The Long Haul

Chapter 12: Better Dead

SGC Infirmary

Janet tapped Colonel O'Neill on the shoulder, rousing him from his nap. He sat up in the chair, rubbing his eyes.

"What, what is it?"

Doctor Fraiser didn't reply, she simply pointed to the bed next to him, drawing his attention to the pale figure stirring beneath the sheets.

A drip stand on the other side of the bed connected to a cannula on the back of Daniel's hand, replacing lost fluids and administering at intervals either antibiotics or pain relief.

A wire cage kept the weight of the bedding from pressing on his damaged feet.

Daniel yawned, blinked, and spotted his friend leaning toward him. "Jack?"

"Hey there, how's our sleeping beauty?" Jack greeted him jovially.

"Still unbelievably tired," Daniel admitted, yawning again to prove it. He tried to lick his lips; they felt dry and rough as rocks. Problem was, his tongue felt like sandpaper.

Janet elevated the head end of his bed and passed him a drink of water in a lidded cup with a straw. His hand was a little shaky so he was glad the lid stopped it from spilling. He sipped the cool clear liquid gratefully.

"How long have I been asleep?" he asked.

"You've been out of it for the best part of three days."

"Earth days, or Mendan days?"

Dr. Fraiser smiled in satisfaction at his level of responsiveness. She took his temperature, "Fever's definitely broken."

"What'd I miss?" Daniel frowned.

"Oh, nothing much," quipped Jack. "While you were snoring back here we only went and overthrew Drogor the dictator and gave Menda back to the Mendans. Hammond wasn't best pleased we'd committed 'his people' - " Jack mimed speech marks in the air to emphasize the quote. "- to a coup, but I soon talked him round. Just like we 'persuaded' Drogor and his men to leave Menda in peace and hook up with the resistance fighters on P2X- 418 instead. No biggie."

"Drogor," Daniel mused. "I remember now. His symbol's the shark."

"Excuse me?" Jack looked from Daniel to the doc. She'd just assured him Daniel's fever had broken, yet he sounded pretty delirious to Jack.

"God of the angry oceans, creator of hurricanes and tsunamis. Bet he caused all that damned rain." Daniel grimaced at the memory.

"He wasn't Goa'uld, Daniel." O'Neill reminded him.

"No. Dragon Realms. RPG." Daniel sipped the water again. His mouth felt so dry; his throat dreadfully sore.

"A computer game?" Janet queried. "I hardly think it likely some alien would be named after a character in one of our computer games." She too looked concerned for Daniel's mental state.

Daniel shook his head as if trying to clear it. "No, I guess you're right. I seriously doubt there's a connection. Some coincidence though, huh?"

"If you say so, Danny boy," Jack thought it best to humor the invalid, but couldn't resist a little dig. "Say, you okay? You didn't get knocked on the noggin too did ya?" Jack rapped him gently on the forehead with his knuckles as if knocking to see if anyone were at home.

"I'm fine, Jack; just really, really tired." Daniel paused a moment, looking confused, "Too?"

Jack could have sworn he actually saw the light-bulb go on.

"Princess Ro'Pita! Is she all right? I'm afraid I was mean to her. I snapped at her and said some harsh things, even though I'd guessed she'd lost her gift. She must've been really frightened and confused and I should've been more sympathetic."

"Yes, Daniel, you should have been more sympathetic to us. However, you were under extreme duress and much fatigued so we have decided to forgive you." The voice came from the other side of a curtain drawn between Daniel's bed and the next. She bade Janet pull it back so that they may talk face to face.

"That's very gracious of you, Highness," Daniel acknowledged. "How are you feeling?"

"We are still frightened and confused, but no longer in pain, thanks to the doctor's medications. We hope that your feet and back no longer trouble you so much. We do not wish for Daniel to continue to suffer."

"Thank you, Highness. I think Doctor Fraiser has me pretty doped up on painkillers too."

Janet nodded in confirmation.

"We are curious, Daniel. How could you have known about our loss? You have no such gift for truth-saying yourself or you would have had no need for us to help you with your prisoner in the first place."

"You gave yourself away when you accused me of betraying you, Highness. Your gift should have told you I wasn't working with the Mendans."

"Daniel is very wise," Ro'Pita smiled at him.

He smiled back, stifling a yawn. His eyelids were drooping.

"Daniel is also in need of rest," Janet put in firmly. "With respect, Highness, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you and Colonel O'Neill to leave him in peace to get some sleep now."

"But I've been asleep for the past three days, Janet," Daniel protested irritably, "Why am I still so tired?"

"This is not just your 'bushed after pulling an all-nighter translating some alien text' kind of tired, Daniel. This is 'pushed your body way beyond the limits of what is reasonable to expect it to cope with' kind of total physical exhaustion. You need complete rest and plenty of it. And I intend to make sure you get it, even if it means I have to sedate you; though I'd prefer not to resort to that if I can help it."

She smiled to make it seem less like a threat, but Daniel wasn't fooled. She knew how much he hated to be sedated.

Daniel lifted his wrists slightly in a subtle gesture of surrender. If he were honest, it was a struggle to keep his eyes open. Even as Jack was promising to go and let the others know how he was doing, Daniel slipped back into Hypnos' soothing embrace.

04:17am Infirmary

Daniel tossed restlessly despite his exhaustion. He woke frequently, feeling achy in his joints and muscles and not at all refreshed. Once, he'd shuffled around trying to get comfortable and a sharp cry escaped his lips. Dr. Fraiser had been there almost instantly, setting up a slow release dose of pain relief. Mostly after that he fell right back to sleep each time he woke.

That had been hours ago, and the positive effects were starting to wear off when he roused once more. He tried to settle, but something disturbed his attempt to drift off again. A noise. It took a moment for his foggy brain to identify it.

Crying: it was the sound of someone sobbing.

"Highness?"

"Oh!" Ro'Pita gasped loudly. "We are sorry, Daniel, we did not mean to disturb you."

"What's wrong, Highness? Are you in pain? Should I call the doc?"

"We have just seen your Doctor. We could not sleep and she sought to reassure us. She informed us that our... 'scans?' is that the word?" she waited for his confirmation.

"Scans, yes, Highness. They help us to see what's going on inside the body so we know what needs fixing."

"Our scans show there is nothing that can be fixed. There is a crack in our head-bone that will heal in time, but there is no significant damage to our brain. Your Doctor thought this to be good news. We do not. If it is not broken then it will not mend, Daniel. Our gift will not return. Our gift will never return." Ro'Pita wailed.

Daniel twisted round to look at her, grimacing at the movement. "I'm sorry, Highness, I was hoping-"

"—As were we. But there is no hope. Daniel nearly died for us – for nothing. We are nothing but trouble and nuisance and annoyance. It would be better for everyone if we were dead!" She sobbed again.

"I disagree Highness," Daniel told her softly. "I for one would be very sad if your Highness were to die."

She sniffed. "Thank you, Daniel. We do not deserve your kindness. In fact, you should no longer call us 'Highness' for we are brought low. We are..." she paused, "I am less than the humblest servant in our... uh... my palace. At least they have purpose."

He could almost see the thought process by which she saw the loss of her gift as a loss of identity. It was as if the 'royal we' had referred to Ro'Pita and her gift as two entities, and now she was alone. Poor kid.

"High-"

"No!"

"Princess, just because you don't have your gift doesn't mean you're worthless."

"W- I am no longer of use to anyone. Not to my own people nor yet to you or your people, Daniel. Without my gift I cannot discern unequivocally if your prisoner is a deceitful Goa'uld, or truly Tok'ra as he claims." She spoke slowly, careful to correct the pluralis majestatis she no longer believed she deserved whenever she instinctively began to use it.

"Ah, but he doesn't know that." The germ of an idea was forming in Daniel's weary mind. "Princess Ro'Pita, I believe we shall have to educate you in the fine art of 'bluffing' while you're here."

Despite his encouraging smile, Ro'Pita noticed a pained expression in his eyes.

"W- I do not understand this reference, but this is not the time to pursue it. Daniel needs to rest. Should I summon the doctor to sedate you?"

Daniel frowned. "No," he told her emphatically, then softened his tone. "No, Highness, that won't be necessary."

True to his word, before she could correct him for calling her Highness again, he had fallen back to sleep.

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