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F is for Finding her Place

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F is for Finding Her Place

 

I know I’m not imagining the exhaustion in General Hammond’s voice when he asks me to sit down and inquires about my adjustment. We do the small talk for a few minutes, how I’m settling into the apartment, finding food and furniture before moving into work related areas. “We’re almost fully staffed, sir,” I flip through my notes. “We still need three more nurses and I’d like to have some with emergency room experience. What we are doing, I would very much liken to triage.”

“So noted, Dr. Fraiser.” The general makes a few notes of his own. “The last of the equipment should be here no later than Friday. Please conduct a complete inventory and let me know if there’s anything missing.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Anything new in the infirmary of which I need to be made aware?”

This is the opening I’ve been waiting for. “Sir, we need to develop policy for medical personnel going into the field.”

The general gives me a startled look. “Dr. Fraiser, I hope you’re not suggesting letting medical staff travel through the gate?”

“Sir, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. And this incident on P3X-797 only makes it more vital that we get some of the infirmary staff trained as field medics.”

“Dr., do you have any idea how much training is required for the teams going through the gate?”

“Sir, I’m not suggesting that type of training; I’m not advocating they be attached to specific teams. And I hate to keep harping on 797 but realistically, someone with some medical training should have accompanied the team to rescue Dr. Jackson. There was a significant probability he was injured. Certainly, SG-1 is to be commended for that rescue, but did anyone take the time to gauge Dr. Jackson’s physical or neurological status? From what I understand, Mr. Teal’c slung him over his shoulders and carried him about the planet. That could have exacerbated any existing injuries.” He looks like he’s about to speak so I plow on. “Sir, I know Captain Carter has basic field medical training and I think it’s something everyone on every team should receive. But I’m just asking you to consider having a trained field team who can be ready to retrieve injured personnel off world.”

“I admit that thought never crossed my mind. And that’s why we desperately need someone of your caliber, Dr. Fraiser.” I know my face is flushed with pleasure. “Can you write something up, give me an idea what that might entail?”

“Yes, sir,” I stand, recognizing the dismissal. “And thank you, sir.”

“Thank you, Dr. Fraiser.”

*

“Chuck, can you see how many of the large blood pressure cuffs they sent us?” After seeing the sizes of some of the biceps around here, I worry that we aren’t going to have enough.

“Yes, ma’am. Oh, and Dr. Jackson finally came down.” Chuck thumbs toward the bed at the end of the ward.

“Thank you.” I straighten my jacket and stroll over. “Dr. Jackson, thank you for coming in.”

He is seated on one of the beds, his feet swinging impatiently. His eyes peep shyly at me framed by long shaggy hair and glasses. “I don’t really know why I’m here.”

“You’re here because you were injured on your last mission and I need to know that you’re fit for duty.”

“I’m fine!” He protests.

“I’d be interested in knowing where you obtained your degree, Dr. Jackson.” I note his blood pressure, a bit higher than I’d like to see it, but this is stressful work.

“UCLA for undergrad, PhDs in philology and archaeology from the Oriental Institute and Egyptology from the University of Liverpool’s School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology.”

His mischievous eyes are at odds with the innocent expression. And tell me he thinks he’s gotten one over on me; I suppose this is as good a time as any to show him, and the rest of these folks, who’s boss. “Alright, Dr. Smarty Pants, you may have more degrees than me but I have the one that matters in this forum. And until I’m satisfied you’re ‘fine’, you’re not going anywhere.” He deflates noticeably.

“Daniel.” We both jump at the voice that booms behind me. “You’re not giving the good doctor a hard time, I hope?”

Dr. Jackson makes with the big eyes again. A look I now realize isn’t as innocent as it initially appears. “No, Jack, I would never do that.” Evidently, Colonel O’Neill has Dr. Jackson’s number because he laughs in what sounds like disbelief.

Ignoring a pair of angry blue eyes, the colonel leans against the side of the bed, insinuating himself into the patient’s comfort zone. “So, Dr. Fraiser, how is he?”

As Dr. Jackson’s commanding officer, he is privy to any and all medical information about him. “His blood pressure is a bit high, but it isn’t anything to be alarmed about. Yet. I was going to suggest that Dr. Jackson consider taking weekly allergy shots, it would really cut down on the over the counter meds.” I address this last bit to the patient.

“That would probably be for the best.” Colonel O’Neill nods before Dr. Jackson has a chance to speak. “We don’t need him sneezing on all the aliens.”

“Jack.” The colonel gets a glare for his trouble.

“Daniel.” He answers calmly.

“I am perfectly capable of making informed decisions about my own medical condition.” He hops down from the bed. “If you two don’t mind.” He jerks his jacket on and practically flounces out of the infirmary, leaving me staring somewhat dumbstruck. I’ve never heard anyone use that tone when speaking to their commanding officer; it bordered on insubordination.

The colonel just grins that much harder at my expression. “If there’s one thing you need to learn, Dr. Fraiser, it’s that Daniel is never going to be one of those ‘yes, sir, whatever you say, sir’ types.” He shrugs as he walks away, pausing at the door. “Might as well get used to it right now, save yourself the headache.”

*

I suspect that General Hammond would very much like to hide beneath his desk every time he sees me coming. But this is a subject I don’t intend to abandon. I am right and I know it. Fortunately, he has come to agree with me and I now have a fully trained off-world medical rescue team. We’re ready for our first emergency. But before that occurs, there is one last thing to which he has to agree.

I have to go through the gate; I cannot ask my staff to do something I haven’t done myself.

“Dr. Fraiser, your value as Chief Medical Officer…”

“Means that I must be the first member of my staff to go through the gate, I have to understand what it is I’m asking them to do.” I interrupt him. I’ve learned that he is a fair and just man and he will listen to reason. “It doesn’t have to be a dangerous mission; in fact, I’d prefer for it not to be.” His eyes twinkle just for a second. “I understand SG-1 has an upcoming mission that is an overnight visit to an uninhabited planet. I think that would be a good choice. They are the flagship team, sir; I have every confidence in Colonel O’Neill’s command.”

He gives me a long, expressionless look before he finally nods. “Alright, Dr. Fraiser. You have a go to ship out with SG-1 this afternoon. I’m sure Captain Carter would be glad to help you gear up. In the meantime,” he reaches for the phone, “I’ll need to break the news to Colonel O’Neill.”

I take the opportunity to escape.

*

I don’t think I am imagining the fury on Colonel O’Neill’s face that afternoon as I follow Captain Carter into the gate room. However, he is nothing but professional, cool, giving me a clipped order. “You will do exactly as I say, Dr. Fraiser, without question, is that clear?”

“Yes, Colonel O’Neill. Crystal clear.” The colonel whirls around to look at Dr. Jackson, who seems to have been overtaken by a coughing fit. “Okay, Teal’c, take point, I’ll cover our six. Captain Carter, if you would assist the good doctor through the gate.”

“Thanks, Jack, but I can walk on my own.” Dr. Jackson nearly chortles as he strolls by and follows Teal’c through the wormhole.

“Smartass,” the colonel huffs under his breath as he herds Captain Carter and me through the gate.

*

Dr. Jackson catches me as I stumble out of the gate. “Easy, Dr. Fraiser, just take a few deep breaths.” He leads me down the steps and gently lowers me to sit on the ground. “Do you need to lie down?”

I want to, I desperately want to lie down and throw up. But I see Colonel O’Neill smirking behind him and I stiffen my spine, assure him that I’m fine. Dr. Jackson continues to hover over me, help me sip some water, until he reassures himself that I no longer need assistance.

“Daniel, if you’d be so good at to tell me what we’re looking for on this fair planet.”

“The UAV showed the remains of a deserted village approximately three miles southeast of our position. We’re going to recon the village, check out any mineral deposits or anything interesting that we might encounter.” Dr. Jackson rattles the words off like he’d been using military speak his entire life.

“And here I thought you were asleep during our mission briefing. Teal’c, take point.”

The hike that ensues gives me my first opportunity to observe the SGC’s best and brightest in the field. Colonel O’Neill is vigilant, his easy-going manner clearly a façade to mask his prowess. Teal’c is silent, but as attentive, as careful as the colonel. Dr. Jackson walks beside me, making conversation about what he hopes to learn on this planet; I try to ignore the fact that he is, for all intents and purposes, baby-sitting me. Captain Carter trails behind us, occasionally adding to our conversation but she has the same watchful expression as the colonel.

*

The village has been deserted for years, probably decades, Dr. Jackson theorizes as he patiently shows me indications in the ruins that demonstrate the decline was gradual and not a sudden, cataclysmic event.

“I think we’ll set up our camp here. Fresh water, plenty of fuel for a fire.” O’Neill pokes his head in through the wide doorway.

Dr. Jackson nods. “Sounds good, Jack. Sam wants to sample some of the materials used to build the structures.”

Colonel O’Neill ducks his head as he walks in; Dr. Jackson theorized the natives were petite in stature, judging by how they all have to duck to enter the doorways. Everyone but me, of course. I’m just awaiting the inevitable short jokes. The colonel squats down beside us, his voice suddenly serious. “Anything I need to worry about, Daniel?”

Dr. Jackson smiles and shakes his head. “No, Jack, I don’t think so. These people, or whatever they were, have clearly been gone for decades. I think their crops began failing and they simply moved on to better farming land.” He had pointed out that some of the land looked like it had been used for farming; there was evidence of rudimentary irrigation which fascinated him. Colonel O’Neill nods as he stands, his knees popping loudly, although his expression doesn’t reveal if he’s in pain. “We’ll be out in a few minutes, to help set up camp.”

“Make it snappy, Teal’c loves watching the tents go up.”

Dr. Jackson grins at me as he carefully, reverently, packs up the artifacts he had set aside to take back with him.

*

 

The tents are up, three of them. One for Captain Carter and I, one for Dr. Jackson and Colonel O’Neill and one for Teal’c. Although I certainly expected the two Air Force officers to be able to efficiently and quickly set up a camp, I have to admit to a certain surprise in watching Dr. Jackson. He has the tents erected and a ring of stones set up for a campfire by the time Colonel O’Neill and Captain Carter have collected firewood and Teal’c has done a perimeter walk. Some of my amazement must show on my face because Dr. Jackson murmurs wickedly, “Contrary to popular belief, archaeologists do not like to do it in the dirt.” I choke back a snort of laughter.

*

Dinner has been cooked and eaten, thank goodness this is just an overnight mission because I am not looking forward to eating any more of those MREs. Fortunately, Captain Carter produces some candy bars to go with the after-dinner coffee, which is much better than I expected, but then I hadn’t counted on Dr. Jackson’s coffee addiction. If you have to go into the field, I make a silent note to myself, make sure to take some good coffee with you.

“So, Dr. Fraiser,” Colonel O’Neill leans back against the log where Dr. Jackson is currently perched, “what have you learned so far?”

I take a good long drink of my coffee, try to marshal my thoughts. “I think that I wouldn’t want to do that wormhole thing on a daily basis, that there are obviously things out here that we can’t even imagine and that I was right to insist we have trained field medical units.”

He waves a negligent hand around. “Have you seen anything around that causes you to think we need another civilian in the field?”

His ‘civilian’ stiffens at the ill-concealed insult before he pipes up. “I think those little marks on her collar mean she’s not a civilian. But I could be mistaken.”

I might as well start at the top if I’m going to have to convince these military types. “Colonel O’Neill, who on your team has the most medical training?”

“Right now, that would be you.” He smiles at his own joke.

“I’m not a member of your team. Answer the question, please.”

“Captain Carter, although I’ve patched up more than a few wounds in my time.”

I nod in satisfaction. “Captain Carter, please lie down on the ground.” She looks toward her commanding officer, who gives a shrug as if to say ‘humor her’. She sets her cup down and complies. “Colonel O’Neill, your only medically trained officer just tripped over a root, striking her head on a rock and spraining her ankle. She is unconscious and immobile. Treat her, please.”

He eyes me warily, then says, “Daniel, treat Carter’s ankle.”

I quell Dr. Jackson with my hand when he starts to rise. “Mr. Teal’c has accompanied Dr. Jackson to the deserted village. You are the only one here. Please treat your team member.”

He finally crawls to his feet and bends over Captain Carter. “Hey, Carter, you okay?” Both Dr. Jackson and the patient laugh at his manner.

“What’s the first thing you need to tend to? Her head injury or the ankle?”

“If she’s unconscious, how did I know about the sprained ankle thing?”

“Good point, Colonel, unless you actually witnessed her fall, you wouldn’t know. You need to do a cursory examination to discover her injuries and decide which one to treat first.”

He finally takes me seriously and does a fairly good job of examining her for broken bones, takes his flashlight out to check her pupil reactions. “Her eyes look okay, but her ankle is swollen badly.”

“Excellent. Now, do you remove her boot or not?”

“Well, if you take the boot off, you might not be able to get it back on. Which is a problem if you need her to be ambulatory. But if you don’t remove it, you can’t tell if there’s much circulation going on.”

“Correct, Colonel.”

“So what’s your call?”

“Unless the patient is conscious and able to give you information, you err on the side of caution and remove the boot. Once you’re satisfied there is sufficient circulation, you can put the boot back on and tie it back, not too loose, but secure enough to give some stability. Thank you, Captain Carter, you can get up now.” She smiles as she stands and resumes her seat. “Dr. Jackson, you’re next.”

“I didn’t sprain my ankle,” he volunteers quickly.

“Dr. Jackson, please lie face down on the ground.” He immediately obeys, clearly enjoying himself. “Colonel O’Neill, you have found Dr. Jackson in his current state. He is conscious but does not seem to be aware of his surrounding and he’s slurring his words.” Picking up on my cue, the patient gives several incoherent mumbles.

“How is that any different from Daniel on any given day?”

“You are unable to determine if Dr. Jackson has ingested an alien substance, if he has been injured or if he has inadvertently taken too much allergy medication. He may or may not be acting like himself. Please treat the patient.”

Colonel O’Neill stands for a few moments, trying to decide what approach to take. “Hey, Daniel, what’s up?” The patient grumbles under his breath. The colonel kneels and places a gentle hand on Dr. Jackson’s back. “Daniel?” When Dr. Jackson tries to move, the colonel helps him roll over.

“Congratulations, Colonel O’Neill, you just paralyzed Dr. Jackson.” I inform him. He steps back rapidly, shocked and confused. “Dr. Jackson injured his spine when he fell. By moving him, you just separated the vertebrae in his back. He might live, if you can get him through the gate without displacing any more vertebrae.” I give him a moment to digest this information. “How would you accomplish that?”

Finally he nods. “Okay, I get it. I shouldn’t have let him move; I should have immobilized him and called for a field team. I get it, I do.”

“That’s all I ask for, is that you understand this is a good thing. We can help, if you’ll let us. Thank you, Dr. Jackson.” Before any of us realize his intention, Dr. Jackson grabs the unsuspecting colonel’s ankle and jerks, sending him sprawling. In a heartbeat, Dr. Jackson is on him, has his knee in the colonel’s back and one arm pinned behind his back.

“This is for your previous remark, Colonel O’Neill.” Dr. Jackson informs his prisoner.

“Get off me!” We all know he can dislodge Dr. Jackson if he truly wants to but he lies still, snarling.

“Dr. Jackson, you can let him go now.” Dr. Jackson appears to be enjoying himself far too much. “Dr. Jackson.” With obvious reluctance, he releases the colonel, quickly springing away as the colonel makes a futile grab for any part of his body.

“So, Colonel, what was your first mistake?”

He beats his hat on his pant leg before jamming it back on his head. “Trusting a member of my own team, obviously.”

“I’m sorry, but I did ask Dr. Jackson to aid me in my demonstration merely to make a point.”

“That he’s been paying attention during those hand-to-hand lessons?”

“No, Colonel, the lesson I was trying to teach was that you cannot take injuries at face value. You took it for granted that Dr. Jackson wasn’t badly injured because there were no outward signs of trauma. Trust me, Colonel, there are going to be situations when you are going to welcome a trained field medic.”

“If it were you or Teal’c who’d been hurt, I’m not sure Sam and I could get you back without help.” Dr. Jackson points out helpfully. “I agree with her, Jack. And it’s not like they’d be going through all the time, only when someone really, really needed them.”

“I also see the advantages of this plan, O’Neill.” Those are the most words I’ve heard from Teal’c all day.

“What did you do if a Jaffa got injured in the field?” His medical history is a source of great fascination within the medical staff.

“It would depend on several factors, Dr. Fraiser. If their injuries were not dire, their symbiote would heal them. However, if the injuries were severe or if they were not needed…” Teal’c leaves the sentence hanging suggestively in the air.

“Then they were left behind.” Colonel O’Neill finishes for him. “Okay, okay, you’ve made your point. God knows there’ve been times we could have saved some lives if we’d been able to get a medic.”

“Thank you, Colonel. And if it will make you feel any better, I won’t be on any field unit unless I’m asked for specifically. I just thought I should do what I’m going to be asking my staff to do.”

He grumbles without malice. “So I don’t have to worry about you winding Daniel up again?” Looking over at Dr. Jackson, he promises softly. “You just wait, Daniel. When you least expect it…” The colonel makes a slashing motion across his throat.

Dr. Jackson doesn’t seem to be in the least perturbed. Or frightened, either.

*

“Colonel O’Neill,” I pick up his chart and give him a quick glance. “How was your last mission?”

“I had to take not one but two smart-ass doctors into the field. Both of whom kicked my ass. Other than that, I’m fine. What do you think?”

I fail to hide the smile. “I think, Colonel O’Neill, that you are an excellent team leader and that you can take defeat very gracefully.” I finish his exam while he mutters ungraciously about unnecessary (in his eyes) medical tests. “There. You’re free to go. Thank you for your help with the field units, I’m sure your evaluation made all the difference.”

“I can see the need for the field units, don’t get me wrong. It’s just…I don’t want to see these people getting killed just trying to help someone else, you know?”

“Yes, Colonel, I do know.” I think he’d die before he’d let anyone see how big-hearted he truly is.

He lopes to the door, then stops, his hand on the wall. “Listen, Doc, we’re going to take Teal’c out, show him what a real meal is like. Want to join us?”

I’m surprised at the feeling welling up in me. He knows I’m alone, that I have no family here in Colorado Springs. I take a few quick blinks, waste some time fooling with his file until I can look up with clear eyes. “Colonel, I’d love to. Shall I…?”

“Just swing by and drag Daniel out of his office and meet us up-top in,” he glances at his watch, “fifteen minutes?” He waits for my nod before he disappears.

I hand the infirmary over to Dr. Warner, freshen my makeup and leave my lab coat behind. I don’t know why the colonel thinks Dr. Jackson needs to be dragged from his office, I ponder as I wait for the elevator. After all, he’s a grown man who seems quite capable of taking care of himself. That thought freezes in my mind as I take a good look at the office he has allegedly occupied for a scant couple of weeks. The room looks like some kind of alien emporium exploded within the walls. I shake my head before I knock lightly on the door. “Dr. Jackson,” I speak when he fails to look up.

“Oh.” He finally notices me. “Hi.”

“Colonel O’Neill asked me to pick you up. He invited me to go to dinner with the team.”

“Oh,” he glances back down at something that seems to have caught his attention. “Um, that is…”

“I suspect that if we don’t show up, he may send Mr. Teal’c down to look for us.”

A sudden, genuine smile lights up his face. “Oh, well, we wouldn’t want to upset Mr. Teal’c, would we?” He turns off the light and proceeds to leave everything exactly where it is, suggesting he’ll be sneaking back in the minute a couple of backs are turned.

It occurs to me, as we wait for the elevator, that dealing with SG-1 may not be nearly as simple as I’d envisioned. It seems that all of us are still finding our place in this brave new world.