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Bitter Pills

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Daniel rubbed his eyes as he wandered aimlessly through the halls of the SGC. Talk about needing sleep. At least weeks of worrying over Teal'c's mental stability had finally come to an end. After so many attempts to convince him that Apophis was a false god -- a dead false god -- Bra'tac's torturous rite of 'Ma Suraan' had done what no reasoning could by leading him to the truth. Unfortunately, the rite had nearly cost everyone in the SGC whatever sanity they'd had left. Talking sense into a Jaffa who'd once been a loyal friend but was now blinded by a false faith had been more grueling than discussing doctrine with someone of a different religion. He'd refused to listen to reason and instead had plenty of ammunition to attack their weaknesses. Daniel hadn't been able to find anything to say that would make it past that damn barrier of 'religious arrogance.' Jack, Sam, Hammond, and McKenzie had had no luck either, and Dr. Fraiser hadn't found any logical, medical explanation for Teal'c's trip back to the dark side. All had been downright frustrated and scared for him. Thankfully that was now over and they could move on with life again.

Lowering his hand as he entered the commissary, he noted with a touch of surprise that he wasn't the only one unable to sleep at this ungodly hour. At the far corner table sat Dr. Fraiser, alone, her hands covering her face, her back to the door, a cup of coffee on the table in front of her. She must've taken a break now that Teal'c could perform his self-healing kel-no-reem.

Daniel walked to the coffee machine, grabbed a Styrofoam cup, and poured himself a cup, then glanced back at Fraiser, who appeared oblivious to his presence. The two of them generally didn't get to talk much -- probably because, no matter how wonderful a woman she was, he still felt vaguely awkward talking to someone who'd seen more of his body than he ever would -- but it was clear she was disturbed by something now. He'd seen her frustration and anger earlier to save Teal'c's life, and he'd overheard her threat to quit because of Bra'tac's questionable rite. That was most likely what was weighing on her mind now and keeping her awake. While he suspected she wanted some time alone to think, he couldn't help wondering if she'd like to talk to someone about what had happened. Sam was sleeping, Jack was keeping an eye on Teal'c, Hammond and Bra'tac were talking in the general's office...which left him, the only other soul nuts enough to be awake at four in the morning. It certainly couldn't hurt for him to volunteer to be an ear if she did want to talk.

Therefore, steaming cup of coffee in hand, he headed toward her table and stopped off to her side. "Want some company?"

Janet removed her hands from her face and smiled up at him. Her smile, however, was obviously forced and not nearly as cheerful as he was used to seeing from her. "Sure, have a seat," she said, motioning to the chair next to hers, and he did as she'd indicated. "Coffee, huh? You look like you haven't slept in three weeks, Daniel; it's probably not your best choice right now. You should try to rest."

Daniel gave her a small smile. She was always on duty, ready to tell people what they should or should not be doing, wasn't she? If he didn't know she only meant well and sincerely cared about his welfare, he might be annoyed by the constant mothering. "I could say the same to you, Doctor," he replied, tapping his fingers on her mug.

She grinned at him wryly. "Good point."

They fell silent as both took sips of their caffeine-filled drinks, and Daniel eyed her hands as she set down her mug. They were trembling slightly, but was that from physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, or both? " okay?" he asked.

Janet let out a weary sigh. "Honestly? No, I'm not."

She must be even more tired and shaken than he'd thought; she normally didn't admit when her strength and clinical detachment as a doctor were faltering. "If Teal'c had died today, you really would've resigned?"

"Yes, I would've," she replied without hesitation.

"Why?" When she frowned but didn't answer, he went on, "You did everything right. You saved his life and his mind by letting Bra'tac perform his rite. I know it's your duty to protect life, but sometimes...."

"There are no 'buts' in my profession, Daniel," she cut him off. "What I did today by not helping Teal'c goes against everything I am. As a doctor, I'm supposed to save life, not take it away from someone who's healthy then refuse to give it back. I took the Hippocratic Oath; I can't harm people. I couldn't live with myself if Teal'c had died, knowing I had the opportunity to save him and I didn't take it. No matter how brainwashed he was, his symbiote was still healthy, and giving it back to him would've saved his life. What I did was like...developing a cure for cancer and then denying it to a dying friend. I refuse to believe there was no other way to undo Apophis's brainwashing than to torture and nearly kill Teal'c. The Tok'ra have a device to pull up suppressed memories; why couldn't we have used that to help him recall his 'journey to the good side'? And we freed Rya'c from Apophis's brainwashing by zatting him; why did that work on Teal'c's son but not on him? The only thing we really did to help him before we brought Bra'tac here was talking to him."

Daniel's eyes widened at the anger he felt seething from the doctor. It was very, very rare that he'd seen her anything but calm and levelheaded. He could only figure that her anger was a result of having had her designated duty to heal revoked by General Hammond. While he admired her determination to stand her ground when nearly everyone else had opposed her, he also thought he understood what she was saying that they hadn't explored all their options. With that in mind, Daniel wasn't sure he could blame her for being so upset. After all, Teal'c had been physically healthy before Bra'tac had arrived, and Janet had known exactly how to restore his health. Instead of that, though, her authority and expertise had been challenged and she'd come out looking like the bad guy just because she'd tried to do her job.

"You think there was something else we could've tried to help him before we removed his symbiote," he said.

"Maybe," Janet replied, sighing and rubbing her eyes. "I really...I don't know anymore. But I do know we tried a radical, unorthodox treatment without considering all our safer alternatives first. The odds of Bra'tac's rite succeeding were horrible. He'd only tested it on two Jaffa before this and both times had failed? From a medical standpoint -- not to mention from common sense -- that zero percent success rate was a completely unacceptable risk for us to take."

Daniel nodded, leaning back in his chair. "I agree we took a huge risk, 'killing' Teal'c to save his life. But when you think about it, how much do we really know about Jaffas and how their symbiotes affect them? Maybe Teal'c's symbiote was preventing him from seeing the truth. We've already determined it has a consciousness of its own, right? What if it was influencing his thoughts and, because of that, he wasn't able to see past Apophis's lies? Maybe the only way to undo the brainwashing was what we did -- remove his symbiote so he could think for himself."

"Maybe, but we don't know that, Daniel. That's purely conjecture."

"I know it is. Believe me, I'm not trying to justify what we did, but I think I understand why Hammond went along with. Unlike us, Bra'tac is a Jaffa, and he knows his own race better than we do, even after studying them for five years. We've already seen how different a Jaffa's ways are from a human's; and, no matter how much we like Teal'c and can relate with him mentally, physiologically he'll always be different than we are. I'm not saying your research on Jaffas is wrong, but we don't know everything about them yet, especially how symbiotes affect them mentally. Maybe they do, maybe they don't...we just don't know." He shrugged. "I think that's why General Hammond gave Bra'tac the benefit of the doubt when it came to Teal'c's well-being."

Janet frowned at him over her mug. "Only no one bothered to tell me that. Colonel O'Neill said that Bra'tac had made his case and that Hammond had approved it, but no one explained Bra'tac's case to me. Instead, I was expected to take the advice of a man trained to end life -- not save it -- over common sense? I am responsible for Teal'c's health, after all."

"You're right, you are," Daniel agreed. "And for what it's worth, I'm sorry I didn't think to explain it to you." She absently nodded her acceptance of his apology, but it was clear from the frown on her lips that his words hadn't helped much, if at all. She needed to hear those words from Hammond, Jack, or Bra'tac, not from an archaeologist who hadn't been responsible for their final decision. And besides, he was still disturbed by everything that had happened during the rite, especially some of the comments the Jaffa had made to him about their 'brothership'.... He leaned closer to Janet as it hit him. "Teal'c said something to you, didn't he?"

She hesitated a long moment before nodding, confirming his hunch. "He asked me how I, as a doctor, could stand by and watch everyone kill him. He said I'd helped him other times when he'd been in far less pain; how could I possibly let him suffer now in such a horrible, humiliating manner, strapped to a bed with his so-called 'friends' attacking him and his faith? He called me a hypocrite, claiming to love life but secretly enjoying seeing people tortured and killed when their beliefs didn't match my own. He essentially called me a cruel, heartless bitch, Daniel. And the worst part is, even though I know it was Apophis's brainwashing talking, he was absolutely right. I could've stopped it at any time and I didn't."

Ah. Now why didn't that revelation surprise him? Teal'c must have talked to her after he and Jack had left to get some rest. "Well, first of all, you couldn't have stopped it because General Hammond wouldn't have let you," Daniel quickly replied. "And second of all, you're definitely not a cruel, heartless bitch. I saw pain on your face every time I looked at you earlier, Janet. If you were a hypocrite, you would've liked what we did to Teal'c, but it was obvious to me that you didn't. The rest of us didn't either. We weren't supposed to like it. If there's one thing I've learned the past few years, though, it's that sometimes only the bitter pills are the ones that work. You don't have to like them, but sometimes you need to swallow them before you'll get any positive results.

"You had your reasons for opposing Bra'tac's rite, and Hammond had his reasons for supporting it," he went on. "Jack told me that Hammond would never have confined Teal'c to a cell because he knew Teal'c would rather die than live as a slave again. Your view of the situation and Hammond's view were just the flip sides of the same coin; you saw yourself as saving a friend's life while he saw himself as saving a friend's soul. Whose reasoning was right and whose was wrong? Is life more important than the soul or is the soul more important than life? Without the soul, can you really live? On the other hand, without a life to live, what good is the soul? I...don't think I can answer those questions. My guess, though, is that if someone hadn't fought for both sides, Teal'c wouldn't be alive and getting better right now. He'd be dead and free or alive and a slave, but not himself."

Daniel leaned back in his chair again. "If the decision had been up to me, I honestly don't know what I would've done. I'm just glad it wasn't my decision to make; it was Hammond's, and we had to follow it whether we agreed with it or not." Suddenly, he smiled at her. "And there's something else to keep in mind. In the end, when it really counted, you did save Teal'c's life. Maybe Bra'tac's other Jaffa didn't live through the rite because they didn't have you around to make sure they beat the odds."

Janet stared at him a moment as if trying to determine whether he sincerely meant what he'd just said. Apparently, she decided he did for she sighed and nodded. "Well, I guess there's no reason to dwell on who was right and who was wrong now. Like you said, Teal'c's alive and getting better, and that's all that matters, right? But if I'm ever in a similar situation, don't expect me to like it any more than I did this time. I'm still going to fight for life above anything else, the soul included. This time everything worked out, but next time a treatment this radical may not. I'll still resign if someone dies and I could've prevented it; that's what I promised when I took the Hippocratic Oath, and I'm not going to break that promise again."

Daniel placed his hand over hers where it rested on the table. "Janet, I think I speak for everyone when I say we'd all be disappointed if you didn't fight it. I don't think I'd trust you enough to place my health in your hands if you didn't value life as highly as you do. As I'm sure you've already noticed, I'm not any fonder of doctors than Jack is...but if I have to have one, I'm glad that doctor is you. I know I don't always follow your 'doctor's orders' as well as I should, but when it comes down to matters of life or death, I trust you to make a better decision than I ever could. We need you here. If anyone else was in charge, Teal'c might not be alive right now. They might've insisted on doing everything their way, claiming they knew everything there was to know about Teal'c's condition, but you? You didn't. You hated the rite, you opposed it, and you did everything you could to stop it, yet you followed Hammond's decision. As far as I'm concerned, you did everything right. You sure as hell did a better job than I would've in your position, and if you talk to Teal'c, I'm sure he'll tell you that he has nothing but the deepest respect and gratitude for your help. You did a good job, Doctor."

This time the smile that slowly lit the doctor's face was genuine, and she squeezed his hand in return. "Thank you."

After everything she had done for him and for his teammates the past few years? Being a friend when she needed one was the least he could do for her now. "You're welcome."

She stood and grabbed her half-finished mug of coffee as he released her hand. "Well, I'm going to try to get some sleep. You might want to consider foregoing the caffeine for tonight and getting to bed, too. You really do look like you've been awake for three weeks straight."

Daniel looked down at his cup of coffee, realizing that he'd barely touched it and that he'd only gotten it out of instinct. After all, if he was awake, nine times out of ten he was drinking coffee. At this hour, though, that really wasn't the best idea, was it? "Let me guess, doctor's orders?" he asked, looking up at her with a smile.

Janet patted his shoulder as she walked past him. "No, not this time. You generally don't follow those anyway, so...let's just make it some friendly advice."

He chuckled as he heard her footsteps leave the commissary, then picked up the Styrofoam cup and stared at it thoughtfully. After a moment, he rose to his feet and tossed it in the trash on his way back to his room.