Many thanks to my betas Dragonfly and
Sid for their support and guidance!
Lead Me Home
Sam thought of it. By accident. But Sam came up with the idea.
When Daniel came back from P2R 877, I didn't know who was injured more: Daniel who had been tortured, or his team who had watched it happen and couldn't do anything about it.
The Azalt let them go, more out of disgust than generosity from what I later learned. They couldn't "communicate" with a lesser species like us and they sent SG-1 to the gate and home—after they'd cut Daniel to shreds. Literally. His body was covered in cuts:deep, shallow, long, short, old, new.
Teal'c carried Daniel to the gate. And to the infirmary. I had to practically pry him out of Teal'c's arms to get him on the table, and when I did….Well, I've been a doctor for a long time and a doctor at the SGC long enough. I've seen some pretty grisly things but this….
Daniel was covered in blood, so much so that I thought I was too late. Whatever they'd done to him, they'd left him a mess, his hands and face blood streaked, his clothes soaked, his hair, even his feet. It took everything I am not to gasp out loud as I looked at him. I didn't. I don't know how I managed it. Perhaps because Colonel O'Neill and the rest of SG-1 were standing right there.
They stood by the bed staring at Daniel, unable to look away. I sent them out so that I could examine him, but I had to block Daniel from their view and yell to get them to move. When Colonel O'Neill finally heard me he looked down, and I thought I had never seen a such despair on a face. I almost gasped again. Daniel was wounded on the outside but these people were wounded deep, deep inside.
My examination turned up cuts all over Daniel's arms, legs, and torso. To my relief, none were deep enough to do serious damage, but all were deep enough to bleed—a lot. He had bruises and abrasions, again all fairly minor, and his throat looked raw. An MRI revealed no brain damage and, as far as I could tell, no concussion. I'd needed Daniel to wake up to see the rest. I went out to report to the rest of SG-1, none of whom had even left for a shower, knowing that the nature of Daniel's injuries would be a relief to them as well. It wasn't. They continued to stare at me.
"Will Daniel be okay?" Sam asked.
I took a breath. "He's cut and bruised but he'll be okay. I've got him on an IV with antibiotics to battle an infection, but everything looks very good. I don't think there's even a concussion. He should be ready to go home in a few days."
Still no smiles.
I was now as worried about the people standing in front of me as the patient in the bed."His throat looks pretty sore." I continued. "Do you know how that happened?"
"He screamed," Sam whispered, her voice hollow, her eyes haunted, "and screamed, and screamed…." She started to shake. Teal'c put his arm around her. That alone surprised me because Teal'c's gestures of comfort were usually brief and subtle.
"He screamed as they tortured him," Colonel O'Neill said grimly. "He screamed until he lost his voice--" He stood with his fists clenched at this sides, angrier than I'd ever seen him. "And the bastards still tortured him."
He turned to look at his teammates the anger radiating off him in waves. "Carter, Teal'c, go get cleaned up. I'm going to report to Hammond." He turned and left without another word.
Leaning into Teal'c, Sam looked at me with tears in her eyes. "They tortured him, Janet, and made us watch." She choked, unable to go on.
"I need to know what else they did to him, Sam," I pressed gently. She was distraught, beside herself with grief at the memory. I knew she didn't want to talk about it, and I didn't want to make her, but I needed to know all that had happened if I was going to treat Daniel effectively.
She nodded. Teal'c led her into my office and sat on the chair beside her. By the time they were done, I wished I hadn't asked. I made Sam and Teal'c go get cleaned up and checked out, assuring them that I'd be right here with Daniel until they came back.
I watched a couple of my best nurses cut off what was left of his clothes and wash the blood out his hair and from under his fingernails. Then we stitched what we had to, bandaged what we could, and waited for Daniel to wake up.
As Colonel O'Neill came back into the room, Daniel started to stir, and for the first time since their return, I saw something like hope in the colonel's eyes. As Daniel struggled to open his eyes, his friend placed a hand on his arm. Immediately, Daniel pulled away and started keening, a hoarse, high pitched wail that might have been a scream if he'd had any voice left. His sudden jerky movements pulled out the IV and the sight of the blood sent Daniel climbing over the railings of the bed. Colonel O'Neill caught him and held on until I could sedate him. The colonel eased him to the bed and, while he was gentle with Daniel, he looked like he wanted to smash something with his bare hands, the Azalt no doubt.
He was about to walk away when I grabbed his arm. "We'll do whatever we can, Colonel. You know that. And SG-1— b you /b , you'll be here for Daniel." I made it a statement but it was really a question. I didn't like it that O'Neill was walking away, not when Daniel was like this.
For a minute the colonel didn't answer. I let my hand fall to my side knowing that I couldn't keep him here if he didn't want to stay, knowing, too, that Colonel Jack O'Neill didn't leave anyone behind.
"We'll be here, Doc."
That was all he said before he left. It was enough. I knew he'd be back.
I set about getting Daniel comfortable again, or as comfortable as I could. Daniel's wounds, like those of his team, went much deeper than I could see and he needed a treatment I couldn't give. I didn't know if anyone could.
Daniel grew physically stronger as the days passed. I kept him lightly sedated so that he wouldn't try to jump the rails again and each day he seemed more and more at ease in his surroundings. We learned that he couldn't tolerate loud noises, nor did he want anyone to touch him. Changing the dressings proved to be difficult because he didn't want to be touched. He'd pull away with a look of such fear in his eyes, it broke my heart to see it. But he never screamed again. Despite the fact that I didn't want to, I made sure he was heavily sedated before I changed the bandages.
Colonel O'Neill, Sam, and Teal'c were always underfoot, talking softly to Daniel, reading to him, or just keeping him company. He noticed us but never looked at us directly, and he never spoke. Not a word. I know the colonel's joked more than once that Daniel talks too much, but he and all the rest of us waited each day for Daniel to speak or to communicate in any way.
And then Sam found the key.
Working on the assumption that Daniel could perceive the world around him even if he didn't respond to it, she wrote Daniel a note telling him about all the little happenings on the base, the gossip and the small details of living in a fishbowl like this. She pushed the note into his hand as she read, frustrated I think, by Daniel's lack of reaction to anything around him. He jumped but closed his fingers on the paper.
Excited, Sam took her index finger and ran them over the words as she read. Daniel held the other end of the paper and for the first time in over a week, we saw him actually i look /i at something. We didn't know if he understood the words or if he just responded to the symbols on a page but it was a start. When they were done, Daniel took the note, put it under his pillow, and fell asleep.
Daniel never reacted to our voices and, from what we could tell, he had only a minimal understanding of what he was reading—or what we were reading to him. One afternoon, when Sam came to read, she wrote a message just for Daniel. As they read through it, his finger traced the lines. She spoke that last line for him. "I miss you," it said. Daniel stopped and looked from the note to Sam and back at the note. Slowly, he ran his finger over the words again. Watching him, Sam repeated the words. "I miss you." Daniel didn't look up again, but for the rest of the day I saw him run his finger over those words.
That's when we all started to write notes. About anything. And everything. Daniel seemed to liked the feel of the paper. He'd hold one end of the note while the person reading held the other. While we read he ran his finger over the words with a look of concentration that we hadn't seen before. Some of the notes were long and some only a couple of lines. Everyone wrote him. Ferretti wrote, Siler wrote, General Hammond wrote, and of course, the team wrote. I would write notes to tell him what treatment he was going to receive or even what was for dinner. Sometimes I wrote him about Cassie or just little details about his teammates, anything to keep him focused on something other than his situation, and to keep him connected to us.
Our only communication with Daniel, in whatever limited fashion, was through our notes, all of which he kept with him, under his pillow at first, and then in a small shoe box that Sam brought him from home. He wouldn't or couldn't talk to us, he didn't write notes back, but the notes seemed to comfort him.
The day we knew for sure Daniel understood the words on the paper, or some of them at least, was the day Colonel sat next to him reading from his note to Daniel. "When you're on the move again, we should go for a walk by the lake." Daniel's finger followed the words. "We'll walk down the path back of the cabin that leads to the woods and see if we can find any deer." He looked up from the note. "You remember the cabin, don't you Daniel? And the path? When the fishing's not good, we always go for a walk. After you get home, lets take Carter and Teal'c and head up to the cabin." Daniel's finger had stopped when the colonel stopped reading the words on the page. He kept his finger on the paper waiting for the voice to continue. I could tell the colonel was frustrated that Daniel didn't react to him. With a sigh he went back to his reading. "When we get back from our walk, we'll cook up some steaks on the grill." He continued to read until he noticed that Daniel's finger hadn't moved. There was a tremor going through his whole body, a tension that the colonel noticed right away.
Daniel looked at the colonel intently. His finger stood over one word. "Walk," he said.
I knew Colonel O'Neill was excited over this breakthrough, as was I. Until that moment, I wasn't sure if Daniel was ever going to speak again. It was the first word we'd heard him say since he got back.
"Yes," the colonel said, "that's the word 'walk'."
"Walk," Daniel repeated swinging his legs over the bed.
"What? You want to walk?" Startled, the colonel reached over and helped Daniel to stand. To my surprise, he accepted the touch. He was a little unsteady on his feet but he shuffled to the door of his room. Uncertain, Colonel O'Neill looked at me.
I nodded and opened the door. "Just stay with him, Sir."
"Yeah, Doc. I was planning on letting him wander the halls alone."
"If he gets anxious or starts to tire, I want you to bring him right back."
The colonel didn't answer. His attention was centered on Daniel who looked up and down the hall like he was trying to decipher a foreign language. I suppose for him, right now, life was.
Because it was late in the day, the hallways were almost empty. The few people around stood in amazement as Daniel and the colonel made their way down the corridor. Many called their support to Daniel as he tentatively felt his way along. Each time he heard a voice, he'd wince and turn away, but he didn't stop moving.
Finally, it seemed, he ran out of energy and Colonel O'Neill brought him back and helped him into bed. Without a word or a glance, Daniel turned over and went to sleep, the colonel's letter clutched in his hand.
The colonel stood staring at Daniel's back for a minute before he looked at me."What the hell just happened here?"
"I don't know, Sir, but if I had to take a guess, I'd say Daniel's starting to remember not just the words but what the words mean."
Colonel O'Neill didn't look convinced. "He walked down the hall and I'm supposed to be excited by that?"
"Yes, Sir," I told him. "It's a first step—if you know what I mean. He heard the word and then asked to walk." I wanted to give the colonel good news. "It's something, Sir."
"I know, I know." He paused looking at Daniel asleep on the bed and I saw the return of that dark look he'd been trying to keep well hidden.
"There was nothing you could do, Sir," I offered. He should be rejoicing that Daniel had made another monumental leap forward. But I don't think Colonel O'Neill saw the progress we were making. I think he saw a reminder of his failure to protect one of his team, his failure to protect Daniel.
I was right.
"That's exactly what I did, Doc, absolutely nothing." The colonel walked out of the room.
I looked at Daniel hoping again that he'd recover—quickly...before the colonel ended up in the next bed.
Teal'c came to read, as well. I admit I was surprised to hear Teal'c's voice. He's usually so quiet, at least around me. When I heard him in Daniel's room, I had to go watch—and listen. He sat by Daniel's bed holding one end of the note while Daniel held the other, his finger tracing the words as had become the norm for him. I didn't see any indication that Daniel was gaining any meaning from the words but he did stop and move his finger back and forth asking Teal'c to say them again. He did it more than once, each time making Teal'c repeat the sentence he'd just said. Teal'c's letter talked about the training of warriors on Chulak and his friendship with Bra'tac. When he was done, I looked at Daniel and found a small smile on his face. It didn't last long and if it hadn't been for the fact that Teal'c confirmed my observation I might have thought I was imagining it. Daniel took the letter, folded it and slid it under the pillow.
I didn't know what to make of it. Working at the SGC, I long ago accepted the fact that I often don't know what's going on, but I wanted, needed, to find a way for Daniel to come home to us.
He did. Eventually.
About two months after we moved Daniel to a VIP room converted to a private hospital room, Colonel O'Neill and Daniel sat together reading. Daniel hadn't spoken again since asking to walk, nor had he been down the corridor again, but he had begun to smile and tease while we read to him. Sometimes he'd make us say words over and over again until we got annoyed and refused, or until we figured out he was kidding us. He never looked at us except in quick glances but the grin on his face told us he was leading us on.
The colonel's latest story was one about an evening when SG-1 had gathered to watch a hockey game. Evidently, there was too much pizza and too much beer, and I made a mental note to ask Sam for her version of the story. Everyone stayed overnight at the colonel's house camped out on the living room floor, until Sam, getting up to go to the bathroom, couldn't find their archaeologist. After an hour's search, they found him sleeping on the back porch. According to the story, Daniel had moved to the deck to escape the colonel's snoring.
I watched the two of them shoulder to shoulder, the colonel holding one end of the paper and Daniel the other. They were both grinning. No one laughed around Daniel because we'd found that the noise startled him, but Colonel O'Neill was as close to laughter as he could get. I'd come in to check on Daniel, not intending to stay, but as the colonel got into the story, I had to hear the ending.
Daniel would make the colonel say certain words over, obviously finding the part about his friend's snoring very amusing. We'd come up with a pattern as we read. We'd always read the words on the page because Daniel seemed to need that, but we often drifted away from the text to add commentary to the words on the page. Daniel would wait patiently with his finger on the page until we came back to what was written. When we were done, he'd put the letter up on the wall in his room. He'd outgrown the shoe box more than a month ago. One wall in the room was almost covered in paper. Some notes still had a special spot under his pillow, and we had to be careful not to disturb them when we checked on Daniel because it distressed him if the notes fell on the floor or if he couldn't hold them.
"Wait till you get home, Daniel. I've taped every game you missed. We'll get Teal'c and Carter to bring the pizza and make it a team night, but no beer for you." Daniel didn't respond directly, but I thought his smile got bigger. At the end of the letter the colonel signed it, "Your best friend, fellow drunk, and life-long hockey buddy, Jack."
I watched as Daniel traced the words and Jack repeated them. "Your best friend."
Daniel moved his finger. Jack repeated it again. "Your best friend."
He moved his finger down to the last word.
As I watched the colonel, I saw his smile fade. He said, "Jack."
Daniel did them both together and Jack quietly said the words again. "Your best friend, Jack."
When Daniel went to trace the words a fourth time, I saw Colonel O'Neill put his hand gently over Daniel's. Since his return from the Azalt we'd learned the hard way that Daniel didn't like to be touched. We made sure that we warned him if we were going to touch him. I discovered that if I wrote Daniel a note telling him I needed to take blood or give him an injection, he was much more cooperative during the process. He was never comfortable with it, but he did his best not to pull away.
For some reason, I held my breath as I watched Jack place his hand over Daniel's. He carefully traced the words with his friend and said, so softly I almost couldn't hear him, "Your best friend, Jack."
He did it one more time and I watched the look of concentration on Daniel's face. The smile was gone and he was staring at the paper.
Jack took the hand one more time and said, "Your best friend," and then he took Daniel's hand and pulled it to his chest. The word came out as a whisper, "Jack."
I couldn't move as I watched Daniel stare at their joined hands. Daniel slowly pulled his hand away and I could see the disappointment on Jack's face. Daniel traced the words again but this time Jack didn't repeat them. I don't think he could. When Daniel got to the last line he put his hand back on Jack's chest.
I'm sure Colonel O'Neill stopped breathing. I know I did as we waited to see what Daniel would do next.
He looked up into the colonel's face and back at his hand. "Jack." he said.
"Jack." The voice was louder this time.
"Daniel, do you know who I am?"
The grin came back slowly as Daniel unfolded his hand until the palm covered Jack's chest. They were eye to eye as Daniel said it again. "Jack."
O'Neill engulfed him in a hug that I thought would make Daniel jump through the ceiling but he stayed put in Jack's arms, a big grin on his face. He didn't return the hug but he didn't pull away.
I tore my eyes away from Daniel to see Jack grinning so hard I was afraid his face was going to split in two.
"Did you see?" He still had Daniel in a bear hug.
"I saw, Jack," I added with a smile of my own, "but if you don't let go, you're going to break a rib."
At that the colonel pulled back to look at Daniel again.
"It was the hockey, wasn't it? I knew you loved hockey at my place." Unable to contain himself, he gave Daniel another squeeze. "Stay put, okay? I'm gonna get Carter and Teal'c." He didn't even glance at me as he ran out of the room.
I laughed softly. "Don't worry. I'll be here until you get back."
I watched Daniel run his finger over the words again and again, the smile never leaving his face. Instead of putting the letter up on the wall with the others, he folded it and put it under his pillow.
From then on things moved rapidly. Daniel learned or relearned names, places, dates, anything and everything we could give him to read and know. It made me wonder what he must have been like in college, all that natural intelligence eager for something more to learn. It was the driving force that kept Daniel going through the Stargate. I hoped he'd want to go again, but that was for another time. For now, Daniel was getting well. And so was his team. Some days he'd close down, and some days we went backwards, but for every one step back we took two or three or four huge strides forward. Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were constants in his life, guiding and supporting him every step of the way.
Over the course of a month, Daniel returned to the world of the SGC. He still didn't like loud noises and, except for Jack and the team, he shied away from people that tried to touch him, but every day he came a little closer to the Daniel we remembered.
At the end of that month I was on my way to Daniel's office to tell him that I was going to return him to limited duty. He still couldn't go through the gate, although I didn't think it would be too many weeks longer for that, but I was going to let him work in his office for a few hours a day. It was more or less a moot point because Daniel was already spending hours a day in his office since I'd released him from my care, but this was the official notice.
The door was open a crack when I came and stuck my head in the door. Daniel stood facing his bookshelves, with his shadow Colonel Jack O'Neill on a stool by his desk. Sam sat on another stool and Teal'c stood behind her. I heard Daniel talking and, worried that I was interrupting something private, I was ready to go back out when the colonel saw me and waved me inside. He gestured to me to be quiet.
Daniel didn't notice me.
He stood in front of one of his bookcases, running his hand delicately over the spine of a book, or dragging a finger along a shelf. Sometimes he'd take a book down from the shelf, flip through a few pages, and return it to the shelf.
He started to talk again. "When they were done torturing me, they'd take me to a little cell, the only quiet place I was ever in. I don't know why but they left me my pack. They'd taken everything out of it but my books. My knife, my C4, even my pen, all gone, but they left my books. They didn't have a written language so I don't imagine they understood what the books were for, they just knew they weren't weapons or food." Daniel continued to move down the bookshelf randomly touching the volumes in front of him. He never looked at the colonel or the others, and he still didn't know I was in the room.
Colonel O'Neill didn't say anything, giving Daniel the time he needed to talk. He sat at the table his hands folded in front of him.
"After days and days of the same thing, all the noise and the pain, I shut my mind off, waiting to come back to the cell and my books. It became the only reality for me. With all of you gone--"
I saw Jack's knuckles go white.
"When I came back to the room, I'd eat and drink if they remembered to bring me anything, and then I'd read." The fingers never stopped moving, down the shelf or along a book. They traced the title on the cover and moved on to graze the edge of the pages. Sometimes as he talked he opened a book at random and stopped to read a few words.
"After a while, it didn't matter if they fed me. I only wanted to read my books. And my journal. I still had my journal. Do you know how often I talk about you in my journal?" He didn't expect an answer and didn't wait for one. "I couldn't write anything in it because they'd taken my pens and pencils but I had an entry for each day written in my head." The hands kept moving. "I thought about writing it in blood--there was enough of it--but I didn't have anything with an edge that I could use as a stylus.
Teal'c stiffened, Sam looked at me in anguish, and Jack's head dropped to his chest.
Daniel continued to explore everything on his shelves. "It's not your fault, Jack." His hand stopped briefly on a rough-hewn pot, his wedding vessel I remembered. His hand moved again. "I had the books almost memorized by the end, especially the parts about all of you. But still, each time they put me in the cell, I'd open one of the books and read." Daniel took a book down from the shelf. Instead of skimming it like he had the others, he folded it into his chest. "On the last day, they came in and took my books. They had my knife and they ripped the pages of the books until they were confetti on the ground. And they told me you were dead." He clenched the book to him."I tried to pick up all the little pieces to put them back together but I couldn't find them all."
For a minute I thought Colonel O'Neill was going to get up and go to him but he shifted on the stool and stayed quiet.
Daniel didn't notice. "After they ripped the books, they pulled me up off the floor and took me to torture me one last time. But I couldn't hear them anymore. After a while, the noise when they cut me was worse than the pain." Sam and Teal'c had told me about that. The crowds banged on gongs, drums, and bells as they watched their priests slice through Daniel's skin. "And I couldn't say anything anymore, not even to scream. It was like all the words were gone. It was for the best, I think. Once they realized they couldn't communicate with me, or I couldn't communicate with them, not in the way they wanted, they let me go." He finally looked over at Jack. "I don't remember much after that."
He finally released his hold on the book and slipped it back in its place on the shelf. "If you hadn't written those notes, I'd still be trapped in my own mind. Somehow the notes, the paper, the words, reminded me of the books. All whole. Something I could read and hold on to. Something connected to you—and home." Daniel stopped
The silence in the room was deafening. No one moved as Daniel stood with his hands resting on one of the books on his shelf. Sam reached down and, without a word, placed a plainly wrapped package on the desk.
Daniel turned to look at it as Jack said, "We didn't know when we got this if you'd want it, but we wanted you to, you know..."
I had to smile at the colonel. We'd discussed at length what to give Daniel to welcome him back to us. In the end, we'd each donated a couple of dollars to buy what was in the package. It wasn't anything glamorous, but it seemed to fit Daniel. Now we were about to see how much.
"We all chipped in, me and Carter and Teal'c, and the Doc there."
Daniel finally noticed me and smiled. I was afraid that he would resent my being here in what was obviously a painful and private moment, but his smile welcomed me in.
I moved to stand behind Colonel O'Neill as Daniel carefully opened the package.
"You could just rip the paper off like normal people," Jack said.
"And ruin a beautiful piece of paper?"
Daniel merely smiled and continued to pain-painstakingly remove the paper before an exasperated colonel.
He uncovered a floppy leather-bound journal, embossed with his name in gold on the front.
As he opened the front cover, I saw his eyes widen. We'd passed the book around the base for people to sign, and sign it they had, starting, of course with Jack, Sam, and Teal'c. It said "For Daniel" and under that was a list of names. Some people had written well wishes, some a personal note, others just scrawled their signature. My name was there, so was General Hammond's and Siler's and Walter's and everyone else on the base.
Daniel looked up in surprise.
"We wanted you to get a new start," I said, blushing a little. I don't know why, but it seemed such a personal gift for Daniel, especially after the horrific story we'd just heard, and I was afraid we were going to hurt or offend him with this unintentional reminder of what he'd been through.
Daniel must have seen my discomfort. He picked up a pen and, after running a finger over his name of the cover, opened the journal to the first blank page. Pulling it to himself he wrote a few words. Jack and I shared a puzzled glance watching Daniel write. When he was done, he put the book in front of me before he leaned over to take my hand in his. He took my finger and traced the words line by line. I heard Sam give a little gasp beside me but I couldn't take my eyes off Daniel's hand leading my finger over the page.
Together we traced the words.