, asking questions that their host didn't seem keen on answering, but that was his job, after all. But still, their friendship had been stilted for a while after that episode, even though Jack had apologized.

Although Jack had been seeking Daniel out less and less lately, Daniel hadn't thought that their friendship had been in trouble. He had assumed it was simply because they had both been very busy. Obviously, he had thought wrong. That Jack hadn't been extending his usual after-work or weekend get togethers to Daniel had worked out fine for him. He had been spending whatever spare time he had working on Jack's Christmas present. He had compiled a map of the stars showing all of the planets that they had 'gated to, thinking that Jack would get a kick out of seeing where they had been when he looked up at the night sky with his telescope. Now he wondered if Jack had been making alternate plans with Sam those past several weeks prior to their last mission while Daniel had stayed away.

He sighed as he made his way back to his office. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve. He tried to convince himself that he didn't really care that he'd be spending Christmas alone once again. He put down the figurine and notes on his desk and picked up his coffee mug. Reaching for the coffeepot, he changed his mind and instead poured himself some water. He'd been feeling thirsty of late. He wiped his face on his sleeve as he made his way back to his desk. He hoped that they'd fix that heating problem soon.

- - - - - -

"Okay, that's good, you can let go now," Sam told her commanding officer. Jack had asked Sam for her help in putting together Daniel's Christmas gift. He'd had a small painting commissioned from a group photo that Daniel really liked. Along with the painting, he had decided to give him a photo album filled with a variety of pictures of SG1 and other friends taken over the past few years. Jack had wanted Sam's help in choosing the pictures for the album. Then of course, he'd asked for her opinion on how to place them inside, so they had just spent the past couple of hours putting the finishing touches on the gift. All that had been left was the gift wrapping, and the Colonel had ended up standing behind Sam while his fingers had become entwined in the ribbons while Sam was attempting to tape them to the wrapping. Neither had noticed Daniel standing at the door.

Jack had murmured to Sam, "So, you and me, Christmas Eve?"

"I can't believe we're doing this, sir," she said distractedly, trying to get the ribbons scotch taped to the paper, and not to itself. "You know I'm not into cooking. I don't see how much help I'm going to be setting up for your party tomorrow."

"Decorations, Carter. You're in charge of the tree. I'll handle the grub."

- - - - - -

General Hammond had convened all of the remaining staff who were on base that evening to wish them a Merry Christmas and to officially send the majority of them off on downtime. Daniel had hung back after the general's speech at Jack's request. He was impatient to get back to his office and try to lose himself in his work. As the other personnel were leaving the room, Jack addressed Sam, Teal'c and Daniel through a rather thick flow of people. When Jack started off the conversation with talk of Christmas Eve, Daniel slipped out of the room, not wanting to hear Jack tell them that he was sorry but they weren't getting together that year. None of them noticed that Daniel hadn't heard Jack's invitation for the following day as they made their way out of the crowded room.

- - - - - -

Finally having finished briefing SG15 on what they needed to know for their upcoming meeting, Daniel headed for his office. Glancing at his watch as he sat down at his desk, he was surprised to see that it was 2 o'clock in the morning. Early Christmas Eve. He felt exhausted, he had barely slept in the past few days, but he knew he still wouldn't be able to sleep yet as his mind was still working on overdrive. And there was still definitely something wrong with the heating system. Daniel was sure he'd been sweating most of the night.

He picked up the jade statuette, turning it around restlessly in his hands. He'd been holding this when he heard Jack invite Sam to spend today with him. He realized that he felt angry at the memory, and he couldn't figure out why. Sam was like a sister to him, and Jack was his best friend. And hadn't Jack been seeing his ex-wife Sara lately? Jack had told Daniel not that long ago that he wanted to see Sara, let her know he still cared even if they weren't still married. Sighing deeply, Daniel figured that most likely he was feeling hurt because neither of his friends had even cared enough to think that Daniel had nobody else to spend Christmas with. He'd have been happy to be with either one or the other. There was always Teal'c, but not being from Earth, he didn't really have any appreciation for their holidays.

Yawning, Daniel put the statuette down and headed for his bunk. He figured he'd fall asleep eventually, but ended up tossing and turning restlessly. He was too hot, and kicked off the blankets, but then couldn't find a comfortable position. After a couple of hours, he gave up and headed to the commissary. The place was emptier than it normally would have been at this time with all nonessential personnel away on leave. There was mainly a skeleton crew manning the place for the next several days. Most missions had been put on hold, except those that were absolutely necessary, such as SG15's trade negotiations.

He poured himself a cup of coffee, noticing distractedly that his hands were trembling. He picked up a muffin and sat down at a nearby table. After nibbling a few mouthfuls, he realized that he wasn't hungry. He yawned again, maybe he should just go back to bed.

- - - - - -

Finally he ended up drifting back to his office, deciding he would try to get some more work done rather than restlessly lying in bed. He thought vaguely about going home and attempting to sleep in his own bed, but the thought of going to an empty house, for some weird reason, just didn't appeal to him. Too many old memories; alone at home, trying to forget the time of year. He had finally thought he’d gotten over those negative feelings. He toyed with the idea of asking permission to go visit Kasuf and Skaara on Abydos. At least there he'd be with family. Making his decision, he decided to speak to General Hammond later today before the General left the base, and he'd make plans to 'gate to Abydos tomorrow. In the meantime, he'd try and clear his desk of work, staying busy would at least make the day go by quickly.

- - - - - -

Jack wasn't simply angry, he was furious. Where the hell was Daniel? It was Christmas Eve, for crying out loud. He'd gone to the trouble of getting this party up and organized, Sam, Teal'c, Janet and Cassandra had been here for hours already, and Daniel didn't even bother to show up. Hell, he didn't even have the courtesy to call to say that he was going to be late.

He and Carter had spent most of the morning and much of the early afternoon getting the house ready for his little get together. Jack had been looking forward to today. Finally, he would get his friends together, if lady luck was still smiling and if Daniel would only show up. For the first two years after Charlie had died, the thought of spending with people on Christmas had been abhorrent, but now, it seemed like the most natural thing to do. He wanted to be with his team - his friends…his family. Too bad Daniel didn't seem to feel the same way.

They had both been very busy in the past several weeks prior to their last mission, at least he thought that Daniel had been busy, and hadn't simply been trying to avoid him.

Dialing Daniel's number once again, he got his answering machine for the umpteenth time in the past two hours. Slamming down the phone, he went and joined his friends in the living room. "He's still not answering," he complained.

"Sir, did you try his office?" Sam suggested sweetly.

Jack could have kicked himself. Of course, he knew that for the past forty-eight hours Daniel had been extremely busy. He had simply assumed that Daniel had gone home to sleep since they were now all officially on downtime. He picked up the phone again, and this time dialed Daniel's office.

The phone rang several times, and Jack was on the verge of hanging up when it was finally picked up. Jack heard fumbling sounds at the other end before hearing someone clear their throat and saying hoarsely, "Hello."

"Daniel, where the hell have you been? We've been waiting here for you for nearly three hours now. Get your butt out of your office and over here right now."

"Jack?" he heard Daniel say almost drowsily.

"Yes, it's me. And you're holding up the party."

"Um, where are you?"

"Daniel, have you been drinking?" Jack demanded, realizing that Daniel wasn't quite coherent.

"Whaa what? No!"

"Look, you haul your butt into your car right this minute or get yourself a lift. I expect to see you at my front door before supper is served, or you're in deep shit. Janet and Cassie can't stay late, so you'd better haul ass."

Jack slammed the phone down once again. Great, either Daniel had started partying early over at the SGC, or he'd been working all day again and had forgotten about Jack's party. Since Daniel wasn't prone to drinking much, Jack figured he'd chosen to spend the day working rather than be with his friends. Jack thought to himself, why did he even bother with him? He should have just let Daniel be, he just wasn't worth the irritation sometimes. If the man wanted to be alone today, so be it.

- - - - - -

Daniel stared dumbly at the telephone receiver he still held in his hand, the dial tone buzzing loudly in the quiet room. He'd fallen asleep at his desk a short while ago, and the ringing of the phone had woken him. It took him another minute to realize that Jack had called him from his home, and not his office. His brain felt stuffed up with cotton, and he recognized the familiar signs of lack of sleep. He'd experienced the feeling often enough before.

He got up off his chair, and wavered slightly as a sudden dizzy spell hit him. Remembering that he hadn't eaten all day, he shrugged it off as he made his way to the locker room. His head started pounding by the time he got there. Changing into his civvies, he slowly made his way out of the mountain complex. It wasn't until he was signing out at the last checkpoint that the guard on duty said, "Merry Christmas, Doctor Jackson," that Daniel remembered it was Christmas Eve. Embarrassed at being caught standing there like an idiot, he stammered a 'Merry Christmas' to the guard, before heading out to his car. The cold air hit his overheated body and had him shivering by the time he got to it.

The motor turned over without any problems, considering that it had been sitting out in the cold for the past two days. He sat in his car shivering, his hands under his armpits trying to keep them warm, and cranked the heater up to high. Thankfully it hadn't snowed lately, he didn't have the energy to scrape snow and ice off his windshield. He sat in his car with his head bowed, shivering slightly, trying to will his oncoming headache to go away.

As he sat there, he realized suddenly that he was going to end up spending the evening alone at home, after all. Since he lived only several minutes away from Jack's house, he figured it wasn't worthwhile driving back to the mountain after he'd gone to see what Jack wanted.

He thought back to his telephone conversation with Jack. It was all a bit of a blur, he hadn't quite been fully awake when he'd answered the phone. All he remembered was that Jack had ordered him to come to his house. Was there some work that Daniel had forgotten to do for Jack? He was alone with Sam, why did he want Daniel? Oh yeah, he had mentioned that Janet and Cassie were there, they must have dropped in unexpectedly. Maybe he just wanted to exchange gifts. That must be it, get it out of the way…'here you go, Merry Christmas, now out you go'. Just as well he had their gifts already in the car. He had placed them there on his return from P3S 9Q5 in case he didn’t have time to get them before going to Jack’s. He'd just drop them off with Jack and go home. Which then reminded him of Teal'c. He should have stopped off at Teal'c's quarters before leaving the base to give him his gift. His brain definitely wasn't firing on all cylinders tonight. He thought about walking back to see Teal'c, but he decided that he didn't have the energy left to walk through the cold parking lot again and what felt like miles of tunnels to his tired body. Teal'c would just have to wait till tomorrow for his gift.

Daniel suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to see the general and get permission to 'gate to Abydos. Looking at the clock on the dashboard, Daniel knew that the man had probably left by now. Damn, it was almost suppertime, and he didn't want to call General Hammond at home. He smacked the steering wheel in frustration.

Deciding that the engine had warmed sufficiently, Daniel put the car in gear and started the careful drive down the mountain. As he made his way towards Jack's house, he fiddled with the heating system. It still wasn't working properly, as Daniel hadn't managed to warm up yet. He shivered throughout the forty-minute drive, the heater set as high as it would go.

He made good time, and pulling up behind Sam's car, he was surprised to see that Jack had strung Christmas lights all around the house. All the lights were on inside. Turning off the engine, he rested his head on the back of the seat for a second, trying to get the pounding in his head down to a bearable proportion before stepping out and facing Jack. Actually, he wasn't sure now why he had even bothered to drive here. Maybe he should just start the car and continue on home. He sat there in the dark, shivering and undecided.

- - - - - -

Jack had been looking out the window for the past ten minutes, waiting expectantly to spot Daniel's car coming down the street. Seeing him finally drive up and park behind Sam's vehicle, he walked impatiently to the door. Opening the door in welcome, he was surprised to see no movement coming from the darkened car. After a minute of watching and waiting, he turned to the closet and grabbed his coat, muttering to himself.

He had been relieved to finally see Daniel arrive safely, but now that relief was quickly being replaced by irritation. What the hell was the man waiting for now? He showed up nearly four hours late, and then he couldn't decide whether he was going to come inside? Stomping over to the car, his footsteps making squeaking noises on the snow in the cold night air, Jack jerked open the car door. The overhead lights came on, and Jack saw Daniel's eyes open in surprise. He'd been sitting in the car, his arms wrapped around his torso, head back against the headrest. Jack could feel the heat pouring out of the interior of the car.

"Jack?" Daniel questioned. Obviously Jack had been keeping a lookout for him, he hadn't even waited for him to step out of the car. Should he just open the trunk and hand over the presents before leaving? The cold air was filtering in through the open door, and Daniel started shivering in earnest.

In the harsh interior lighting of the car, Jack could see Daniel's flushed face and fever bright eyes staring at him in alarm. Small movements registered that his friend was shivering uncontrollably. "What the hell?" He put a hand out to Daniel's face, and saw him flinch. Ignoring his friend's reaction, his hand continued on and he felt the man's hot skin burn against his fingers. "Shit, Danny. Let's get you inside. Why didn't you tell me you're sick?"

"Sick? I'm nnnot sick, just cccold. My heater's nnnnot working."

"Oh, it's working just fine, Daniel. Trust me." Undoing his seatbelt, he grabbed Daniel's arm and started pulling him out of the car. Not having a choice but to follow, Daniel unfolded himself from the seat and attempted to stand up. The effort caused him to become dizzy, and he staggered against Jack. He put a hand out and caught himself on Jack's arm. Jack steadied his friend before reaching in and taking the keys out of the ignition. He locked Daniel's car up before pocketing the keys and steering the wobbly man back to the house.

"How the hell did you manage to drive here without having an accident in your condition?" he asked Daniel. He could see the gang waiting by the open door, watching them come up the walkway.

"I fffelt fffine when I left," Daniel argued.

"Sure you did," Jack said sarcastically. Steering him into the house, Jack looked at Janet and said succinctly, "He's sick." Janet took one look at Daniel and ordered him into bed. Not bothering to grab her coat, only her car keys, Janet ran to her car, where she kept her medical bag in the trunk.

Helping a slightly dazed Daniel up the stairs, Jack led him into the guest bedroom and grabbed a pair of sweats that Daniel usually kept there for the times when he slept over. As Jack and Teal'c began helping Daniel with his clothes, Daniel roused himself from his stupor and said to Jack, "Don't. I'll just go home." Embarrassed, Daniel tried fastening up the shirt that Jack had just unbuttoned with fumbling fingers.

"Oh no, you're not in any condition to go anywhere except into bed." Teal'c took Daniel's hands and held them as Jack finished undoing the last few buttons. His brain registering Teal'c for the first time, Daniel asked, "Teal'c, what are you doing here? He doesn't want us here." Teal'c exchanged a look with Jack. "We were awaiting your arrival to celebrate your world's winter solstice, DanielJackson." Daniel was confused. Walking into the house a few minutes ago, he had had the impression that there had been a huge number of people standing in the doorway. But now that his brain was finally catching up to his body, he realized that he had only seen Janet and Cassie downstairs, along with Sam. Why was everyone here? Had they all crashed Jack and Sam's romantic evening? Or had Jack ordered them all to come over like he'd done to Daniel?

As Jack and Teal'c finished helping the shivering man into his sweats and into bed, Janet entered the room, breathless from her dash to her car. Shooing the men from the room, she set about examining her patient.

- - - - - -

Jack grabbed a beer and sat down on the couch, staring distractedly at the Christmas tree. When had Daniel gotten sick? He'd barely seen his friend in the past two days, but he berated himself for not going to check up on him during that time. Especially since he knew that Daniel was probably still not fully recovered from his recent illness, and had been working non-stop on his latest assignment. Jack could at least have ensured that Daniel ate and slept, basic necessities that he was now certain Daniel had gone without in the past day or two.

Jack felt guilty for having been so short with Daniel on the phone. If he'd been asleep, and was running a high fever, it would explain why Daniel had sounded so confused on the phone. And he’d literally ordered him to drive here when he wasn’t in any condition to do so.

Cassie sat down beside Jack. He turned to look at her, saw her worried face. "Hey, don't worry. Danny'll be all right. He probably just caught the flu. Your mom will make him better soon." She nodded at his words, but the frown remained. Reaching over, Jack put his arm around her, hugging her close. Kissing her forehead, he looked up as Carter walked up to him. "When was the last time you saw Daniel in the past couple of days?" Jack asked her quietly.

She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Other than yesterday afternoon at the General's speech, I don't remember. I was rushing to finish a few projects before the holidays, so I didn't see him around much." Jack nodded, he was certain that that was also the last time he'd seen Daniel since their return from P3S 9Q5.

Janet came down the stairs at that moment, all eyes turning towards her. "He's resting now. I've given him something for the fever. I think he's had a relapse, but it could still just be the flu. He's been pushing himself hard the past few days. I've taken some blood just be sure." Turning to Teal'c, she asked, "Sould you mind taking the sample to the infirmary when you return to base later?" Teal'c nodded his agreement. "I'll give you instructions to give to the nurse," she added.

"Can I see him?" Jack asked.

Janet nodded, but cautioned, "Don't wake him if he's asleep. He's exhausted."

Jack rushed up the stairs, but slowed as he approached the closed bedroom door. Quietly opening the door, he could make out his friend huddled on his side in the dark room, blankets pulled up past his nose. Tiptoeing up to the bed, Jack sat on its edge, looking down at Daniel.

Feeling the bed tip slightly as someone's weight settled on the mattress, Daniel lifted his head out from beneath the blankets and opened his eyes. Seeing Jack sitting beside him outlined in the light coming from the hallway, he closed his eyes again. Daniel wished that he were anywhere but here. He should have gone straight home, not bothering to stop at Jack's. He'd crashed their party, and now because he was sick, he felt that he had surely wrecked it.

Seeing that Daniel was awake, Jack reached out a hand and cupped Daniel's too hot cheek lightly. His thumb moved gently in a caress, rasping against the stubble he felt against his hand. "Janet says she thinks you've been working too hard, and you've had a relapse." Jack said. He saw Daniel's eyes open again and look up at him. "I'm just glad you stopped here and didn't try to go home. I wouldn't want you home alone, sick like you are."

"I'm sorry," Daniel whispered hoarsely. "I ruined your evening."

"Hey, what makes you think that? It's Christmas Eve. I'd rather have you here sick in bed than at home alone, sick in bed."

Daniel couldn't believe what he was hearing. He was confused, and in his fevered mind, he was sure he wasn't wanted. "But you and Sam," he started. At Jack's upraised brows, he continued haltingly. "You, um, wanted to be alone with her tonight." Jack took his hand away from Daniel's face, and Daniel suddenly missed the contact. Jack's cool hand had felt good against his hot skin.

"Where the hell did you get that idea?" Jack queried.

"I heard you." Daniel licked his lips, trying to remember when he'd heard the conversation. "It was in Sam's lab. I was going to see Sam about something, and you and she were…were…"

"Go on," Jack prompted.

"Um, well, you told her you were going to spend Christmas Eve alone together. She said that she couldn't believe the two of you were doing this."

Jack frowned as he thought back to yesterday's conversation. "Ah crap, Danny, you misunderstood. Yes, I invited Carter over today - to help me decorate the house, for crying out loud. And where did you get the idea it was just going to be her and me? You're making it sound like we're an item here."

"Aren't you?" Daniel asked.

"No! And even if we were, it's not like I'd exclude you and Teal'c from celebrating Christmas with me. Hell, you got your invitation, along with Teal'c and Janet."

"No, you didn't invite me, Jack."

"Daniel, I clearly remember inviting all of you yesterday, not to mention last year, and the years before that. I thought you'd like to stay and spend Christmas Day too. I didn't get a chance to ask you about that, seeing as you were so busy, and I was going to do that later tonight. But I definitely did invite you here tonight."

Daniel shook his head, which he immediately regretted as the pounding suddenly intensified. Scrunching his eyes shut, he said in a small voice, "No, Jack. You didn't ask."

"Daniel, you were at the General's speech yesterday. I asked you and the others to stay behind a moment."

Guilt and remorse suddenly coursed through Daniel. He remembered. He'd run out before Jack had finished speaking. He lifted a hand from beneath the covers and ground it into his eye. "Shit," he murmured.

"It's coming back to you now?" Jack asked sarcastically.

"I sneaked out of the room," Daniel admitted. Sneaking a glance at Jack, he saw his friend's mouth purse in anger. "I thought you were going to wish us a Merry Christmas and send us off on our merry ways." He licked his lips again. His mouth was so dry.

"Daniel, for such a bright guy, sometimes you just don't get it, do you?" Seeing Daniel's discomfort, he asked, "Want some water?" At his nod, Jack filled a glass of water from the bathroom. After helping Daniel sit up to drink, Jack then placed the half empty glass of water on the night table beside the bed, close enough that Daniel could easily reach for it if he woke up later and was thirsty.

"Get some sleep, you look like shit. We'll be downstairs if you need us." Jack was a little worried, when had Daniel misconstrued the fact that he and Carter were romantically involved? And that Daniel had actually sneaked out of the room was totally out of character for his friend. Daniel's normal reaction would have been to query Jack head on. Daniel was normally a quiet, reserved young man, but when he sank his teeth into something that he truly believed in, he was worse than a dog worrying a bone. This was just a testament to how sick Daniel must have been feeling to have avoided any kind of confrontation.

In response, Daniel burrowed under the covers once again, still shivering. "You want me to leave the door open?" Daniel nodded, Jack seeing only the top of his head moving. Daniel suddenly yearned to be with his friends, but didn't want to leave the comfortable cocoon he was lying in at the moment. He'd be able to hear them talking downstairs, that would be good enough for now.

- - - - - -

The friends spent the evening talking together after supper, their enthusiasm a little more subdued knowing that Daniel was upstairs sleeping. They checked on him periodically, trying their best not to wake him. Each time they entered the bedroom, he would open his eyes, acknowledging their presence, and then he would close them and go back to sleep.

Throughout the evening, Jack kept thinking back at Daniel's confusion at a romantic interest between himself and Sam. Yeah, he admitted to himself that Sam was beautiful. And smart. And a good soldier. And the damned best second in command he'd had since Kawalsky. But he didn't think of her more than a fellow teammate and a very good friend. And he knew that she cared for him as much as she cared for the rest of the team.

But how did Daniel come to the conclusion that he was interested in Sam? After having confessed during the Zatarc incident that he and Sam had cared for one another more than they should have, it had been agreed that what was said would remain amongst those in the room. Did someone tell Daniel? But what difference would it have made? Sure, he cared for Sam, but not in a romantic manner. He cared for all of his team, definitely more than he should. It was an advantage for SG1, it was what made them function so well together. At least, it did when he didn't forget that his team members were there as a team, and when he remembered to listen to them. Damn, he still felt bad about how he'd treated Daniel on Euronda.

After exchanging gifts, they placed Daniel's unopened ones under Jack's tree. Jack knew that Daniel had bought gifts for each of his friends. On a hunch, he'd gone back out into the cold and opened the trunk of Daniel's car. There he found the gaily wrapped packages. He had wanted to distribute Daniel's gifts, but his friends had unanimously opted to wait till Daniel was better before opening them.

Cassie and Janet were the first to leave. As Janet was putting on her coat, she asked Jack, "Are you going to be okay alone with Daniel?"

"Yeah, it won't be the first time I've taken care of a sick archeologist," he answered with a smile.

"Cassie and I will be visiting with family tomorrow, but I'll have my cell phone. Call me if you need anything. And you know the drill, make sure he gets plenty of fluids, and if his fever rises higher than what it was tonight, or if any other symptoms appear, call the infirmary ASAP. Or call me. I've also given instructions for the lab to let me know the results of Daniel's blood test as soon as they're available, so I'll pass the info on to you when I get it. I've also left some Tylenol and Aspirin and instructions for you in Daniel's bedroom." Jack nodded his understanding.

Carter and Teal'c got ready to leave soon after. They went upstairs to see Daniel before departing. As they entered the room, Daniel opened his eyes. His fever prevented him from falling into a deep sleep, and he'd been dozing on and off most of the evening. He'd been aware that they had occasionally come to check on him, but he'd felt too drained to even acknowledge them.

This time Sam sat down beside him on the bed, bending over him in concern. He forced his eyes open, meeting hers. "Daniel, I just came to say goodnight, and Merry Christmas." She bent and kissed his overheated cheek. Straightening up, she ran her fingers through his hair. "You're leaving?" Daniel asked, slightly confused.

"Yeah, it's getting late. I have an early flight tomorrow, I'm spending Christmas Day with my brother Mark and his family."

"You're not staying here with Jack tonight?" he asked.

"No, wherever did you get such an idea?" Daniel closed his eyes, not bothering to answer. He was too tired to explain, let Jack do it. Anyway, he wasn't too clear as to what was going on anyway.

"Daniel, do you want me to stay here with you?" Sam asked, suddenly concerned. She cast a worried look towards the doorway, where both Jack and Teal'c were watching.

He wanted nothing more than to answer yes, but knew that she had other plans. Plans to visit family. He couldn't do or say anything to ruin that for her, not today. "No, I'm fine. Don't worry, Jack'll take care of me. Have a good trip." The effort of speaking tired him out, and he was slightly breathless when he finished. She nodded as he forced his eyes open again, and got up off the bed. As she made her way back to Jack, Teal'c took up Sam's vacated spot. "Daniel," Teal'c said. Daniel suddenly thought that he must really be sick, Teal'c rarely called him just 'Daniel'.

As Sam stood beside her CO, she said in a low voice, "His fever's up again. Is it nearly time for his medication?" Jack nodded. Seeing that the water glass was now empty, Jack reached over and grabbed it, leaving the room to fill it up.

"I am sorry that you are ill," Teal'c continued. "Hopefully you will be recovered when I return from the Land of Light." Daniel was having trouble now keeping his eyes open.

"You'll be back soon?" he asked.

"I will. I shall endeavour to visit as soon as I return." He placed a hand on Daniel's blanket-covered shoulder in farewell. Daniel pulled his hand out from under the covers and squeezed Teal'c's forearm.

Jack came over and motioned for Daniel to sit up. Teal'c helped him sit, while Jack handed him the pills, making sure that Daniel drank all of the water. Covering him back up, he tucked his friend in carefully.

They all left the room, Sam glancing back worriedly once more at Daniel's prone form in the bed. "He'll be fine, Sam," Jack said gently as he escorted them to the door.

"I know, sir," she answered automatically. She turned to Jack as she put her coat on. "What did he mean earlier, about my not staying here with you tonight?"

"I think his fever is making him a little loopy. He saw me leaning over you in your lab when my fingers were stuck in all those ribbons and tape, and got the wrong impression." Jack saw Teal'c raise an eyebrow. "It was very innocent, my fingers were stuck in the ribbons," he said defensively.

"And he, what? Ran away? That doesn't sound like Daniel."

"No, it doesn't, unless it's the fever is making him confused, like it did on P3S 9Q5. At least he's not telling me to shut up."

"You'll call Janet if anything develops?"

"Carter, for crying out loud. Stop worrying. Go, have a good time. Eat. Drink. Be merry."

"Yes sir. I'd say enjoy your day tomorrow, but I guess that it's not really appropriate anymore. Merry Christmas, sir."

"Merry Christmas, Carter. And thanks for the help," he added, pointing over his shoulder towards the tree. She nodded.

"Merry Christmas, Teal'c."

"Merry Christmas, O'Neill. I leave knowing that DanielJackson is in good hands."

- - - - - -

Jack was pouring himself a cup of coffee when the doorbell rang. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was barely 6 am. He opened the door and found Janet waiting on the doorstep. Stepping back into the house to make room for her to enter, Jack asked worriedly, "What happened?"

"I got the results of Daniel's blood tests." As she took her coat off, she said, "Colonel, do you know if Daniel's been taking any of the herbs that he brought back from P3S 9Q5?"

"No, I really didn't spend much time with him after we got back. Why?"

"There are traces of certain drugs in his system, which correspond to some of the samples your team brought back with you. And he's highly allergic to one of them."

"Oh for crying out loud. That explains a few things."

"What do you mean?"

"When he was sick on P3S 9Q5, he was pretty out of it, which was partly due an allergic reaction to the medicine they gave him. That's probably why he's so confused now. So that's what's making him sick?"

"Partly. But he's also pushed himself too hard and got overtired before his body was up to it." She watched as Jack hung her coat up in the closet. "Jack, the herbs he took are stimulants, he probably used them to keep his energy going while he finished the translations. He's still not fully recovered from his illness, he should have known better."

"He was under a lot of pressure to get that stuff finished. I know, it doesn't excuse what he did, but I understand where it was coming from. I guess it's partly my fault, I should have hung around, kept an eye on him." He thought to himself, some friend he was, allowing Daniel to get so exhausted that he had to resort to taking an alien version of caffeine to stay awake. Jack berated himself, he knew what Daniel was like, he should have been there to watch out for him.

"How is he doing now?"

"He was pretty restless most of the night, he couldn't shake the fever. He's been sleeping pretty soundly for the past hour, though."

"How much sleep did you get?" she asked, looking him over with a critical eye.

"Some," Jack answered vaguely. He had spent most of the night tossing and turning, getting up constantly to check on Daniel. Finally, he settled himself beside Daniel on top of the bed, propped up against the headboard, and spent the remainder of the night watching his friend sleep. He would have sat by Daniel's bed had Daniel been in the infirmary anyway.

"I bet," answered Janet. She suspected that Jack had spent the night sitting with Daniel. "I want to have a look at him, and take some more blood. Someone will be coming over from the infirmary soon to collect it, and to bring more medication in case you need it."

Janet preceded Jack upstairs and into Daniel's room. He was sleeping so heavily that he didn't even wake when she pricked him with the needle to draw blood. His fever still prevailed, but Jack confirmed that it wasn't raging like it had been most of the night.

"There's not much more that I can do here at the moment. Actually, I'm debating whether I should have him transported to the infirmary. I wouldn't want him getting dehydrated on top of everything, and with this fever, he's already halfway there."

"I've been trying to get him to drink, but I hate having to wake him up."

"That's why it's probably best to send him to the infirmary. Plus the unknown factor of his taking alien stimulants."

"Doc, it's Christmas. I really would hate to have him spend the day there if it's not really necessary."

"Colonel, he'll probably sleep most of the day. He wouldn't know the difference."

"Yes he would, and so would I."

She sighed. "It's against my better judgement, but I'll have someone check on Daniel again tonight. If he doesn't show a marked improvement in the next 24 hours, I'm having him transported to the infirmary."

Jack nodded his understanding. "Fair enough," he answered.

"He needs sleep, but he needs liquids also. Try waking him every two hours or so and make him drink as much as he can take. If his fever breaks, try to get him to eat something, even if it's just a light broth." Janet picked up her coat and headed for the door. "Remember, don't hesitate to call if you need me, Jack. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Janet. And thank you."

- - - - - -

Three hours later, the doorbell rang again unexpectedly. The nurse Janet had sent had come and gone. Jack had woken Daniel up a short while ago and had him drink some ginger ale. He thought maybe that the sugar in the soft drink would help keep Daniel's energy up a bit. Feeling a little cranky from lack of sleep, Jack went to the door, hoping that it wasn't someone coming to haul Daniel off to the infirmary. He hoped that they'd at least have the courtesy to give him some advance warning.

To his surprise, Sam and Teal'c stood on his doorstep. "Weren't you two going away today?" Jack asked.

As they entered, Sam said, "We changed our minds, sir. We thought we'd spend our time off with you and Daniel. Anyway, it doesn't seem right that you should be stuck taking care of him by yourself, and we felt bad leaving him when he’s so sick."

"Carter, Daniel's probably gonna sleep the day away, he won't even know that you're here." As he said them, he realized that he was repeating Janet's earlier words to him.

"We will know, O'Neill. DanielJackson is a friend, and to him we are the only family that he has here on Earth."

"Sir, we both talked it over last night, and decided that we'd rather stay here with you two. Hell, I see more of Daniel than I do my own brother. Why shouldn't we spend time together?"

Taking their coats, Jack admitted to himself that he was relieved that they had decided to stay. Not for his sake, he had no problem with taking care of Daniel himself, but for what it would mean to his friend knowing that his teammates had left their blood families to stay with him. Carter had gone upstairs to look in on Daniel while Teal'c went and made himself comfortable in the living room.

Sam tiptoed into Daniel's bedroom, quietly making her way to the bed. She looked down on him, saw how pale he looked. Gently stroking his forehead, she noted that although he still had a fever, it wasn't very high. He might have been sleeping now solely due to his exhaustion. Satisfied that he seemed better than he had the previous night, she made her way downstairs to join her friends.

"His fever's nearly gone," she told Jack. He nodded, he'd noticed that earlier when he'd been up to see Daniel.

They settled before the television, watching old Christmas classics. At lunchtime, Jack heated up leftovers for them, and then brought some toast and fruit upstairs to see if he could coax Daniel to eat something. Teal'c and Sam followed him to the room. Daniel was still sleeping soundly. Jack hated to wake him, but he knew that Daniel needed sustenance, along with liquids.

Urging him to sit up, Jack propped several pillows behind his back, placing the tray on his lap. Daniel looked up groggily, and was confused upon seeing Sam and Teal'c standing by his bed. "How long did I sleep?" he asked. "Weren't you guys going away?"

"It’s lunchtime, Daniel," Sam replied, sitting down at the foot of Daniel's bed. "And Teal’c and I decided to spend Christmas with you instead."

"Why?" Daniel asked. He couldn't understand why they would decide to stay here with him while they had families to go to. And especially since he had literally been insentient for most of the morning.

"We are your family, DanielJackson," Teal'c voiced from the doorway. "We wished to stay and remain by your side."

"Um guys, you didn't have to do this," he said in a troubled voice. He felt bad that he'd made them feel guilty enough to stay behind. "I'm fine, I'll be going home in an hour or two."

"Huh uh, you're not going anywhere, Danny." Jack placed a glass of orange juice in Daniel's hand and urged him to drink. "You're just gonna eat and get some more rest, until Doc Fraiser says you're well enough to be up and about."

"Jack, I'm fine, really. I feel better already." Daniel put the empty glass down on the tray, and started to pick at the toast.

"Uh huh, yeah, sure you do. Just trust me on this, okay? It was all I could do to convince Fraiser to let you stay here and not haul you back to the infirmary this morning. So eat. Before she comes back and says I'm not feeding you."

Daniel took a bite of his toast to try and make Jack happy. He finally managed to force down most of his meal, along with another glass of juice. Just the effort of sitting up was making him tired, and picking up on this, Jack helped him lie back down.

"I'm sorry, Jack. This must be a lousy way for you to spend Christmas."

"You're wrong there, Danny. Like I said before, I'm just glad that you're gonna be okay, and that you're here with us. Get some sleep, okay?" Daniel nodded weakly at Jack's request.

Sam stayed with Daniel until he fell asleep, her hand gently stroking through his hair. Daniel still felt bad that his illness had compelled them to change their plans, but at the same time he felt contented to know that they had chosen to be with him. He fell asleep with a lighter heart, happier than he had been since he'd misunderstood Jack and Sam's conversation the past Sunday.

He woke again on his own this time, a few hours later. He could hear an occasional sound coming from the television downstairs, and his friends' soft murmurs as they talked. He wanted nothing more than to curl back up and sleep, but his over-filled bladder was insisting that it be emptied. Making his unsteady way to the bathroom, he took care of business, and once up, decided to go and join his friends. Upon hearing the toilet flush, Jack had started up the stairs, only to meet Daniel partway on the staircase.

"Where do you think you're going?" Jack asked.

"I'm feeling better. I thought I'd come and join you guys."

"I don't think so, Daniel."

"Jaaack." Daniel continued to make his careful and shaky way down the stairs. By the time he'd reached the last step, he decided it had been a bad idea. He made a beeline for the couch, needing to lie down again. Teal'c was there to give him a hand. Seeing Daniel head for the couch, Jack ran upstairs and grabbed a pillow and blanket off of Daniel's bed. By the time he came back downstairs, Daniel was lying curled up on the couch. Shaking his head, Jack covered him with the blanket and placed the pillow under his head. Daniel was sweating slightly from his exertions.

"Bad idea, I guess," he admitted. "But I wanted to be with you guys."

Sam was sitting on the coffee table before Daniel. "It's okay, we understand. It's just that Janet will probably kill us when she finds you downstairs," she said, grinning.

Daniel grinned back. Looking behind Sam, he spotted Jack's Christmas tree. "Jack, you got a tree. It looks great!"

"That's because Carter decorated it. And because there are still gifts under it." Seeing Daniel's eyes light up, Jack continued. "We'll open them later, when you're a bit stronger, okay?" Daniel nodded. As much as he wanted to see his friends open his gifts, he didn't think he'd be able to manage staying awake that long. His eyes closed involuntarily. He opened them again when he heard Sam moving away from the couch.

"Where you going?" he asked sleepily.

"To let you sleep," she answered.

"No, I want to be here with you. If you move to the kitchen, I may as well have stayed upstairs. Please, I just want to listen to you guys."

Realizing that Daniel needed to be with his friends, Jack moved to the far end of the sofa, and nudged Daniel’s feet, hinting that he wanted some space in order to sit. Sam and Teal'c took up both armchairs on either end of the room. They continued talking quietly, as Daniel fell asleep to the sound of their voices.

- - - - - -

He'd dozed on and off most of the afternoon, rousing long enough to join his friends in a light supper. He'd been content to lie there all afternoon, listening to them talk, the TV droning in the background.

Janet herself stopped by that evening to check on Daniel. He'd fallen asleep leaning on Jack after eating, so the Colonel had gently nudged the slumbering man until he was lying on the sofa again. His breathing was deep and regular, and Jack knew that Daniel was getting quality sleep, and not the light sleep that usually accompanies fever. He never woke up during Janet's examination, once again the prick of a needle doing nothing more than eliciting a slight hitch in his breathing. It quickly evened out into deep regular breaths. She was bringing the blood sample to the infirmary herself, as she was on duty that evening.

When they were all ready to go to bed, Teal'c carried Daniel upstairs and placed him gently on the mattress. Sam tucked him in, while Jack got spare bedding for Sam, who was spending the night on the couch. Teal'c had offered to sit with Daniel throughout the night. He would meditate, easily able to slip out of kel-no-reem if Daniel needed something, allowing Jack to rest easily.

When Jack woke up the next morning and checked on Daniel, he found Daniel in virtually the same position as when Teal'c had laid him in bed. He was still very deeply asleep, and Jack was relieved to find that he didn't appear to be feverish. Smiling to himself, he roused Teal'c and headed off to make breakfast.

When breakfast was ready, Sam went up to wake Daniel, who came down to join them for the meal, looking much better and stronger than he'd been the previous day. He joined them again in the living room, dozing on and off most of the morning. This time Sam ended up serving as his pillow while he slept on the couch.

Janet and Cassie arrived later that afternoon, Jack having called Janet to invite them to come and open Daniel's gifts. While supper was cooking, they all gathered in the living room, Daniel surrounded by Cassie and Janet. This was the time that Daniel loved, watching his friends' expressions as they opened his gifts. Paper and ribbon was strewn all around, boxes and presents littering the floor.

When Jack opened Daniel's gift, he realized that his friend must have put in hours making the map of the night sky. When Jack looked at Daniel in wonder, Daniel admitted, "I ended up having to learn a lot more about astronomy that I had originally planned. I think I'll understand more now when we go up and look at the stars this summer."

Jack had saved his gift for last, and handing over first the photo album, he was pleased to see his friend's face light up as he flipped through the pictures. Finally handing over the painting, he was alarmed when Daniel's eyes suddenly filled with tears. With shaking hands, he touched the painted visages of his teammates on the canvas. "Jack, when did…this is…it's so…I don't know what to say."

" 'Thank you' would be good," Jack quipped.

"But who…when did you have this done?"

"Sara has a friend who's an artist. I remember she did really good portraits, so I asked Sara to contact her for me."

"It's beautiful, Jack. Thank you." He looked up at Jack. "And thank you for everything you did for me these past few days. I'm sorry I was such a pain."

"That's okay, I’m getting used to taking care of you, " Jack teased.

Sam and Janet got up and started cleaning up the room, while Jack went to set the table. As they heaped their plates full, Jack raised his wineglass in a toast.

"Here's to next year. Hopefully by then we'll have practiced enough times to get Christmas done right."

Looking around at his friends, Daniel raised his own glass of apple juice, thinking that actually, Christmas didn't get any better than this.

"I don't think we need to practice anymore, Jack, we've had so many rehearsals. Besides, I think you got it right each time."

FINIS!

Author's Comments:
MajelB, my heartfelt thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to doing the beta. Any mistakes herein are hers..er... mine (darn).
And Devra, thanks again for all the encouragement.

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DISCLAIMER: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.