“I’m fine.” Daniel insisted one last time.
Yes, his head was shrieking at him, screaming the way it always did any time he went toe to toe with a ribbon device. He knew the routine. It would hurt. It would get worse. Then it would get better. However, he wasn’t about to waste any time lying around the infirmary until he knew Sarah was alright.
“I’m sure you are, but I still need to check you out.” Janet insisted.
“Can’t it wait?” He asked, narrowing his eyes against a particularly savage stab of pain, doing his best to hide it from her.
“I’d rather it didn’t.” She said, though he could tell by her tone that she was softening.
“We’ve been through this before.” He said. “At least half a dozen times. It was just a ribbon device.” He shrugged. “Please. I really need to be there when she wakes up. I don’t want her to be alone.”
“Alright.” Janet relented. “Just stay in the infirmary until I have a chance to examine you, ok?”
“Ok.” He smiled. “Thank you, Janet.”
“Don’t make me regret this.” She called after him as he headed across the main infirmary to the only occupied bed in the room.
Another vicious stab of pain had him clenching his teeth, resisting the urge to grab his head before it split in two. It was no big deal, he told himself as he approached Sarah’s bed. Just another day at the office. No sooner had the thought crossed his mind then the room suddenly tilted to one side, the floor appearing to dip and sway beneath his feet. Daniel caught himself against the side of Sarah’s bed and gently settled onto the mattress. Nothing to worry about, he insisted. Sometimes he got dizzy in addition to having a raging headach. It was no big deal. He’d make sure Sarah was alright, or as alright as a person could be after the nightmare she’d been living. Then he’d suffer through an examination and go find a dark, quiet place to sleep it off. Give it a couple of days and he’d be good as new…or something like that.
Daniel sat in silence, watching Sarah sleep, doing his best to ignore the screaming of his head or the latest addition of the roiling of his stomach, but it soon became obvious that if either one got much worse he was going to have a hard time hiding it from Janet. In fact, as the minutes ticked by it became a race to see whether Sarah would wake up before he was forced to make a mad dash to the infirmary bathroom to empty his stomach into the toilet. At which time Janet would confine him to a bed of his own. However, when Sarah finally stirred everything else vanished from his mind, his own discomfort pushed roughly aside. She needed him and he was not about to let her down, not over something as trivial as a ribbon device migraine.
“It’s alright, you’re safe.” Daniel assured her the moment her eyes opened.
“Daniel?” She said quietly, scanning the room, obviously a bit confused by the change of scenery.
“It’s alright. I’m here. It’s all over. You’re free.” He assured her, drawing her to him and swallowing convulsively as his stomach rolled again.
“I’m so sorry.” She whispered as she held him tightly.
“It’s not your fault.” Daniel assured her, gently stroking her back.
“I couldn’t stop it.” She said miserably.
“We’ll get you through this.” He assured her, resisting the urge to crush her against him when his head shrieked insistently enough to have him involuntarily curling in on himself.
It had been a while, but Daniel had to admit, his head seemed to hurt more this time than it had the last few times he’d been through this. Maybe he had just forgotten how it felt. After all, the last time he’d been hit with one of those things it had been before he’d ascended. Maybe his memory of it wasn’t exactly spot on.
“Are you ok?” Sarah asked, pulling back from him when a quiet grunt of pain escaped him.
“F…fine.” He said, with a tight smile.
“You’re bleeding.” She informed him, concern wiping away her look of abject misery.
He could feel the trickle of fluid from his nose and reached up to swipe at it, his face folding into a scowl when his fingers came away bright with blood. Ok, this was not normal.
“I…I…fine.” He said, curious that it suddenly seemed to take so much energy to speak.
No, this was definitely not normal.
“Help!” Sarah called, growing frantic. “Somebody! He needs help!”
Janet checked Daniel’s pulse one more time, scanning the machines that were monitoring his brain activity and heart rate. With a heavy sigh, she patted his arm and headed out of the isolation room. She’d been through ribbon device recovery before. In fact, very nearly every time she had treated a person for symptoms it had been Daniel. She knew what to expect. They both did. However, something had obviously changed and for the life of her Janet couldn’t explain why. The only obvious difference was that this had been the first time Daniel had been exposed to one of those things since ascending. Maybe something had changed in his brain chemistry to cause a stronger reaction than he’d had in the past. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but it was the only explanation she had.
What normally produced severe headaches and nausea was now inspiring an intracranial bleed. When she had reached Sarah’s bed he had been bleeding freely from his nose and ears, a look of confusion crossing his face just before his eyes had rolled back in his head and he had gone tumbling from the bed. Thanks to the quick reflexes of one of her nurses he had been spared the additional injuries caused by actually hitting the floor. The bleeding had stopped, but a scan had shown that there was a lot more damage to Daniel’s brain than Janet had ever suspected. Certainly more than she had seen from previous ribbon device attacks. Annoyed by the fact that she was about to approach the General with “I don’t know, Sir” for an answer, Janet stomped toward the elevator.
As she entered the briefing room she found SG1 already gathered around the table, General Hammond coming out of his office as soon as he saw her.
“What’s the status on Doctor Jackson?” He asked, settling into his chair at the head of the table.
“He’s critical, Sir.” She advised.
“I thought she just hit him with the ribbon device.” Sam replied, voicing the confusion of the rest of her team.
“That’s what he said.” Janet confirmed. “But it doesn’t explain what I’m seeing.”
“Which is?” Hammond coaxed.
“Daniel has an intracranial bleed. According to the latest scan there is damage to his left frontal lobe.”
“What does that mean?” Sam asked.
“It’s too early to tell.” Janet sighed. “There could be some brain damage, but how much, we won’t know until he wakes up.”
“Wait, ‘brain damage’?” Jack echoed. “How serious?”
“I don’t know, Colonel.” Janet admitted. “The frontal lobes are sensitive areas. Any damage always carries a risk that the memory or communication skills could be affected, but we really won’t know until he regains consciousness.”
“So why is this different from the last…however many times he’s been hit with one of those things?” Jack asked.
“I’ve been asking myself that same question, Sir.” Janet said. “He’s never been this badly injured before and I can’t explain why there’s a difference this time.”
“Osiris was using a memory device to manipulate his dreams.” Teal’c supplied, his scowl of concern mirroring Jack and Sam. “The device was in place when I entered the room.”
“Wait,” Janet said, a disturbing scenario suddenly blossoming in her mind “she was using the memory device on him when she hit him with the ribbon device?”
Oh, this was not good. Those tiny little disks provided a direct link to the frontal lobe of the brain, a small electrode boring into a person’s gray matter and electrical impulses stimulating memory. If that electrode was in place when the ribbon device had been used on Daniel it would have provided a dual assault, one of which would travel directly into the recesses of his brain through the electrode.
“I think we have our answer.” She swallowed. “The energy from the ribbon device could easily have been magnified by the memory device. At the very least it would have given at least part of that energy a direct route into his frontal lobe.”
“So what does that mean?” Sam asked.
“It means we hope for the best.” Janet replied. “But we should be prepared for what could be some serious complications.”
Jack sat in a padded chair next to Daniel’s bed slowly swiveling back and forth. He had brought a copy of the sports page to read, but couldn’t get his mind to focus on anything other than Janet’s dire warning.
Arms folded across his chest he sat scowling at the sleeping archaeologist, willing him to wake up. Jack had never been good with suspense. He wanted to know everything up front. None of this waiting around for the other shoe to drop crap. It was bad enough that Osiris had tried, yet again, to melt Daniel’s brain with that damned ribbon device, but turning him into a… Jack couldn’t finish the thought. The concept was just too disturbing to even contemplate. He was not going to lose him like this…not to some snake headed power monger with a god complex. The thought that after so many harrowing battles and narrow escapes the goa’uld were going to take him out right here on his own planet was enough to propel Jack out of the chair.
“It’s not happening, Daniel.” He grumbled quietly as he began pacing beside the bed. “You hear me?”
It was no surprise when the demand was met with silence. Get a grip, O’Neill, he snarled to himself. Janet said it probably wasn’t as bad as all that. Daniel wasn’t knocking on death’s door. One way or the other he would wake up. Ok, so maybe he’d lose his memory. They’d been through that before. It had been frustrating as hell and damn lonely at times being the only one that remembered their relationship, let alone that they even had one. Still, they’d gotten through it once. They could do it again.
Things would be a whole lot rougher for Daniel if he had trouble speaking, but they’d find a way through that, too. Daniel might have had a soft heart, but it was no secret that he was also tough as nails. He had the ability to pick himself up and dust himself off from stuff that would have left a lot of people laid out flat on the floor. He’d get through this just like he got through everything else. A little worse for wear and with one more battle scar to add to the collection, but he’d get through it.
“Come on, Daniel.” Jack sighed. “I really need you to wake up before I completely lose it. You know I’m no good at standing around waiting.”
Jack stopped his pacing and stared at Daniel’s face. “No?” He said. “Fine, but don’t blame me if you wake up alone because Doc Frazier kicks me out of here for making a pain in the ass of myself. You know I’m good for it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
With another heavy sigh he collapsed back in the chair to wait…and wait…and wait. Hours later, when he’d finally resorted to shooting wads of paper at the trash can across the room in order to entertain himself, Daniel’s eyes finally began to flutter.
“Daniel?” he asked anxiously, immediately leaning forward in his chair.
Slowly two groggy blue eyes emerged and roamed aimlessly across the ceiling before finally coming to rest on Jack’s face.
“Jack?” He croaked.
“Right here.” He grinned, resting a hand on Daniel’s arm. “You scared the hell out of me, Buddy.”
“It’s ok. You can talk and you know who I am. That’s all I need for now.”
There was a long enough gap in between the words that Jack’s smile faltered slightly. Something was wrong with this picture.
“Yeah. Apparently when that snake fried your brain things went a little haywire this time. Frazier says you might have trouble remembering things or talking or something.”
The frown creasing Daniel’s face told Jack his brain was beginning to wake up with the rest of him. He was fully expecting a barrage of questions to come pouring out at any moment.
“Sarah?” The name came with a flash of panic.
“She’s fine.” Jack assured him. “Frazier’s working to get her set up with a shrink.”
“Why…here…happen?” Daniel asked, curiosity warring with concern in his expression as he struggled to get the words out.
“Why are you here?” Jack translated, Daniel nodding. “You passed out.” Jack replied simply. “Apparently you had a nose bleed or something. One minute you were talking to Sarah and the next you were out cold.”
“Talk…not…can’t.” Daniel continued, frustration beginning to show through the concern.
“I know.” Jack assured him. “Frazier said you might have a problem with it. Something to do with having that memory device hooked up to your brain when Osiris hit you with the ribbon device. Apparently that’s a bad combination. Go figure. Wait, where are you going?” Jack asked when Daniel sat up and tried to pull back the covers.
“Up…go.” Daniel said, shifting his legs over the side of the bed.
“Go.” Daniel insisted.
“Go.” Daniel repeated, attempting to communicate the rest of the concept with is eyes.
“Oh, ‘go’, right.” Jack nodded, stepping out of the way. “Don’t forget your, uh, do-hickey.” he added, waggling a finger toward the IV stand next to the bed.
He watched as Daniel grabbed the pole and used it to steady himself as he headed across the room to the bathroom. He might not have been able to speak very well, but he seemed to understand what Jack was saying. Obviously most of his brain was still working.
Jack stared at the closed bathroom door musing over the notion that he and Daniel had a years’ old connection that sometimes made words unnecessary. He had a feeling that bond was about to be tested…not to mention their patience with each other if this condition went on for very long.
Janet made an appearance in the room and frowned at the empty bed.
“Where is he?” She asked.
Jack pointed to the bathroom.
“How is he?”
“His brain seems to be working ok, but his mouth is another story.” He said. “He has a lot of trouble talking.”
“But he can understand what you’re staying?”
“Seems to.” Jack shrugged.
“And he knows who you are?”
“Yep.” Jack smiled.
“Thank heaven for small favors.”
Daniel reappeared a few moments later, Jack watching as Janet scrutinized him while he moved, obviously looking for signs that something was wrong. From what Jack could see his body was in near perfect working order. Nothing worse than the bright red burn on his forehead; the telltale mark of having been in close proximity to a ribbon device.
“Good to see you up and around, Daniel.” Janet said. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine.” Came the pre-programmed answer.
He could have cuts and bruises over half his body and he would still be “fine” by his own assessment. Nothing short of missing body parts or significant blood loss would ever have him admitting to being anything other than “fine”. It was an answer they had all learned to ignore.
“Any pain?” Janet asked as he climbed back up on the bed with what seemed to be minimal effort.
“Hurt…head.” He admitted, glancing from his lap to Janet’s face and back as he struggled to speak.
“Headache?” She translated, to which he nodded. “Sounds pretty normal for a ribbon device.” She said. “Are you dizzy at all?”
Daniel shook his head.
“Chest pains? Trouble breathing? Ringing in your ears?”
Daniel shook his head.
“Can you tell me your name?”
“Dan-iel…Jack-son.” He replied, growing obviously annoyed.
“Let’s try this.” Janet offered. “Can you write down your birthday for me?” She asked, handing him her clipboard and a pen.
Daniel quickly scribbled out his birth date, relief apparent in his face.
“So he can write, but he can’t speak?” Jack asked.
“It’s not all that uncommon with this type of injury.” Janet assured him. “It looks like you have a form of non-fluent aphasia, Daniel. Different sections of your frontal lobe control different aspects of communication. Some associate words to objects. Some hold grammatical rules. Some control speech, your ability to translate sound into concepts, your ability to read, write, etc.” She explained. “You can hear and understand what we’re saying and you can translate thought into written word. That’s good.” She smiled. “I was afraid the damage would be much more wide spread. It seems the part that suffered the greatest impact was your speech center.”
“Is it permanent?” Jack asked.
“Aphasia is affected by swelling in the brain as much as anything. As the injury heals you may regain some of your ability to speak. The rest you will have to relearn.”
Daniel frowned at his lap. Jack could almost see the thoughts swirling around in his head. Normally Jack would have coaxed him into voicing them, but at this point that would only add to his frustration.
“Let’s deal with the most obvious things first.” Janet suggested. “I’ll start you on some anti-inflammatories and we’ll deal with your headache. Then we’ll see what we have.”
Daniel nodded, the frown now firmly in place.
“Don’t worry, Daniel.” Janet patted his leg. “You’re going to be fine.”
“Thanks, Doc.” Jack offered as he watched Daniel settle back under the covers.
“Thank…you.” Daniel offered quietly.
“You’re welcome. Now I want you to rest.” She ordered in her CMO tone of voice. “Colonel, I’ll give you ten more minutes and then I want you out.”
“Right. Ten minutes.” Jack replied. “You ok?” he asked quietly, a hand on Daniel’s arm once Frazier was safely out of ear shot.
Daniel merely shrugged, wearing his “something really big is bugging me” expression.
“You heard the Doc. Let’s not worry until we know what we’re dealing with.”
“What…better…doesn’t?” Daniel asked.
“If it doesn’t get better then you’ll work at it until it does.” Jack shrugged. “Look on the bright side. Worst case scenario: you won’t be able to do a lecture tour, but if all of this garbage is ever de-classified you can still write a book about it. That’s where the money is anyway, right?”
Daniel gave him a sardonic smirk. It wasn’t a beaming smile, but Jack decided he would take what he could get.
Daniel sat on the edge of the bed tying his shoe. After a mere 72 hours in the infirmary Janet was actually letting him go home. Well, to be honest he wasn’t actually going home, he was going to Jack’s house, but that was close enough. Physically he was fine. The headaches were gone and his stomach had settled right along with them so he had a clean bill of health. Unfortunately, he wasn’t cleared for gate travel. He was on restricted duty meaning he could spend all the time he wanted in his office, but no off world missions. Not until he figured out how to speak.
Some of his speech impairment had fixed itself when the swelling in his brain went down, but not all of it. He no longer spoke the wrong words when he was thinking the right ones. He didn’t get things in the wrong order any more, but making his mouth form the words in the first place was a never ending exercise in frustration. He knew what to say. The words were right there in his head, banging against the inside of his skull as they tried to get out, but his mouth would only produce them in drops and dribbles. Entire concepts had to be whittled down to no more than two words because when it took 15 or 20 seconds to utter each one, two was all he had the patience for.
What was even more frustrating was that people had started speaking to him like he was mentally deficient. Some spoke louder. Some spoke slower. Some talking down to him like he was a two-year-old. Nearly all of them gave him the same pitying smile when they saw him in the halls. It was enough to drive him right out of his mind. He wasn’t an idiot…he just sounded like one. So Janet’s pronouncement that he didn’t have to hang around the infirmary and put up with it any more had been the best news he’d heard in days.
Her one condition of his release was that he didn’t go back to his own house, at least not yet. She wanted him in an environment where he would have to practice talking. As she continued to remind him on an hourly basis, he would only get better at speaking if he actually spoke. The more he practiced the easier it would become, or so she said. The problem was the more he practiced the more time he spent feeling like an idiot, at least when he wasn’t around the team.
As usual his friends had rallied around him. They treated him like they always had. To them he was no different than he had been he just took a little longer to answer questions. And Jack? Well Daniel had a suspicion that Jack secretly preferred him like this. Jack had always been a “cut to the chase” kind of guy. He wanted the Cliff’s Notes version of everything. Cut out the fluff and just get to the point. Since it was now incredibly difficult to speak there was no more expounding on concepts or giving copious details on a subject. Daniel had no choice, but to give Jack exactly what he wanted: just the facts and nothing, but the facts in as few words as possible.
“Ready to go?” Jack asked, striding into the main infirmary and heading straight for Daniel’s soon to be vacated bed.
Daniel nodded in response.
“What was that?” Jack asked, having taken Janet’s advice about practicing to heart.
“Yes.” Daniel replied, grabbing his bag that held the small amount of things he’d managed to accumulate during his stay.
“Need to stop by your office before we go?”
“Yes.” Daniel replied, skipping the rest of the speech that normally would have expounded on exactly what he wanted and why.
He hadn’t had access to his desk in three days. He was head of the Anthropology/Archaeology department. Jack could do the math himself.
“Then lead on, McDuff.” Jack replied, making a sweeping gesture toward the door.
That was another thing that made Daniel suspect Jack secretly preferred the new quieter version of him. Annoying comments and phrases didn’t get the vocal complaint they once had. He was limited to merely rolling his eyes. Of course, it tended to have a negative affect on his mood after a while. Several hours of annoying comments from Jack and he was swimming in a sea of unreleased sarcasm. He had come dangerously close to throwing things in retaliation more than once.
Aside from what were most likely purposely annoying comments, Jack was doing what Jack had always done where Daniel was concerned…offering a strong shoulder to lean on and the quiet, but steady encouragement to keep going no matter how hard it got. He was a constant reminder that things might be bad, but they weren’t hopeless. Daniel might be frustrated and discouraged by the situation but he still had a safe place to go when he felt completely overwhelmed and a solid form to cling to when he was afraid he’d never get back what he’d lost.
The situation also made Daniel deliriously happy that he’d had the foresight to be understanding and compassionate when Jack had had the knowledge of the Ancients downloaded into his brain, eventually losing the ability to speak English. If Daniel hadn’t been so patient with him this would have been the perfect time for payback…in spades! And the Colonel, bless his little black ops heart, was a man up to the challenge of stretching that its limits.
Daniel was happier than Jack had seen him in days. He wasn’t bouncing off the walls or anything, but the concept of being released from the infirmary never ceased to put a smile on the man’s face. Well, ok, it was a smile marred by the frustrated scowl that seemed to be a permanent fixture lately, but it was still a smile. As with everything else in this completely messed up situation, he would take what he could get.
Jack trailed behind as Daniel headed for his office to pick up a few things. With Daniel being release for active (though limited) duty there wouldn’t be a need for him to take home very much. After all, he’d be back in his office tomorrow. He had thought of mentioning that concept, but decided against it. Books and translations were as much a source of comfort to Daniel as they were work. If having a satchel full of books, binders, and reports made him feel a bit more secure then so be it.
They’d really lucked out on this one. He knew that Daniel wouldn’t necessarily agree, at least not right off, but it was true. Osiris could have wiped out half the information in Daniel’s brain with that damned ribbon device. He could have lost the ability to read, to write, heck to even understand anything they were saying. He could have lost access to the knowledge of the 26 languages he spoke (Earth bound and alien) including Ancient, the one currently more precious to them than all the others combined. He could have lost the ability to string two coherent thoughts together, or visually identify the hundreds of things he puzzled over every day. He could have been trapped in his own mind with no way to interact on any meaningful level with anyone around him. Instead all he lost was his practiced ability to speak at the speed of light. He could talk, it was just very slow going and Jack knew that it frustrated the hell out of him, but considering how bad things could have been he hadn’t really lost all that much.
Yes, he was going to have to learn to speak again and yes it would take time, and he had no doubt Daniel would hate nearly every minute of it. Still, knowing his passion for words and the exchange of ideas they made possible, he was completely convinced that Daniel would get it all back. One day in the not too distant future Jack fully expected to find himself sitting in a team briefing willing Daniel to stop prattling on and get to the bloody point; folding report pages into paper airplanes in a silent threat to bring the briefing to an end with our without Daniel’s cooperation.
The trick was getting Daniel to believe that it wasn’t only possible, but inevitable.
A quiet and pensive Daniel sat in the passenger seat of the truck as Jack drove home. He wasn’t sullen and he certainly wasn’t pouting because he’d never in his life seen Daniel actually pout. He was just lost in thought. It was moments like this that Jack found the most frustrating.
He had worked hard over the years to teach Daniel not to hide in himself, to let what he was feeling and thinking out into the open; get it off his chest. Not the pieces that belonged to his internal moral compass. Those had never been a secret. As long as Jack had known him Daniel had never had any trouble speaking up when he disagreed with something. If he thought it was wrong he would spit the thought out without any hesitation, over and over and over until someone finally heard what he was saying.
No, Jack was more interested in getting him to open up about the deeper things. The things that had him wrapping arms around himself in an attempt to hold it all in. Things that had him averting his gaze in an effort to keep from giving anything away. Things that had him sighing so heavily it seemed to come from down in his shoes. Things that had him staring out the side window of the truck at the passing scenery without really seeing it. Unfortunately without his ability to speak very well those kinds of conversations were difficult to say the least.
“What?” Jack asked quietly as they drove.
“What?” Daniel repeated, turning toward him.
“What’s going on?”
Daniel stared at him for a long moment before finally shrugging and turning back to the window.
“Need a pen?” Jack asked
Normally he would make him struggle his way through the words, but there were times when he was willing to make exceptions.
“Practicing?” Daniel asked, knowing that Jack would fill in the blanks.
“Not if there’s something you need to talk about.”
“Ok, then want.”
“She’ll be ok, Daniel. Frazier’s seeing to that.”
Daniel stared back at him, gave a small one shouldered shrug and then dropped his gaze to the floor.
“Write it down.” Jack coaxed gently.
Daniel dug out a pen and scribbled a much shorter statement than Jack had been expecting. “Why do we always save them too late?” It asked, Jack glancing at it, trying not to drive off the road at the same time.
“What do you mean?”
More scribbling. “Living with those memories is a fate worse than death. Sarah will have to live with the nightmare of what the goa’uld made her do for the rest of her life. I couldn’t save her from it. I never get there in time to save them from it.”
“Not for lack of trying.” Jack pointed out. “I know what you’re saying, Daniel. Why can’t we rescue these people before they end up spending a handful of years doing the goa’uld’s bidding against their will? I wish I knew. I think we just have to be happy that we can save them at all. I know that’s not enough for you, but that’s all we’ve got.”
“I know. Just find it very frustrating.” Daniel scribbled in return.
“Yeah, I know you do.” Jack replied gently. “You and me both.”
Daniel sat in his office the next morning quite happy to be buried in work. He had spent the past four days thinking about nothing, but his brain injury and Sarah. The combination left him feeling frustrated and helpless. Both were incredible messes he would have done anything to change. Both were going to take a lot of time to undo, if they could be undone at all. Jack and Janet were optimistic in both cases. Daniel was hopeful, but that was as far as he could go. Having something else to focus on for hours on end was just what he needed because frankly he was tired of thinking about them.
Burrowing into his overflowing in-box he set to work putting his autograph on the things that needed it, reading over reports and making notes before sending them back to the originators, and prioritizing his translation work. Basically, getting back to normal. It was late afternoon before Jack appeared in his office.
“How’s it going?” He asked, sauntering through the door.
“Had lunch yet?”
Daniel sighed. “Busy.”
Daniel was being stubborn and he knew it, but in all honesty didn’t care. Jack was trying to lure him into a conversation in order to make him practice speaking. He wasn’t in the mood to play along.
“Jack.” He countered, finally bringing his head up, a warning expression on his face.
He wasn’t in the mood to be pushed. He had entirely too much pent up frustration from the past few days and had yet to find a way to burn any of it off. Janet had barred him from the base gym for the rest of the week in order to let his brain heal a bit more before he did anything that significantly raised his blood pressure. Little did she know that in the right circumstances Jack could do that for him without any problem.
“You can’t go from a stint in the infirmary to ten hours of work with no break.”
“Ok, shouldn’t.” Jack amended. “You know Frazier has no problem putting you right back in the infirmary if she thinks you’re pushing too hard.”
Daniel nodded, jaw clenched. He was itching for a fight. At the moment he wanted nothing more than to dive into a good yelling match with Jack, but he couldn’t because he couldn’t hold up his end of it, and there was nothing satisfying about scribbling retorts on a chalkboard. Daniel sat back in his chair, arms folded across his chest, and glowered at his desk. He was piling frustration on top of frustration and he could feel an explosion building. However, since any kind of tirade screamed at the top of his lungs wasn’t even remotely an option he couldn’t exactly say what the explosion was going to look like.
“Come on.” Jack coaxed. “How about a break? We’ll go bug Carter or something.”
Daniel sat for a moment longer, contemplating the idea before deciding that maybe it wasn’t such a bad suggestion after all. His legs could use a stretch and he could definitely use a friendly face. Not that Jack wasn’t doing his best to be friendly. He was just far too good at pushing Daniel’s buttons.
They wandered into Sam’s office a few minutes later to find her, predictably, scowling at her computer. However, her expression brightened considerably when she saw them.
“Daniel needed a break.” Jack announced. “Thought we’d come over and see what you’re up to.”
“Just working on an upgrade to the current dialing program.”
“Had lunch yet?” Jack asked.
“Uh, yeah. Teal’c and I went up about an hour ago.” She admitted. “You guys headed up there?”
“Not sure yet.”
“So how’s it going?” She asked Daniel.
He twitched an eyebrow and tilted his head.
“That good?” she replied.
“He’s trying to be difficult without actually having to say anything.”
“Not.” Daniel replied.
“Yes, you are.” Jack said, without rising to the bait of starting one of their typical single word volleys. “I keep telling you, the silent treatment is going to be permanent if you don’t work on this.”
Daniel glared at him, a tirade raging in his head. How many times in the last three days had Jack or Janet given him that same speech? He was sick of hearing it. He knew it was important. He wasn’t an idiot, contrary to how he might sound. Daniel wrapped his arms around his chest and gripped fists of his t-shirt in both hands. That was exactly the problem. He didn’t want to sound like a brainless idiot, but that’s what he heard every time he tried to speak. Just the sound of his own voice stumbling over the words, struggling to make his mouth work, made him even more frustrated than he already was. He knew Jack was right and he knew his own ego was getting in the way, but that’s how he felt and no amount of pestering and needling was going to make him feel any better about it. No, he didn’t want to stay like this, but at the moment he couldn’t bring himself to do anything about it.
Jack could hear Daniel in the kitchen banging things around. Today had not been a great day for the archaeologist. He’d managed to get a lot of work done, so at the very least it had been productive, but as Daniel was beginning to discover, this mess with his brain wasn’t a situation that would simply fade into the background if he focused on something else for long enough. Jack had tried coaxing, pestering, even tricking him into talking, but he refused to respond with anything other than a single word at a time.
Abandoning the TV and his comfortable chair, Jack ventured into the kitchen, following the racket. Over the past few days he’d watched as Daniel’s frustration level had grown hour by hour with no release. For a moment in Carter’s office he’d thought Daniel was going to actually haul off and hit him. He had no doubt the concept had crossed his friend’s mind. Probably more than once. Instead Daniel had curled in on himself, retreating from the annoyance to a quieter place inside.
Angry was ok. Jack could deal with angry. Closed off and silent wasn’t.
Jack stood in the doorway to the kitchen watching as Daniel emptied the dishwasher, making no attempt to be even remotely quiet about it.
“Without meaning to come off as a smartass,” Jack said “do you want to talk about it?”
Jack thought he saw a hint of hesitation in Daniel’s movements, but whatever it had been it was short lived, Daniel continuing to yank open and slam closed cupboard doors as if he hadn’t heard a word.
“Should I take that as a ‘no’?” Jack asked, venturing further into the kitchen, crossing the physical distance between them if nothing else.
With Daniel’s back to him Jack had no idea how the man knew how close Jack was standing, but as he reached out a hand with the intention of resting it on Daniel’s shoulder Daniel jerked out of reach just before he made contact.
“Don’t.” He warned.
“Daniel, whatever this is…whatever is bugging you, you can talk to me.”
“Are you sure?”
He heard Daniel sigh heavily; one of those brought up from the soles of his shoes kind of sighs. Jack watched as he stood for a moment with his hand on the knob of a cupboard door. It was hard to tell if he was considering the offer or trying to reign in his patience. From that angle they both looked the same. Either way, a moment later Daniel started to move again, closing the cupboard door and turning to walk slowly past Jack and out of the kitchen. From the brief glimpse Jack caught of his face he could definitely see a storm brewing. Somewhere during the course of the evening Daniel had gone from being pissed beyond words to being wounded and confused. Hidden behind the contemplative scowl that was rapidly becoming a permanent fixture was his “I need to make this stop” expression. The one he typically reserved for catastrophes that were spinning out of control.
“Where are you going?” Jack asked softly as Daniel shuffled past him.
“Any place in particular?”
“Probably not a good idea, Daniel.” Jack advised. “You remember what Frazier said about keeping your heart rate down.”
A snort wafted back to him as Daniel disappeared into the hall.
“Right.” Jack muttered to himself before following the man’s retreat. “Look I know you’re thoroughly pissed about this whole thing, but making it worse is not going to…well, make it better.” Jack grimaced at his own argument.
He finally found Daniel in the bedroom, digging a pair of his running shoes out of the closet.
“I feel like I’m talking to myself, here.” Jack groused. “Are you going to say something or do you want me to keep having to guess what’s going on in your head?”
“Run.” Daniel said, holding up his shoes, his eyes anywhere, but on Jack’s face.
“I wouldn’t if I were you. Really. You and I both know Frazier’s usually right about that stuff.”
Daniel shrugged back at him from where he sat on the edge of the bed, defiantly lacing up his shoes.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you if she offers to take a chunk out of your stubborn hide over this.”
Daniel stood up, shoes laced, and headed for the door, but Jack grabbed his arm as he went by.
“I can’t help if you’re going to keep shutting me out.” He said.
The look of misery on Daniel’s face was unmistakable, as was the message it screamed back at him: he couldn’t help.
“You don’t have to do this alone if you don’t want to.” Jack said quietly.
Daniel paused for a moment, turning his head slightly and glancing at him out of the corner of his eye. He rested his hand over the top of Jack’s for a moment before gently prying it loose from his bicep.
Message received, but he was still going for a run.
In all honesty Jack couldn’t blame him. All that pent up frustration needed an outlet. A nice, loud disagreement wasn’t an option so that left only a good, long run. He understood it, but he still thought it was a bad idea. However, Daniel was a grown man. If he wanted to run then he’d have to figure out the hard way why Frazier had warned against it. Jack wasn’t about to tie him to a chair.
Daniel didn’t know exactly what he’d been expecting when he’d set off down the street for a quick five mile run. Janet had warned him that increased blood pressure would not feel great with a new head injury, but he hadn’t cared. Not through the few blocks he’d walked as a warm up, not even through the first mile of his run. However, he’d started to care somewhere around the middle of the second mile. He had settled into his normal pace, the endorphins just beginning to loosen the tension in his body when the ache in his head that had been dogging him since he started, suddenly spiked. The pain was intense enough to have him grabbing at his head and stumbling out of his rhythm. It toyed with him for a few more minutes, the pain ebbing and flowing until it seemed to find a rhythm of its own and settled in, banging angrily against his skull.
Still panting from exertion Daniel collapsed clumsily to the curb as the world began to dip and sway around him. Apparently his run was over. Jack was going to throw a fit. Janet was going to throw a bigger one. He held onto a tiny hope that Janet wouldn’t necessarily have to know until his nose started running. Snuffling against the flow he had little doubt that it was actually a nose bleed. So much for keeping it from Janet.
Daniel sat on the curb, head in his hands, and tried to decide what to do. There was no telling how long the pounding in his skull would continue. Eventually it might taper off enough to let him walk home, but there was no telling how long he’d have to sit there before that happened. It was already almost dark and starting to get cold. He wasn’t really dressed for cold. One thing he knew for sure, the run had most definitely not improved his mood.
Fishing his cell phone out of its holster at his waist he reluctantly hit speed dial and called Jack. It was moments like this when Daniel was glad that they knew each other’s cardio routes. Thankfully this kind of thing didn’t happen very often, but when it did it certainly made things easier.
“Why do I get the feeling you didn’t just call to chat?” Jack answered.
“Where are you?”
“Mile...ah” he groaned, grinding his teeth as the pain spiked again “two…plus.”
“Sit tight. I’ll be right there.”
He sat with fists clenched and pressed against the sides of his head contemplating the idea of curling up on the nicely manicured lawn behind him. His stomach was rolling with the vicious pounding in his head and he had to admit he was completely miserable at the moment. He would have been much better off sitting at home fuming than he was sitting on the curb trembling in the cool evening air.
It was time to admit that this was getting him nowhere. He was miserable. He was making Jack miserable and none of it was helping. He needed to stop dancing around the issue and just look it in the eye. He was scared. It was that simple. He was scared and he didn’t know what to do about it other than face his fear head on and let the chips fall where they may.
The “what ifs” had been dogging him since Janet’s pronouncement that his headache was a lot more than a typical ribbon device migraine. What if it was permanent? What if he never got back his ability to speak normally? He’d worked hard to make a place for himself at the SGC. Most of that had involved earning the respect of people that didn’t typically see anything respectable in a civilian archaeologist. A very obvious difficulty speaking would easily undermine that. It had started already; people treating him differently, talking to him like he no longer really understood what they were saying. He’d been through it once before. It had been ages ago, but the lesson had stuck with him. People judge you by the way you sound as much as what you say.
He’d only been eight and it had only lasted a year, but it had been the longest year of his life. His first year in foster care everything had been strange and intimidating. In the blink of an eye his life had vanished and left him with an existence he hadn’t understand and hadn’t particularly wanted. As if things hadn’t been bad enough, for whatever reason he had developed a stutter. Eventually he had gotten over it, but not before learning first hand that nobody took you seriously when you sounded like an idiot.
Now 30 years later he found himself settled firmly in the middle of military bravado central and he was about to replay the whole thing all over again. Sure, he’d managed to earn a lot more respect at the SGC than he ever had as a kid in foster care, but he had no idea if it would be enough to make a difference in the end if he couldn’t regain the ability to speak normally.
Things were going well since he’d returned to his human form. He felt comfortable. For the first time since joining the Stargate program he felt like he really belonged. Then this had happened. Now he was barred from gate travel, barred from the base gym, and hanging on to his position on SG1 by a thread. He felt like things were starting to unravel and he couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the beginning of the end. Jack had been telling him for days that things wouldn’t get any better unless he worked at it and Daniel supposed he’d been hoping it would all just go away if he ignored it long enough, not that he really believed that tactic would work. Maybe he’d just been hoping to find a better perspective on the whole thing. Obviously that hadn’t happened.
Daniel heard Jack’s truck pull up beside him, bathing him in the glow of headlights, the pounding in his skull raging a little louder in response to the light. Fists still pressed to his head he listened as the door opened and then closed again, Jack’s footfalls approaching on the pavement. The familiar popping of Jack’s knees announced his presence as he crouched down in front of Daniel.
“You ok?” Jack asked, his voice quiet and gentle.
“Can you stand up?”
Daniel nodded minutely and got to his feet, Jack steadying him with a hand on his arm.
“You’re bleeding.” Jack announced when he finally got a look at Daniel’s face to which Daniel merely nodded. “Here.” Jack handed him a handkerchief. “Why don’t you lie down in back?”
Daniel shuffled toward the truck and climbed onto the back seat. Jack already had his cell phone out and was punching buttons, no doubt calling the infirmary. His conversation a second later confirming it.
“…headache, nosebleed…are you dizzy?” Jack asked. “That’s affirmative.” He added when Daniel nodded. “You’re not going to throw up in my truck are you?”
“Uh, yeah, nausea, the whole deal.” Jack relayed into the phone. “We’ll be there in 20.”
Daniel heard the driver’s side door close and the rumble as Jack started the truck.
“Dr. Warner doesn’t think you’ve done any serious damage, but they want to check you out and hold you overnight for observation.” Jack announced with a touch of annoyance.
“Sorry.” Daniel offered, an arm rested over his eyes.
“Hey, you’re the one stuck in the infirmary for another twelve hours, not me.” He replied. “And while you’re in there you’re going to tell me what’s going on with you, right? Because, to be honest, Daniel I don’t get it and it’s starting to piss me off. I’ve tried to see it from your point of view. I really have, but you’re not giving me much to work with.”
“This has got to stop before you make us both nuts.”
They rode the rest of the way to the base in near silence, Jack asking him if he was alright every ten minutes or so, Daniel suspected more out of concern for the interior of his truck than out of any real suspicion that he was getting worse. He followed Jack through the deserted corridors of the SGC, squinting and grimacing at the overhead lighting before finally suffering through a physical exam and another brain scan. Thankfully Warner had been right in his assumption that Daniel hadn’t done any serious damage. He’d only succeeded in making himself miserable. No real harm done. Nevertheless, the doctor made good on his threat to keep him overnight.
Jack materialized by his bed as soon as he was settled in. He wasn’t in the mood to talk. He was busy kicking himself for the boneheaded move that was sure to earn him a stern lecture from Janet the moment she walked through the door the next morning. Still, he’d been moody and distant for days and Jack deserved an explanation, self inflicted migraine or not.
“Ok, out with it.” Jack said, slapping a pad of paper and pen down on Daniel’s legs.
Daniel somewhat reluctantly picked up the pen and began scribbling, Jack standing determinedly by his bedside the entire time. With most of a page full he handed back the pad before wrapping his arms around his chest, keeping his eyes on the wool blanket stretched over him as Jack read.
“This is what has been tying you in knots?” Jack asked, settling beside him on the bed.
“You’re not giving yourself enough credit.” Jack smiled. “Either that or you really don’t know just how much you live to talk.”
Daniel wasn’t sure what to make of the comment and dared a glance at Jack.
“I think you’re looking at this whole thing the wrong way. Words are your life, Daniel. You surround yourself with books. You speak more languages than most people even know exist. You can talk a subject to death on a moment’s notice. Sometimes you drive me up the wall with it, but I know that’s just who you are.
“If you’re not talking you’re either busy reading something or you’re upset about something because the only thing you don’t seem to be able to talk your way through is what you’re feeling. Case in point.” Jack added, motioning to the pad of paper.
Daniel stared at him, wondering if the speech was supposed to make him feel better or not. If it was, he was pretty sure it wasn’t working.
“Look, all I’m saying is there is no way you could possibly survive going through life as a mute. You’ve got far too much to say. It isn’t a question of whether or not you get back your ability to speak, Daniel.” Jack said, holding his gaze. “It’s a question of when. This isn’t permanent because you would never let it be. Trust me. You’d never stand for that.”
Daniel honestly didn’t know what to say, even if he had been able to say it. Jack’s faith in him was nearly overwhelming. Slowly it began to dawn on him that maybe Jack held the different perspective he’d been looking for.
“You probably don’t remember this, but, even when you were ascended you couldn’t keep your mouth shut.” Jack confided. “Now for a guy that was supposed to be made of…energy or whatever…that’s pretty impressive. You didn’t even have a body, but you had something to say so you found a way to say it.” Jack gently squeezed his foot through the blanket, the only part of him he could easily reach. “Trust me, Daniel, you’ll find a way to do this.”
Daniel nodded, dropping his gaze as tears started to pool in his eyes. He wanted nothing more than to crawl into Jack’s arms and let him melt away the cold fear that had taken up residence in his soul in the last few days. However, this was the infirmary and there was no such thing as privacy.
“So,” Jack announced “starting tomorrow we are building blocks of time into your schedule for you to sit in your office and read stuff to me…twice a day…every day. Well, every day that the team doesn’t have a mission. Yet another reason for you to get past this because we’re going to be down a person and, trust me, I’m going to hate whoever they put in your place. I’ll be suffering right along with you, believe me.”
Daniel actually smiled at that. The first real smile he’d had in days.
Jack sat in the dark at the briefing table, an image glowing brightly on the screen across the room. Settled in his chair he watched as Daniel, remote in hand, shifted his focus from the screen to the audience that was attempting to look interested in what he was saying.
“If you look at the inscriptions right here you can see that this was at one time a colony of the Ancients. Well, actually more like an outpost.” Daniel explained. “The population doesn’t seem to have ever reached the point of something even close to a large community. Probably no more than a few hundred ever lived here.
“Now the symbols here represent a gate address that I believe is to a larger community. Probably a central city of the Ancients before they ascended. While it’s not the Lost City it’s possible information there might lead us to it or at least to more information that could help us find it.
“Right here…” he said, changing slides “is the term ‘revered one’ referring most likely to a community leader. Whether military or spiritual it doesn’t say, though ‘revered’ usually refers to a person that is honored in the community like a sage or shaman…”
Jack sighed and glanced at his watch before smiling to himself. 20 minutes and he was completely bored out of his mind.
Yep, Daniel was back.
|Genres:||Drama, Established Relationship, Hurt/Comfort|
|Summary:||Once again Daniel is on the wrong end of a ribbon device. However, this time there are serious side effects.|
Spoilers: Chimera, Fifth Race
Thanks to Taj for the beta help!
Thanks to Taj for the beta help!