Sam slunk though the door to the infirmary with an almost guilty look on her face, something roughly palm-sized held tightly against her chest. She immediately spotted Daniel in the farthest bed, staring vacantly at the ceiling. It had been three days since they returned from PQX-830 and Daniel was still lying more or less immobilized in his bed. It was a necessary precaution to keep him from causing additional damage to his spine or surrounding tissue before it had a chance to heal a bit. On further consideration Janet had decided not to rush him into surgery. Sam had been there when she came to tell Daniel it wouldn’t be necessary, explaining that the pieces of his broken spine didn’t pose any risk of complications.
“Just that comfy-sounding back brace to look forward to then,” Daniel had replied with cold detachment in his voice.
Sam was surprised to not see Jack at Daniel’s side, a fact that was equally – and painfully – clear to Daniel. Jack had in fact only been to visit him once since they came home. Of course…I was pretty rude.
Jack had been by Daniel’s side as soon as Janet would allow it, the ever vigilantly hovering hen mother watching over her wounded chick. Usually his company was a comfort to Daniel. His presence was a representation of family that he’d never had as a child but somehow had finally found as an adult at the SGC. That first night after PQX-830 however he would rather have been alone. The aftermath of Janet’s diagnosis still had him in a teetering emotional state. Even after everything he’d shared with Jack he could never get quite comfortable with allowing his feelings to show, and tonight he was all full of feelings. Despair bubbled in him like a witch’s cauldron, mingling with anger and sadness to a churning mess that threatened to drown him dry. Keeping it in just made him feel worse, and he desperately wished Jack would just go away so he could wallow in his misery in peace.
At first Jack had tried to joke, baiting Daniel for a bout of banter. It usually did the trick of lifting the spirits when one of them was stuck in the infirmary. Failing to get any response he had tried with a different sure conversations starter card, and asked about the ancient civilization they’d discovered on PQX-830. He even went as far as offering to smuggle in a monitor and Daniel’s tape from the underground room, but all he got was a non-committal:
“Nah, I should probably try to get some rest.”
That shut Jack up for a while. Nothing left in the bag of tricks to cheer Mr. Klutz up, Daniel thought and lay silently staring at the dimmed lights in the ceiling. Not much else to do when you can’t move half of your body and aren’t allowed to move the rest. A streak of icy bitterness was slowly joining the stormy concoction of emotion in his heart.
Jack could tell Daniel wasn’t really resting. Making a qualified guess to the direction of his thoughts, he once more racked his storages of topics that might steer his friend away from their destructive path. He was out of the sure-fire ones, but then again none of them had worked. Instead he latched onto the last good time they’d shared on the skating rink and the nearby topic of hockey. Maybe I can get him started on that banter anyway.
“You know, there’s a game on tonight.” He could practically feel Daniel sigh, but powered on in hope regardless. “To bad we’re stuck here and are missing it. You want me to do the ‘smuggling in a monitor’-trick so we can watch it?”
He heard the sigh this time, an angry puff of air escaping Daniel’s lips as he turned his head to look at him. The blue eyes were ablaze with fury, not unlike the way they would burn when he was about to correct Jack on a matter of humanity or value of ancient artifacts. They held coldness too, the likes of which Jack had never seen in the man before. A coldness that seeped into his voice as he opened his mouth to speak, making each word that came out hard as steel.
“I'm sorry you're missing your precious hockey. Had I known there was a game on tonight I wouldn't have BROKEN MY BACK! And speaking of hockey, I won't be much use as a recruit for your team seeing as I'm never going to walk again.”
“Daniel...” There was pain in Jack's voice, but Daniel's own agony made him numb to hear it.
“Go away, Jack. Just... Go!”
Jack reluctantly rose from his seat at the side of the bed. He searched for something to say, but out of the two of them he was not the one skilled with words. He started to put his hand on Daniel's arm but every inch of the younger man's body screamed that he would have turned away if he could. Admitting defeat Jack retreated out the door, silently vowing to find a way to help his friend.
Daniel didn’t seem to notice Sam as she made her way across the infirmary room and stopped a few yards from his bed. For a moment she just stood and regarded him, the object in her hand momentarily forgotten at the heartbreaking sight before her.
Daniel’s eyes, fixed on the concrete ceiling, held a strange look; something so utterly defeated that in Sam’s meaning it didn’t belong there. She couldn’t remember ever seeing him like this. The look on his face was silently pronouncing that he’d completely given up. Daniel never gave up. Not in the face of defeat, not even in death, never, he just … doesn’t give up. After all the horrible things he’d seen, all that he had lost, he still struggled on with a sparkle of hope in his eyes. The only time she’d seen him near to this despondent was when he was dying from radiation after the incident on Langara – but even then he had found a way out. Daniel’s perseverance was one of the things she admired most in him, and now it was as if it had simply disappeared.
“Daniel?” she breathed, unable to suppress the tremor of emotion in her voice.
He turned his head and smiled at her, like he always did, but just like the sparkle of hope in his eyes the usual brightness of the smile seemed to have been snuffed out. When Jack had approached her with his request she hadn’t thought it was a good idea. She had lingered on the same idea herself, but had dismissed it because of the risk. However, seeing Daniel like this she understood where Jack had been coming from, and like him she felt an almost desperate need for anything that might help.
“I guess you’re sick of ‘how are you’?” she tried to joke, and was rewarded with another not-quite-sincere smile.
Even in his defeated state Daniel was perceptive as few, and his quick eyes immediately noticed the object in her hand.
“Brought me a present?”
Hesitantly she brought the object up for him to see, revealing the red and gold of a Goa’uld healing device.
“I know it didn’t go very well last time I tried using this on you…”
Daniel held his hand up to halt her excuses.
“Hey, that wasn’t your fault, remember. Janet told me – she keeps telling you – I might have crashed anyway.”
“I know…but… Either way, I thought maybe we could give it try. If you dare let me?” She gave him a crooked smile.
“Well, I guess I can’t get any worse.” The smile was still on Daniel’s lips but the dejection in his eyes leaked into his voice. It gave it a bitter tinge that sat as well in Sam’s ears as nails on a chalkboard. She forced herself to keep smiling.
“Just for safety I should get Janet here, in case something goes wrong.”
Daniel nodded his agreement. As much as he felt like he didn’t care, he wasn’t stupid. It was only common sense to not attempt a medical procedure, even an alien one, without a doctor present.
When Sam went to fetch the base’s resident health enforcer, Daniel felt something stir in his chest. Despite his best attempts to beat it down, Sam’s offer had reignited that rebellious spark of hope in his heart. He tried to tell himself to be prepared for the healing not to work, but he couldn’t help his optimistic nature bubbling alive again.
Janet’s eyes were, if possible, even faster on the uptake than Daniel’s. As soon as she came up to the side of the bed she spotted the healing device that Sam had left in Daniel’s lap.
“Are you crazy?!” she exclaimed. “No! That’s the answer; No! No, I will not allow this.”
“Janet.” Daniel’s voice was soft but determined. “We aren’t asking permission. I want Sam to do this – but I want you to be here to keep an eye on things. Just in case.”
“Daniel, I know you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new situation, but we don’t really know what we’re dabbling with when it comes to that thing.” Seeing her pleading words had no effect on him she turned to Sam instead. “Don’t you remember what happened last time you tried this, Sam?”
“I know, but…”
“My mind is made up.” Daniel interrupted Sam, directing his words to Janet. “Are you going to help or not?”
Janet refocused her effort on deferring Sam from the idea. Without her it doesn’t matter how much he wants it.
“Maybe if your father and Selmak could…”
Sam shook her head.
“I’ve called him. He can’t get away.”
“What about another Tok’ra?”
“They say they can’t send anyone.” Or don’t want to. Inconsiderate bastards. Despite the Tok’ra claiming to be friends of Earth, and her own father being one of them, they seldom seemed to care very much for helping out unless they had anything to gain.
Janet sighed with resignation. However unnecessary and risky she thought this attempt was Daniel seemed decided. Knowing they would probably be going through with it with or without her, there was no way she would walk away without doing what she could to help.
Calling for a nurse to help her she began hooking Daniel up to the monitors and readying any and all machines and tools she could think of needing if this went horribly wrong. When the contacts had been applied and the squiggly line on the heart monitor showed Daniel’s steady heartbeat, she gave a reluctant nod to Sam that she could begin.
Sam closed her eyes, and sliding her hand under the handle on the healing device she sent a silent prayer to any real god that may still exist in the universe.
The power from the Goa’uld device instantly coursed through her veins on the naquada left there by Jolinar. As she positioned her hands over Daniel’s midsection she could feel the damage to his spine; the cracked vertebrae, the shredded nerves, the bruised muscles. Such a small, localized injury, but still so devastating to the function of his body. She focused on the nerves and envisioned them knitting back together.
Though the work was wholly mental, it was physically straining and made the sweat break forth on her brow. As her focus tunnel-visioned on the image of Daniel’s spine in her mind everything else muted away. The rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor became as distant as the call of a fog horn in the dusk. Janet and the nurses became invisible, immaterial presences at the edge of perception.
To Janet it was an agonizing wait, measuring the moments in each rise and fall of the line on the monitor. She searched Daniel’s face and saw that he was biting his lip to contain an outburst of pain. With the readouts of her machines and the reassurance in his eyes as her only guidelines she attempted to conclude whether it was the pain of healing or harm. His pulse had hastened a bit, but it was still steady so she gambled and put her money on healing. To her greater dismay she could also tell that the procedure was straining Sam, but without understanding of how the healing device actually worked she was reluctant to interrupt. I really hope this doesn’t just land me with two of my best friends as patients instead of one.
The last of the ragged nerve-endings melded into each other and Sam turned her attention to the bones, attempting to realign and reattach the broken pieces. This seemed harder to do; her concentration slowly slipping in pace with the taxing of her strength. She vaguely felt her body begin to shake from exhaustion, but bit her lip and tried to go on. She blinked her mental eye, tried to regain her focus, but she was quickly realizing she wouldn’t be able to regain the level of control she needed to finish. Gathering up her last strength she forced the broken pieces of bone into the right position to heal, before she sank unconscious to the floor beside Daniel’s bed.
When Daniel cried in pain at the very same moment as Sam collapsed on the floor, Janet was torn between her concerns. As an experienced commanding medical officer she rapidly made the choice of triage.
“Evans, take care of the major” she ordered one of her nurses while she bent over Daniel to examine him. He was still awake – a good sign – and the sudden pain seemed to have subsided.
“How do you feel?” Janet asked.
“I’m okay.” He appeared a bit out of breath, but that wasn’t unexpected since the healing had caused him some pain all the way through. Apprehensively she folded back the cover from his feet, bringing to both their minds the memory of three days ago when she’d had to tell him he would never walk again. She read the question on her own mind in his eyes. Will this be anything more than a replay of that?
She ran a finger under his foot, tickling the reflexes for a response no earthly medicine could possibly have returned to him. The twitch was so slight she almost took it for wishful thinking, but the gasp from the head of the bed was more than enough confirmation of its fact.
“Do it again,” he urged her, as if he too doubted the reality of the nerve signals getting through. Since another confirmation wouldn’t hurt, Janet gladly obliged and ran her finger across the sole of his foot again. This time she saw the reflexive spasm clearly, and encouraged she proceeded to poke and tickle different parts of Daniel’s feet and legs to test the response of different nerves. At each touch she was rewarded with Daniel’s smile, which was slowly but steadily regaining its bright genuinity. Finally she felt assured enough to give her verdict on the success of the procedure.
“It seems that you have regained full sensory capability. I can’t say how far the healing goes concerning your motor functions, though. That will take some more testing, but the improvements are a good sign.”
With a pat on Daniel’s arm she turned to her other patient, whom the nurses had lifted onto the neighboring bed. Sam was still unconscious, but the nurses’ calm movements told Janet that was most likely all there was to it. Seeing the doctor’s investigative look, Lieutenant Evans reported.
“She just passed out, ma’am. Pulse and breathing are steady. Most likely just exhaustion.”
“Good. Keep monitoring her.” Janet turned to the other nurse. “Samuels, help me get Dr. Jackson to the MRI for an x-ray.” Better just get started on those additional tests at once.