Taking Care by rutherford

TITLE: Taking Care
STATUS: Rewrite
DATE: 12/06/2001
AUTHOR: rutherford
EMAIL: rutherford@cybertardis.com
PAIRING: Sam/Janet, established relationship
CATEGORY: Epilogue, angst
SPOILERS: Season 5 - Threshold, Season 4 - Upgrades, Season 2 - Message in a bottle, Serpent's Song
NOTES: This is a rewrite of a story I posted after "Threshold" aired in July. I got a few facts wrong. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.


Janet busied herself checking Teal'c's vitals for the third or forth time, noting that two members of her nursing staff were quietly ushering SG1 out of the room. Bra'tac caught her eye, silently attempting to communicate something to her, but she wasn't quite ready to deal with him just yet, not when fury threatened to burst through the veneer of professionalism she'd managed to maintain so far. Instead, she deliberately turned away to study the wall of monitors attached to the recovering Jaffa.

"I want to monitor Teal'c here for another hour or so, then he can be moved into the ward," she told one of her technicians. Glancing around the room, she frowned in irritation. "And get these candles out of here," she commanded. "This is an infirmary, not a massage parlor." She felt petty and childish even before the words left her mouth, but she still couldn't stop herself from saying them.

Her staff worked rapidly and efficiently, but there was no mistaking the underlying tension in the room. Janet had had only that one, tiny outburst, while talking to Sam. But it was apparently obvious to everyone that she was upset over what had transpired over the course of the night.

Upset, Janet mused, didn't even begin to describe it. She didn't really think there were words to describe what she'd been feeling for most of the night. Or feeling now, for that matter.

Teal'c appeared to have fallen into a light sleep, his face and body relaxed in a way that they had not been for most of the night. He had survived the procedure, she thought, picking up his chart and scribbling a few notes. There was that at least. And despite her own turmoil and resentment, she was deeply relieved.

But any relief she felt was tempered by the fact that Teal'c could just as easily have died. If Bra'tac had tried this outside a medical facility she had no doubt they'd be mourning their friend rather than celebrating his miraculous recovery. Even worse, it had been allowed to happen here in spite of her protests.

"Do not be angry with Bra'tac." Teal'c voice was soft and strained. She kept her back to him for a moment, putting on her professional face. When she turned, she gave him a small smile, stepping forward to fuss with the blanket covering him before her hand instinctively dropped to his wrist to check his pulse.

"No one's angry at anyone," she lied. "We're all just glad you're still with us."

"You are angry," he said implacably. "Bra'tac did what was necessary."

Janet nodded, hoping to appease Teal'c, chagrined that he could sense her emotions so clearly. "You need to rest," she said, placing one hand reassuringly on his shoulder. After everything he'd just endured, she was touched by his concern for her.

Lifting one hand, Teal'c captured her fingers in his, huge palm dwarfing hers. For the briefest of moments she felt a flash of fear, wondering if they'd all been mistaken, wondering if Teal'c had managed to fool them all, even Bra'tac. But his grip was light and non-threatening. He pulled her hand gently forward until her fingers were pressed lightly against his cheek. "Thank you," he whispered.

He held her there for a moment longer, then slowly released her fingers. As she watched, his eyes slid closed and his breathing deepened. Either he was asleep again, or he'd drifted off into Kel'nor'eem. With Teal'c, it was sometimes hard to tell.

Hanging the chart clumsily on the hook at the end of the bed, she noted grimly that her hands were shaking. Delayed reaction to stress, she told herself. Stress bringing a touch of claustrophobia with it, perhaps. If she could get some air she'd be all right. She just needed some air.

Unfortunately, she couldn't just leave the facility to go topside. Aside from the fact that there were numerous security checkpoints between this level and the surface, it would be irresponsible of her to leave Teal'c, even though he appeared to be doing fine. No, the only place to get some fresh air inside the mountain was through the Stargate and that simply wasn't an option at the moment.

"Debby, would you keep an eye on Teal'c's vitals for me?" she asked, trying to keep her voice casual, coolly detached. "I'll be in my office." It wouldn't do for her staff to see the CMO freak out in the infirmary, she told herself sternly.

"All right, Doctor Fraiser." Debby nodded. "Do you want me to call you before we move him to the ward?"

Moving Teal'c was something her staff could easily handle. Still, she knew she needed to be here. "Yes," she said, before stepping around Teal'c's bed, and slipping through the door without a backward look.

Her office wasn't actually in the infirmary, which for the first time struck her as an incredible inconvenience. Instead, it was located several doors away on the same level. But, it did afford her some degree of much needed privacy. If she could just get there without falling apart. She could see the entrance to the office suite just ahead...

"Janet, wait up."

Janet cursed silently. She should've known Sam would try to find her once things had settled down. Janet briefly considered just doggedly continuing on to her office, hoping that Sam would get the hint.

But she knew better. Sighing in frustrating, she curled one hand into a tight fist, hoping the sting of her nails digging into her palm would ground her. Reluctantly, she turned to face the other woman, who had stopped and was standing several feet away gazing at her uncertainly.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." She even managed, she realized with some surprise, to say the words neutrally.

"You don't seem fine," Sam contradicted. "Actually, you seem a little upset."

"Why would I be upset?" Janet asked. "Teal'c is going to be fine."

"I know," Sam said, nodding slowly.

"That's all that matters then. If you'll excuse me." Spinning on her heel, Janet quickly crossed the few remaining feet to her office door. She nearly had the door closed behind her when a hand pressed it open, and Sam slipped inside, leaving it ajar. Sighing again in frustration, Janet stalked across the room and stood at her desk, blindly shuffling papers in the hopes that Sam would get the hint and just go away. "Is there something I can do for you, Major?" she asked curtly.

"I know this was hard for you," Sam began, voice laced with sympathy.

"Don't!" Janet said sharply, holding one hand up to silence the other woman. "Just don't." She didn't want sympathy from anyone at the moment, least of all Sam. And now that she'd allowed some of the emotion she'd been bottling up all night out, the dam just burst. "If you want to buy into that--that voodoo medicine that we saw back there, be my guest. It won't change the fact that Teal'c is lucky to be alive. I should never have agreed to it. I shouldn't have even been asked to, dammit! So don't try to make me feel better about anything that happened back there."

There was a pile of charts on her desk, and she sent them fluttering to the floor with one sweep of her arm. Sam stepped back, staring at her in shock. "No other facility would ask a physician to withhold treatment from a patient. For any reason. Yet, time and again, I'm asked to do exactly that. Or I have to sit back and let the Tok'ra keep me in the dark while they use you as guinea pigs. I sometimes wonder why I even bother. Maybe I should just resign!" She was really, truly angry now, the words tumbling out of her mouth in an outraged tirade.

"You don't mean that," Sam said quietly.

"Don't tell me what I mean!" Janet snapped, barely noticing as Sam winced, then turned and closed the door. "I have a responsibility to the people in this facility, and I am sick and tired of having my opinion dismissed or over-ruled! And when I do manage to get General Hammond to follow one of my recommendations, he makes it clear to me he's simply tolerating it. I've had it."

Janet stood there glaring at Sam, daring her to say something. The other woman opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a sharp knock on the door. Wordlessly, Sam pulled the door open again, revealing General Hammond, Bra'tac standing behind him. "Sir," she heard Sam breathe quietly.

"Dismissed, Major," Hammond said sharply, stepping aside so Sam could leave. "Master Bra'tac, would you please wait outside for a moment."

"Of course," Bra'tac said with a small bow, stepping away from the door.

Hammond closed the door, then turned, appraising her carefully. "Is there something you'd like to say to me, Doctor?" he asked, finally.

Some of the raw anger had burned away at the mere sight of him standing in the hallway, but enough of it was still there to give her the courage to say a few things that needed to be said. "Permission to speak freely, sir?" she asked.

"Granted." His expression was calm, composed, yet expectant, as if he'd known this conversation was going to take place.

She licked her lips, taking a moment to collect her thoughts. The General was a reasonable man, but one who wasn't easily swayed by angry shouts or bitter recrimination. "Sir, Bra'tac informed me that the order to allow him to proceed with this treatment came from you. Is this correct?"

"It is."

"With all due respect, Sir, you don't have the authority to make that decision. Neither you nor Bra'tac have the appropriate medical background. As CMO of this facility, I should have been consulted before any decisions were made. I'd like an explanation."

There, it was, her cards were laid on the table. She thought she'd managed to put her finger on what was bothering her so much about this whole situation. It wasn't entirely ego, though she had to admit that there was a small part of her that was nursing wounded pride. It was the larger issue of the care and treatment of the people she was responsible for. When she was left out of the loop on medical matters, no one was safe. And this incident was one in a long line of such incidents.

"You are not an expert on Jaffa physiology, or on the effects of the sarcophagus, Doctor," Hammond said quietly. "Nor are you a psychologist. In light of Doctor Makenzie's recent failure, it became apparent to me that conventional methods of treatment were not going to be effective."

"That may be true, General Hammond, but neither are you."

"What course of treatment would you have recommended, Doctor?" Hammond still wore that same, neutral expression, but his eyes narrowed ever so slightly as he asked the question.

"That's irrelevant to the issue at hand, Sir," she replied, more hotly than she'd intended. She bit her tongue to stop herself from adding that he'd been the one to make it irrelevant. Instead, Janet paused for a moment, getting her temper in check. "Since you ask, there were additional psychiatric treatments to try. Behavioral therapies, as well as drug therapies that have proven to be quite effective at neutralizing various forms of counter-conditioning." She shrugged. "Given that the human body releases enormous amounts of neurotransmitters and endorphins at the moment of death, it's entirely possible that doses of similar chemicals would've brought Teal'c out of it. Without the risk of bringing him nearly to the point of death."

"I read Doctor Mackenzie's report, Doctor. His prognosis was not very encouraging. I felt more extreme measures were warranted. As commanding officer of this facility, I made the necessary decision."

"Your failure to include me in this decision was a serious breach in protocol that potentially endangers everyone in this facility," she countered. Whatever else her motivations were, she was absolutely right about this. A lead weight settled in her chest as she realized, in light of his apparently intractable response, what her next words would have to be. "I feel I have no choice but to file a formal complaint."

She was angry, furious even. But she hadn't really wanted it to come to this; while she hadn't expected Hammond to come right out and admit that he was wrong, she'd certainly expected a little more than this.

His mouth settled into a grim line as he nodded slowly. "All right, Doctor. You should take whatever steps you feel are necessary. We'll continue this discussion later," he said. "Master Bra'tac has to leave shortly, but he would like to have a word with you before he goes."

Recognizing for the moment that now was neither the time nor the place, she nodded slowly, counting to ten.. But, as she mutely watched Hammond's retreating back, she vowed that this was not the end of their discussion.

Bra'tac stepped into the small room. To say that he looked completely out of place, in the strange garb of a Jaffa warrior was an understatement. She found herself wondering why he still dressed that way, though he had long ceased to be in the service of any Goa'uld, literally or figuratively.

"You wanted to see me?" she asked as the door swung shut behind him. She failed to keep the challenge out of her voice. The last thing she was in the mood for right now was a lecture on how to be a good doctor and friend.

"You do not approve of what I did," he stated without preamble. So much for not getting a lecture, she thought grimly.

"No, I don't."

"Even though we succeeded? Even though Teal'c survived, and is restored?"

"Even though we succeeded."

"It was necessary."

"It was irresponsible.."

He leaned back and regarded her carefully, frowning. "You would have Teal'c continue to believe that Apophis is his god?" Bra'tac asked. "You would have him turn his back on everything he has fought for to return to a mindset he abhorred?"

"I would never have authorized a course of treatment that included removing his symbiote and allowing his physical condition to deteriorate to the point of death," she countered.

"Then why did you?" he challenged.

She'd been expecting another parry in their verbal battle, so the question caught her off guard. Which, she realized, was exactly what he'd intended.

The truth was she'd spent many moments of the night wondering exactly the same thing. She hadn't been able to come up with a good answer in all that time, and she didn't have one for him now. Briefly, she considered blustering through another retort, not quite ready to give in to Bra'tac.

"Why did you allow it?" he persisted. "You had the authority to countermand the orders. Why didn't you?"

The decision to directly countermand her superior's orders was not something to be taken lightly, she reflected. Though perhaps Bra'tac would understand that better than anyone.

It was true, she did have the authority to do exactly as he suggested. She could have even called in the MPs to enforce it if necessary. So why hadn't she?

Slowly, she sank down into her desk chair, looking at the clutter of paperwork on her desk. "I don't know," she whispered at last, glancing up at him. "I don't know."

"I know," Bra'tac said gently. "It was something I once told Teal'c, after he became First Prime of Apophis. I told him that he must be willing to do things that he knew to be wrong. I told him there was a greater purpose to be served."

She shook her head, bewildered. "I don't understand."

"Teal'c and I are warriors. Our purpose is to free our people from slavery to false gods. The only way for us to achieve this purpose is to work from within, to serve these same false gods." He paused, and looked down intently at her. "You are also a warrior, in your own way. Your purpose is to fight for the well-being of those in your care. Sometimes, the only way this can be achieved is by doing something that you know to be wrong. There is a greater purpose to be served. It is the same thing."

"It's not the same thing at all," she said, shaking her head. "My purpose is to save lives, not stand by and allow someone to nearly die."

"You do not understand," Bra'tac said patiently. "It was not Teal'c's life we were saving. It was Teal'c's soul. Death does not matter if your soul is free."

Janet looked up at him, seeing the scars of a long and difficult life on his worn face. And she understood the fundamental difference between them. "But you're still dead," she observed softly, watching understanding dawn in his eyes at her words. "There's a saying we have," she said. "'Where there's life, there's hope.'" She sighed heavily, seeing his perspective with perfect, sudden clarity, yet unable to shake decades of training and instinct. "Death is the end of hope. Oddly enough, I think maybe that's why I didn't protest the procedure more firmly," she said. "Maybe I just hoped it would work." It didn't really make a lot of sense to her, as far as explanations went, but at the moment she couldn't come up with anything better. And the admission cost her, though Bra'tac probably had no idea how much. It was an admission that she was helpless, that, her words to Hammond to the contrary, she hadn't known what to do for Teal'c.

They were silent for several long moments. Janet took the time to absorb the impact of her words, and to reflect on the real reason why she was angry. Hammond should have consulted her, there was no question about that. But that wasn't the real reason why she'd been angry. She'd been angry at herself, at her own inability to find the quick solution everyone was hoping for. Makenzie would say she was suffering from classic displacement.

"There's something else," Bra'tac said, breaking the silence. "When this began, I told you that you should stay, that you might help to bring Teal'c back when the time came."

Janet nodded, waiting patiently for Bra'tac to continue.

"I said those words to placate you, so you would not interfere with what needed to be done. I was prepared to let Teal'c die if it was necessary." Janet detected a note of shame in his voice, but remained silent. "At the time, I did not realize how true my words were to be. I have conducted this ritual three times. Teal'c is the only Jaffa to survive." The admission was made quietly. "I believe you were the reason why. You knew how to keep his symbiote alive so that it could be returned to him at the appropriate time. And you possess the knowledge and the technology to start a heart that has ceased to beat. I do not pretend to understand these things. Know that I am grateful for them. And to you."

Then Bra'tac hesitated, appearing unsure of himself. Curiously, she watched his face as he self-consciously licked his lips. "Women in my culture are not warriors," he explained at last. "Their purpose is to keep the house and raise the children."

She remained silent, though a sarcastic observation was on the tip of her tongue. Somehow, she didn't think Bra'tac would appreciate it very much.

"But I have learned to appreciate that Tau'ri ways are different from mine." Bra'tac leaned forward, slowly extending one arm in her direction.

She rose before she could even think about it. Silently she reached forward and clasped his forearm, feeling his hard grip on her arm at the same time. He looked intently into her eyes. "As one warrior to another," he said simply, nodding once.

Releasing her arm, he stepped back. "Look after Teal'c." he said. "Look after all of them." Then he left.

She stared at the spot where Bra'tac had stood during their conversation for several long moments, before sinking slowly into her chair again. Not sure what to think or feel, she just sat quietly, trying to clear her mind of all thoughts, all worries.

The ringing of the telephone intruded on her thoughts so loudly that she nearly jumped out of her skin. Hastily, she pulled the receiver out of its cradle and held it to her ear. "Fraiser," she said, falling into her business-like phone voice with practiced ease.

"Doctor Fraiser? General Hammond would like to see you in his office in five minutes."

"I'm on my way," she said, then hung up. That was fast, she thought, not certain whether to be grateful that her commanding officer was addressing this so quickly or not. A small part of her wondered if he would ask for her resignation.

Hammond was seated behind his desk when she entered. "Close the door behind you, Doctor, and have a seat," he said. That didn't bode well, she thought

As she sank into the chair opposite his, he closed the file he was reading with deliberate care, then rested his elbows on the desk, clasping his hands in front of him. He fixed her with one of his patented, unnerving stares for several seconds, until Janet began to wonder if he was waiting for her to explain herself

"Doctor, I owe you an apology," he said before she could speak. "I should have consulted you about Bra'tac's proposed treatment. You are well within your rights to file a formal complaint. You will not get any objections from me when you do."

Janet blinked, a little surprised at Hammond's admission. "I'm not going to file a complaint, Sir," she said.

If Hammond was relieved by her admission, he gave no sign of it. Instead, he leaned back in her chair and regarded her thoughtfully. "I overheard most of your conversation with Major Carter," he said at last. "I think most of the base heard," he added ruefully.

Janet ducked her head, feeling heat suffuse her cheeks. "I'm sorry about that, Sir. I lost my temper. It won't happen again."

"I got the impression from that conversation that you feel this is the latest in a long line of incidents. Is this correct?"

She took a moment to gather her thoughts. While she'd understood and at least publicly accepted every one of Hammond's over-rides with respect to her medical priorities, that didn't make the incidents or their consequences any easier to accept. They'd ranged from the entire base's prevailing attitude toward Apophis, to Hammond's curt rebuttal of her requests to treat Lieutenant Simmons when an entity had overtaken O'Neill and the gateroom, to Hammond's willingness to go along with Anise's proposed experiments. And other, lesser incidents that had left her feeling as though her authority was undermined and her competency questioned. "Yes, Sir," she said quietly.

Hammond sighed deeply. "Doctor, you are an invaluable member of this facility, to me personally, and to the entire Stargate program in general. None of us express that often enough. To you, or to your staff. There has never been any question or doubt as to your competency, or your dedication to your job, or the people under your care. I just wanted you to know that."

"Thank you, Sir," she said. She wasn't sure what else to say.

He glanced at his watch. "It's nearly 4pm, and you've been on duty for over twenty-four hours. Go home and get some rest, Doctor," Hammond ordered. "I'd like to continue this discussion tomorrow," he added. "It's past time we cleared the air about some of the specific issues. And I'd like to go over medical protocols with you again, as well. Fourteen hundred?"

"That will be fine, Sir," Janet said, rising. She wasn't sure how much things were going to change, but at least Hammond was willing to listen. That was a start.

"Until then, get some rest. That's an order."

She checked on Teal'c on her way out, supervising the move from the infirmary's main observation room to the ward. He was silent during the transfer, a small, contented smile on his face the whole time. She even had the technicians bring in the recently snuffed candles, and had them placed on the nightstand. As she left, the soft glow of candlelight suffused the entire, dimly-lit wing of the infirmary.

Sam was waiting for her when she got home, having gone off duty some time before. She handed Janet a glass of red wine as she walked through the door then wordlessly took her by the hand and led Janet to the living room, sitting beside her on the couch. She hooked her arms loosely around Janet's shoulders, fingers rubbing taunt muscles lightly.

"So, did you resign?" Sam asked quietly.

"No," Janet said, shaking her head. She leaned forward to place the wineglass carefully on the coffee table, then settled back into Sam's embrace. "General Hammond and I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon to discuss some of my concerns," she added.

"I'm glad," Sam said. "I'm sorry."

Janet turned within Sam's light hold. "For what?" she asked. If anything, Janet thought she should be the one apologizing.

"When we talked, in the infirmary, during..." Her voice trailed off. "I was a little dismissive," Sam admitted. Janet felt Sam press a small kiss against her temple. "I knew you were upset about it, but Bra'tac came in and just took charge. I think maybe I got caught up in that."

"Well," Janet admitted grudgingly. "It did work. That's the important thing." She realized she should have cautioned Bra'tac about performing that particular ritual in the future. Somehow, though, she thought he'd gotten the message.

"Thanks to you," Sam said.

"Thanks to all of us," Janet countered. "I never would have tried such a radical treatment," she said. "Bra'tac probably did us all a favor." She could say it now, but just over an hour ago she'd have been hard pressed to make such an admission.

"And thanks to you," Sam persisted. "Nobody ever says it, but the SGC wouldn't work without you. I hope you know that."

Janet smiled. "Hammond said the same thing. I'll admit it never hurts to be reminded every once in a while," she said.

"Well, as the Colonel says, that sort of thing never gets old."

"Wise man, that Colonel O'Neill," Janet said, voice laced with amusement. "I'm not really sure things are going to change, but at least it's a start." She started to add another comment about her concerns, only to be cut off by an enormous yawn. Her head drooped to the side until it rested against Sam's shoulder.

"I'll bet General Hammond ordered you to get some rest," Sam whispered in her ear.

"As a matter of fact, he did," Janet replied, closing her eyes. "I think this is one order I won't have any trouble following."

The End

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