Daniel's teammates seldom left his side as the hours continued to pass. Teal'c had been transferred out of the ICU and into the main ward quite some time ago, but he had yet to spend any time in his bed there. Though Janet knew that they should all be getting some rest, she didn't even suggest that they do so, recognizing that they needed to be here. The guilt they were feeling was plain to see on their faces, even on the normally stoic Jaffa. If being with Daniel helped in some way, she certainly didn't have the heart to make them leave.
Jack stared at the man lying so still on the bed. He was grateful that Daniel's eyes were now closed. He didn't think that he would ever forget the sight of his best friend lying on the floor, eyes staring vacantly up at the ceiling. It was a memory that was going to haunt him for a long time to come. This whole thing was going to haunt him for a long time to come. And the guilt, it wouldn't be going away any time soon either, if ever.
It was about two a.m. when Jack went to get some coffee for himself and Sam. When he returned, Janet, Sam and Teal'c were all huddled around Daniel's bed, staring down at him.
"Sir, we think that Daniel's waking up," the astrophysicist said as soon as she saw him.
Jack quickly set down the coffee and went to the bed. The archeologist's eyelids were twitching, his head moving on the pillow.
"Daniel? Come on, buddy. Wake up," the colonel encouraged.
A moment later, the archeologist's eyes opened a crack. "Jack?"
"Hey there. Welcome back."
Daniel looked about in confusion. "What happened?"
"The medication they gave you in the hospital made you very ill, Daniel," Janet explained. "But you're going to be okay."
The confusion on Daniel's face transformed to fear. "Please don't send me back there," he begged in a tone of voice that was heartbreaking to those gathered around him.
Jack took hold of his friend's hand. "You're not going back there, Daniel," he said soothingly. "Don't you remember what happened? You had an invention of Ma'chello's inside you. That's what made you act like you did."
The confusion was back. "Not a dream?" Daniel asked hopefully.
"No, it wasn't a dream. You're not crazy. You were never crazy."
A single tear slid down Daniel's face to wet his hair. "Afraid it was a dream," he whispered. Then his eyes fluttered shut, and his breathing deepened.
Janet checked his pulse. "He's asleep. He'll probably be out for a while. But I believe he's going to be all right. I just got the results back from the latest batch of tests I ran, and they're very promising. His dopamine levels are coming up, and there's no sign that his kidneys have been damaged. His respiration is back to normal, and his BP and heart rate are getting there."
"Then he'll be okay soon?" Sam asked.
"It will take a while for him to fully recover," Janet explained, "especially considering the severity of his case. I'm afraid that he could have lasting symptoms for as long as three weeks."
"What kind of symptoms?" Sam asked.
"Muscle rigidity and tremors, among other things, and until all of the chemical imbalances return to normal, there may be some mental and emotional problems as well, including depression. But, in time, it will pass." Janet glanced at Jack, whose eyes she did not meet. "All of you need to get some sleep. You're not going to do Daniel any good if you're exhausted."
"Okay," Jack said. "We'll leave in a few."
He watched the doctor leave, now feeling a little guilty about the things he said to her. Though he was angry and disappointed in her for having bought into MacKenzie's garbage about Stargate-induced schizophrenia, the truth was he and his teammates all owed their lives to her several times over.
Turning back to the others, Jack saw that Sam was stroking Daniel's hair and appeared to be on the verge of tears.
"He sounded so scared," she said in hardly more than a whisper. "I think of what it must have been like for him there, locked up in that room and so afraid that he was going to be like that for the rest of his life." She dashed a tear from her cheek. "Excuse me." She brushed by Jack and fled the infirmary.
"Major Carter is very upset by the events that have transpired," Teal'c said.
"We all are, Teal'c."
"Indeed. I, too, feel a great sense of guilt that I did not suggest that Daniel Jackson's illness was caused by some outside force. During my years in the service of Apophis, I encountered far more strange occurrences than you have in the relatively short time that you have been traveling through the Stargate."
"There's plenty enough guilt to go around, Teal'c."
"Do you believe that Daniel Jackson will give us forgiveness for our actions?"
"I don't know. If I was in his place, I'd have a really hard time doing so. But I'm not Daniel. He's a whole hell of a lot more forgiving than I could ever be, more forgiving than most people are."
As Jack headed off to his quarters and Teal'c to his bed in the main ward, the colonel fervently hoped that Daniel's incredible capacity for forgiveness would enable him to forgive them.
Janet quietly entered the ICU, which was now empty except for Daniel. Coming up to the bed, she saw that the archeologist was restless, his eyes darting back and forth beneath his eyelids as he dreamed.
"No," he mumbled. "Not crazy. Please don't leave me here alone."
Janet had always prided herself on her ability to maintain control of her emotions even in the worst situations. But standing there, hearing the fear and anguish in Daniel's voice, she felt something crack open inside her, and she began to cry. She reached out and stroked Daniel's head.
"I'm sorry, Daniel," she whispered. "I am so, so sorry. I failed you, as your doctor and as your friend. I am so ashamed of how I let you down. I'll understand if you can never forgive me. I would never expect you to."
Turning away, Janet was surprised and appalled to see Jack O'Neill standing a few feet away, watching her. Embarrassed, the doctor quickly wiped away her tears and started to move past him. Jack stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
"Janet," he uttered softly. "Look. I'm sorry about what I said. I was out of line. You didn't deserve that."
Janet's eyes met his. "Yes, I did, Colonel. I deserved every word. You were right. I shouldn't have accepted Doctor MacKenzie's theory so readily. I should have pursued other possibilities. I looked at the results of my tests, saw no other answer for what was wrong with Daniel, and left it at that. I gave up too soon. I have never given up on a patient before, but I gave up on him, and, for that, I will never forgive myself. And what's worse is that I almost made the same mistake with Teal'c as I did with Daniel. Because my tests found nothing present in Teal'c's body, I doubted what Daniel was telling me. If I had not chosen to give him the benefit of the doubt, Teal'c would have died." She straightened her shoulders. "I am seriously considering submitting a request for transfer from this facility."
"What? Come on, Doc. Don't do that. Yeah, okay, so you screwed up. We all did. So, you found out that you're human and imperfect like the rest of us. Don't quit the SGC because of it. Just . . . just wait and talk with Daniel, okay?"
"Colonel, do you honestly believe that Daniel will want me to continue being his doctor after this? There must be an element of trust in a doctor-patient relationship. My actions will have shattered that trust, possibly beyond repair. I will not force Daniel to submit to treatment from me if he can no longer trust me."
Saying nothing more, the doctor left the room.
"Crap," Jack muttered. With a weary sigh, he took a seat beside Daniel. He had been unable to get any sleep, doing nothing but toss and turn in his bed. He'd finally given up and decided to come back here.
The grey-haired turned to the man lying in the bed. "Everything's really messed up, Daniel. I wish to hell that we never set foot on that planet. I wish we'd never heard of Ma'chello or had anything to do with him or his inventions. He's done nothing but hurt you and cause the rest of us a lot of grief, even now that he's dead." Jack gazed at his friend's sleeping face. "I know that we don't have the right to ask for your forgiveness, but you're the only one who can fix this. I hope that you can give us another chance."
Falling silent, Jack leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, wishing with all his might that he was the one in Daniel's place.
A noise abruptly roused Jack from sleep. He'd apparently dozed off in the chair. Twisting his neck back and forth to relieve the ache and stiffness, Jack looked over at Daniel and was surprised to see that the archeologist's eyes were open.
The younger man's gaze moved to his face, but he didn't say anything.
"Hey, you with us?" Jack asked teasingly, though he was a little worried.
"This is real, isn't it?" Daniel asked after a couple of seconds.
"Yes, it's real, Daniel. You're really here in the infirmary. You're not in that place anymore. Ma'chello's invention, Teal'c getting sick, you being cured. It all happened."
Daniel's eyes closed, and a sigh of relief rose out of him. "I wasn't sure."
"I'd better get the doc, let her know that you're awake."
Jack told one of the nurses that Daniel was awake and asked her to get Janet. A couple of minutes later, the doctor was there.
"Hello, Daniel," she greeted with a smile, though, to Jack's eyes, it looked a little forced. "How are you feeling?"
"Strange. My muscles are all stiff."
"Yes, that's to be expected. You had a severe reaction to the antipsychotic medication you were given. You were very sick for a while, but you're doing much better now, and, in time, you'll be completely back to normal."
"I remember feeling horrible. It was the drugs?"
"Yes, though I have reason to believe that Ma'chello's little invention might have made things even worse. I'm just glad that you were here instead of Mental Health. This illness hit you very hard and fast. If you had still been in the . . . the area you were placed in and were not being watched closely, by the time someone realized you were sick, it might have been too late."
Janet saw something flicker in Daniel's eyes. Then, all at once, his manner changed, his expression closing off, his gaze turning away. "When can I leave here?" he asked in a voice that was now cool and emotionless.
Trying not to let Daniel's sudden aloofness bother her, Janet replied, "You need to stay in the infirmary for several more days, then I want you to stay on base until you're well enough to take care of yourself, which could be a week or two. It's likely to be difficult for you to get around and do things on your own for a while."
Daniel gave a short nod, saying nothing more, his eyes not meeting hers.
"Well, I've got other work to get back to. Try to get some more rest." Janet hurried away before he could see the sorrow on her face.
Jack stared at the archeologist. "Daniel, I. . . ." he began, then stopped, not sure what to say, how to apologize to his friend.
"I'm feeling a little tired, Jack," Daniel said, not looking at him. "I think I'm going to try to get some more sleep."
"Sure, Daniel. You rest." Jack got to his feet. "I'll, uh, check up on you later."
Daniel remained unmoving until Jack was gone. He then draped an arm over his eyes, trying to shut out the sights, sounds and smells of the infirmary. The problem was that he couldn't shut out his emotions or thoughts.
All his life, the only constant, the one thing that he could always trust and rely upon, was his intellect. It was the abilities of his mind and his quest for knowledge that sustained him throughout the most difficult times of his life. They were his refuge when things got bad, his unquenchable thirst and passion for learning always driving him forward no matter how hard things got.
But then, in the blink of an eye, it was all gone. He could no longer trust his own mind. He couldn't think straight anymore, and he kept seeing things that logic told him were not there. He was lost, cut adrift with nothing to hold onto. His lifetime anchor was gone, and he felt like he was going to drown, to sink beneath the waves, never to surface again. He'd never been so scared in his life. And he had felt so utterly alone, trapped in that tiny white room and filled with drugs that made it even harder to think.
Daniel didn't know how long he was there before his teammates came, probably no more than two or three days, but it had felt like weeks, weeks of fearing that he was going to be like that for the rest of his life, his mind continuing to disintegrate until there was nothing left of it.
Now, his mind was clear, and he was out of that room, but he still felt anchorless and alone, and he didn't know if anything would ever be the same again.
Later that morning, Jack returned, along with Sam and Teal'c, the Jaffa having been released from the infirmary.
"Hey, Daniel," Sam greeted in a quiet voice. There was uncertainty in her tone.
"Hey," Daniel said back, looking at her for only a brief moment before returning his gaze to the bedcovers.
"So, how are you feeling?" Jack asked.
"Better than before, I guess."
The virtually emotionless response made Jack and Sam exchange a glance.
"I brought you a couple of books to read," the major said, setting the books on the tray.
Jack tried to catch Daniel's eyes, but the archeologist refused to lift his gaze. "Can we get you anything else? Your laptop? An artifact or two? A bowl of Jell-O?"
The colonel's attempt a levity fell flat when Daniel lifted his hands, and his teammates saw how badly they were shaking.
"I don't think that would be a good idea. Do you?" Daniel stated, not a trace of humor in his voice.
Jack sighed silently. "No, I guess not."
A heavy cloak of silence fell upon the group.
"Is there anything we may do for you, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c finally asked.
"No . . . not anymore," Daniel replied, the last part of his sentence spoken very quietly, but not so quietly that the others didn't hear the faint trace of bitterness.
'Damn,' Jack cursed inwardly.
Daniel's head ducked down further. "I'm, uh, still kind of tired, so. . . ."
"We'll let you get some more rest," Sam responded, struggling to keep the pain out of her voice.
Jack, Sam and Teal'c left the ICU with the sinking feeling that they had lost a friend.
The days passed as Daniel lay in the infirmary while his body recovered from the effects of MacKenzie's drugs and Ma'chello's invention. He had been transferred out of the ICU and into the main ward, though he'd have preferred remaining in the ICU since it was quieter, and there were no other patients there. Aggravated and frustrated by the rigidity of his muscles and the unnatural slowness of his movements, he spent most of the time in bed.
Across the room, Janet looked up from the chart she was reading. Her eyes went to the figure lying on the bed in the corner. Daniel was facing the wall, his back to everyone. It was a position she saw him in often. The archeologist was quiet, withdrawn, not at all like the man she knew. Though the effects of the NMS must be very frustrating for him, he said nothing, only the deep frown on his face occasionally testifying to his irritation with the temporary disability.
Janet knew that the chemical imbalances in Daniel's brain were partly responsible for his emotional state, but she didn't fool herself into believing that was the sole reason. Daniel was in pain, not physically, but emotionally. She'd watched his interaction with his teammates, seen how distant and taciturn he was, never looking at them for more than a few seconds. It was a terrible thing to see, to watch what had been such a close bond fall apart.
The situation between her and Daniel was no better, his expression equally as closed off, his responses just as short and lacking in emotion. What she wouldn't give for a return of the man who used to gaze at her with those blue eyes of his and oh so sweetly try to convince her that he was feeling much better than he really was so that she'd let him go back to work.
Just then, Sam came in. She approached the bed with an air of hesitation and uncertainty that should not have been there. She moved around to the far side of the bed, facing Daniel, and looked down at him in silence. As Janet watched, the calm expression slipped away from her face, deep sorrow appearing in its place. Seeing that made the doctor realize that Daniel must have fallen asleep.
After a moment, Sam's hand lifted, reaching toward the archeologist's head. Her fingers gently brushed his hair, and Janet could tell that she was fighting not to cry. She left just a few minutes later, and the doctor did not fail to see the sheen of tears when their eyes met for a brief moment.
With a sad sigh, Janet turned away and got back to work, wondering if anything would ever be the same again.
"Yep. I always knew that you were crazy."
The sneer in Jack's voice cut Daniel to the quick.
"All of those other archeologists knew you were crazy, too," the colonel continued.
"But I was right, Jack!" Daniel insisted, struggling against the straightjacket that held him prisoner. "All of my theories were right!"
"Doesn't matter. You're still nuts, loony, wacko, three fries short of a Happy Meal."
"No! I'm not! I'm not crazy, Jack. Please! You have to believe me!" Daniel begged. Then he saw Sam. "Sam! Please, Sam. You know I'm not crazy, don't you?"
"I'm sorry, but I have to agree with the colonel on this one, Daniel. You're definitely crazy. You saw event horizons in your closet and dead Goa'uld walking around. That sounds like crazy to me."
"But it was Ma'chello! That thing of his did it! You know that!"
"Ma'chello is dead, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c told him, pity on his face. "He could not have harmed you."
"Face it, Daniel. You're insane," Jack said, his voice harsh and cruel. "And you're going to be that way forever."
"Insane! Insane! Forever!" chanted a bodiless voice, cold and taunting.
Daniel watched as Jack, Sam and Teal'c turned their backs on him and walked away, leaving him alone.
"No! Please don't leave me here!" Daniel called, crying. "I'm not crazy! Come back! Come back!"
Daniel awoke with a gasp, eyes blinking open to the sight of the infirmary wall. There was wetness on his face, and he quickly brushed it away. He glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone had heard his nightmare, but all was quiet, and nobody was looking at him.
Turning back to the wall, Daniel wrapped his arms around himself. It was the beginning of the fifth day since his collapse, and the nightmares were showing no sign of letting up. Daniel knew that they stemmed from the fear and anguish he'd felt at being all alone in that padded cell, knowing that he was completely losing his mind and helpless to stop it from happening.
Daniel almost wished that Jack, Sam and Teal'c were with him right now, telling him that they never thought he was crazy. But they had thought he was crazy, hadn't they.
Daniel had been trying to understand and accept what Janet and his teammates did, but he found that he couldn't. He just didn't understand why every one of them – even Jack, who had claimed that he did not buy into the Stargate-induced schizophrenia theory – made no real effort to look into other reasons, to find another answer. Instead, they just stood back and watched as he was taken away.
He had been told him that, because of the chemical imbalances in his brain, he might suffer from depression and other emotional problems. Was that why he was hurting so much? Was it the reason why all he wanted was to hide away from everyone?
Daniel suddenly decided to ask that he be released from the infirmary today. His muscle stiffness and tremors had eased to the point where he could move around well enough to take care of himself. As long as he stayed in the wheelchair most of the time, he'd be okay. He needed to be out of the infirmary, to be alone where no one would hear him when he cried out from the nightmares, where no one would see the tears on his face when he awoke from yet another dream of being abandoned in a cold, white, padded room to die a slow, lonely death.
"I'd like to be released from the infirmary," Daniel told Doctor Warner, who was the primary physician on duty that morning.
"I think it's a bit too early for that, Doctor Jackson. You're still suffering significantly from the NMS."
"It's not all that bad, not anymore. I can use the wheelchair, and I can move well enough to feed myself and go to the bathroom. Doctor Fraiser said that I could stay in one of the VIP rooms until I was recovered enough to go home." Daniel gazed at him pleadingly. "Please, Doctor Warner. I need to be out of here."
The doctor studied him for a long time. "All right, I'll discuss it with Doctor Fraiser when she arrives."
Daniel came close to asking if the doctor could okay it on his own, but he kept silent. Janet was the chief medical officer. The final okay would have to come from her.
Janet arrived after lunch. Daniel saw her head swivel in his direction when Doctor Warner talked to her, though he was trying to pretend that he wasn't looking. It was a while later before she came to see him.
"So, Doctor Warner tells me that you asked to be released," she said, her voice giving nothing away.
Daniel kept his eyes on his hands. "Yes."
"I would prefer it if you stayed here at least another day, Daniel."
"What difference is one more day going to make, Doctor?"
Janet did not miss the fact that he called her "doctor" rather than by her name. Trying not to let it hurt too much, she replied, "It will allow you to regain more freedom of movement in your muscles, which will make it safer and easier for you to take care of yourself."
Daniel finally looked at her. "Is this really to do with the NMS, or are you afraid that I'll have a relapse and go nuts again?" he asked, a note of bitterness in his voice.
Daniel regretted the words the second they were out of his mouth. He hadn't meant to say that. He didn't even know why he had. He knew that wasn't true, and he felt awful for having said it.
Janet's face had gone pale, her eyes looking like those of a doe that had been mortally wounded, which made Daniel feel even worse.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that," he said quickly. "I know that isn't what you think."
Janet's gaze went to the chart she was holding. "I'll see about getting you put in a VIP room," she said in a tight voice, then she turned and quickly walked away.
Jack, Sam and Teal'c were in Daniel's office. For some reason even they didn't quite understand, they had all been drawn to the place that so strongly possessed the essence of their friend. Jack was sitting on the corner of the desk playing with an artifact while Sam wandered around, touching things. Teal'c stood silent and unmoving a few feet from Jack.
Sam stopped her wanderings in front of the bookcase that held Daniel's field journals. "We're losing him, aren't we," she said sadly.
Jack put the artifact down. "Yeah, I think so," he admitted in a tired voice.
"Daniel Jackson was deeply hurt by our actions," Teal'c commented.
"What actions? We didn't do anything. That's the problem."
"I have spent many hours in Kel'no'reem, trying to think of what I might do to make restitution for my failure, but no answer comes. I must apologize, but I do not know what words to speak."
"Join the crowd, Teal'c," Jack said. "We all owe Daniel a huge apology, and none of us know what we're going to say to him. It's for damn sure that 'sorry' isn't enough."
Sam sat in a chair. "He won't talk to us. Every time we go visit him, he's so distant and reserved, like a stranger."
"He never looks at me in the eyes," Jack said quietly.
"Do you think he'll request a transfer?"
Jack sighed. "I hope not, but, yeah, I'm afraid he will."
"We must do all we can to prevent that from happening," Teal'c stated.
"The problem is, Teal'c, that I don't know if Daniel will ever be able to trust us again, and, if he can't, then he shouldn't be on SG-1."
Sam looked at Jack. "He wouldn't leave the SGC, would he?"
"I don't know. Sha're's still out there, so I'm hoping that will keep him from quitting."
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a young Marine.
"Oh, sorry, sirs, ma'am. I didn't realize anyone was in here," he said.
"What do you want, Sergeant?" Jack inquired.
"Doctor Fraiser requested that someone get a few of Doctor Jackson's books and take them to a VIP room. He's being released from the infirmary and placed in one of the rooms."
"Really? That's good news."
"Let me pick out some books for you," Sam offered. She gathered a few that she knew were among Daniel's favorites. As an afterthought, she also got one of his unused journals and slipped a pen into the binding, thinking that Daniel might like to do some writing.
The Marine took the books from her. "Thank you, ma'am." He turned and headed for the door.
"Wait, Sergeant," Jack called.
"Do you know which room it was that Daniel stayed in before he was, um, taken to the hospital?"
"No, sir, not precisely."
Jack told him which room it was. "Whatever you do, do not put him in that room. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," the Marine replied, then left.
"I'm surprised that Janet's letting him leave the infirmary so soon," Sam remarked. "We should go visit him once he's settled."
"Yeah." Jack stood up. "Let's meet there in an hour and a half."
A couple of the nurses helped Daniel get dressed and took him in a wheelchair to one of the VIP rooms. He noted that it was not the same room that he had been staying in before, which was a relief.
After seeing that he was all settled, the younger of the two nurses left. The older one was about to leave when she turned back to him.
"You know, doctors make mistakes, too, Daniel," she said. Then she left.
Feeling like a child who had just been scolded, Daniel sat there for a long while. He glancing over at the bed and noticed that several of the books from his office had been placed on the table beside it. One of his journals was also there. He wondered if he had Janet to thank for that.
Having nothing else to do, Daniel got one of the books and flipped through it, but he couldn't keep his attention on it. He picked up the journal and saw that it was an empty one. A pen had been slipped into the binding. He pulled the pen out and turned the journal to the first page. For a while, he stared at its blankness, then he began to write, his thoughts and emotions pouring out of the pen and onto the paper.
During these years in the Stargate Program I've come to trust my teammates, General Hammond, Doctor Fraiser, and many of the other people here. But, now, it's all changed. Every time I think about what happened, I feel so angry, bitter and hurt. I feel betrayed by what my Jack, Sam, Teal'c and Janet did, and I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to fully trust any of them again.
If it wasn't for Sha're, I really think that I'd quit the program, but I have to stay here for her. But I don't know if I can stay on SG-1. How can I go on missions if I can't trust my teammates in every way? What will happen if, while on a mission, I see or experience something strange or unexplainable? Can I trust that they will be willing to accept on faith that I'm not imagining things? Can I even trust them enough to tell them if something like that does happen?
What if I'm ever in this kind of situation again? What if I'm exposed to some other alien device or organism that affects me psychologically or emotionally? Will Janet and everyone else yet again assume that a mental illness is to blame?
And then there are the yearly psychological exams that all SG team members are required to have. There is no way that I will allow Doctor MacKenzie to give me a psychiatric exam ever again. I doubt that I'll ever feel comfortable being given one by anybody.
All things considered, it really would be best for me to leave SG-1. But if I did that, I'd feel like I was letting Sha're down, because I would no longer personally be out there trying to find her.
I just don't know what to do.
Daniel closed the journal and set it on the table. Feeling very weary all at once, he decided to get some sleep. He crawled under the covers of the bed and closed his eyes. A few minutes later, he was asleep.