"You sure you wanna go through with this?" Jack asked Daniel for the fifth time.
"Jack, Janet can't guarantee me a full recovery. There's at least a slight possibility this could keep me off the team permanently. Wouldn't you risk it for the chance to be cured overnight?"
Sam squeezed his shoulder supportively. Though the danger of needing to amputate was past, Daniel was still facing a potential prospect of being crippled for life. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to avoid that? She mentally winced at the unfortunate choice of phrase that had come to mind. She was really glad she hadn't voiced it aloud.
Jack had to concede that almost anything was probably better than a medical discharge, though in Daniel's case he wasn't Air Force, and would certainly be kept on in a consultancy role.
"Doc? I thought you said he was making good progress?"
"He is. But like Daniel said, I can't offer any guarantees. I'm not entirely happy, but I think he deserves the chance."
Jack nodded curtly in acceptance. Then he waved his zat gun in the direction of the doorway, gesturing to Teal'c and the SF guard to bring Rostif in.
"I'm warning you, don't try any funny business," Jack leveled his weapon at the prisoner and gave him his best steely glare.
"What could I possibly have to gain?" Gaborth glared back, looking round at the four weapons pointing at him from an unmissable range.
Then he softened his expression as he turned toward Janet Fraiser, "What are we dealing with here? I'm going to need to take a look..."
Janet explained Daniel's condition as she turned back the bottom of the sheet, set aside the cage and gently removed the bandages from Daniel's right foot.
Daniel hissed as his flesh met fresh air. For a moment he was mentally transported back to the campsite and his reaction was exactly the same. "Dammit to hell that itches!" His face creased into a frown and he bit his lip.
Janet carefully lowered Daniel's calf back onto the supporting pillow.
"Hmm, the damage is extensive, but I'll see what I can do." Gaborth held out his hand and Sam put the healing device into it.
She wondered for a moment if she should have offered to use Kendra's device on Daniel herself. She knew that it would respond to her because she'd once hosted Jolinar, but somehow she was always afraid of doing more harm than good. She'd experimented with the goa'uld devices when they first brought them back from Cimmeria, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't seem to get the hang of controlling them. If she were honest with herself, having that sort of power scared her a little.
"Ready?" Rostif asked Daniel.
"As I'll ever be," Daniel responded nervously.
Gaborth stretched out his arm and aimed the device at Daniel's foot. The gadget glowed.
Daniel tensed, pressed his lips together and grabbed a handful of the bed-sheet, screwing it up in his fist. A soft moan rumbled in his throat.
"That's as far as you go, buster," Jack decided, letting the metal of his zat gun make cold hard contact with Gaborth's temple.
"No! Argh. Back off, Jack. It's... gnuh... it's working, I can feel it. Give him a chance."
"You crazy? Anyone can see he's hurting you."
"No pain, n-no gain," Daniel let out a brief strained laugh.
"Sir, when we saw Kendra heal the boy's broken wrist, he winced in pain too. Some discomfort may well be part of the healing process," Sam put in.
Jack relaxed his grip on the zat gun, but only a little. "If Daniel screams, you won't get the chance to," he warned Gaborth.
Daniel rolled his eyes. Way to go, Jack. All that's done is pressure me to suffer in silence. Oww that's hot! He twisted the sheet in his grasp and scrunched up his eyes.
After what felt to all of them like hours but was really only minutes, Rostif lowered his arm as if it weighed a ton.
Daniel felt pretty drained, but his foot didn't hurt any more.
"You all done?" Jack asked the Tok'ra.
"Well?" Jack still had his zat covering the prisoner, though his stance was somewhat more relaxed.
Dr. Fraiser changed into clean surgical gloves and gently lifted Daniel's heel. She looked his foot over top and bottom, smiling and nodding in satisfaction. Then she ran a finger along his sole from heel to toe, and was pleased when his leg recoiled in reaction.
"Can you move your toes for me, Daniel?"
Daniel obediently wiggled his toes.
"None. Nothing at all." Daniel beamed in relief and looked over to Rostif. "That feels so much better, thanks."
"Happy now?" Gaborth asked the Colonel.
"Job's only half done," Jack responded curtly.
"Colonel, the process clearly takes it out of him, Daniel's looking worn out," Janet observed. "Perhaps it would be better if you uh... came back tomorrow..."
Gaborth raised his arm carefully so as not to get himself zatted. "I'd just as soon not waste another night in your cell."
"How 'bout it, Daniel? You up for it?"
"I am feeling very tired, but," he added quickly when it looked like Jack was going to haul Rostif out by the scruff of the neck. "I'd kinda like a matching pair, if you don't mind." He gave Jack a goofball grin and a shrug of the shoulders as if to say 'it doesn't really matter either way, only please don't let him go 'til the other one's healed.'
"You're still very weak, Daniel, I don't want you overdoing things," Janet cautioned.
Daniel gave her a sideways glare. "Overdo what? I'm just lying here!"
Janet still hesitated, until Daniel tried to sit up to remove the bandage from his left foot himself.
"Okay, you win. Lie still," she ordered sternly.
Soon the bandages were off and Gaborth was repeating the process on Daniel's left foot.
The tension in the room was palpable.
Daniel felt it most of all, having to hold in any sign of discomfort lest Jack get trigger-happy.
Daniel wasn't sure if knowing what to expect was a blessing or a curse. Though on reflection, he supposed it helped to have the certainty of a positive outcome to look forward to at the end of what was still an unpleasant process.
Once Janet finally declared the foot passed inspection, Daniel thanked Gaborth again and asked how soon he could get up.
"The feet are well healed – no pun intended," Gaborth assured him. "You can go dancing right now if you like."
"Great!" Daniel shifted as if about to test the assertion, grimacing as aching back muscles protested the move.
"I'll be the judge of when Daniel's fit to be discharged, thank you very much," Janet declared firmly. "He's—"
"—sustained other injuries?" Gaborth guessed, preparing to use the device again. "Show me."
"A few aches and strains, nothing serious," Daniel reassured him. "Princess Ro'Pita's need is greater than mine right now."
"In that case, perhaps you'd better rest a while longer," Gaborth decided. "I'll leave you in your medic's obviously capable hands."
A nod from O'Neill had Teal'c, Sam and the SF escorting the Tok'ra to the waiting Princess. Jack remained at Daniel's bedside.
"Dan-iel?" Jack tilted his head in query.
"Ja-ack?" Daniel rolled his eyes, mimicking Jack's elongation of his name.
"Okay, spill. Why'd ya really get rid of him? You okay? What'd he do to you?"
"I'm fine, Jack," Daniel placated, seeing the glint of murderous intent in Jack's eye. "What he did was heal my feet. For which I'm eternally grateful. Looks like the Princess called it accurately. He's one of the good guys."
"Pah!" snorted Jack.
The fact he had Gaborth the snake inside him made Rostif decidedly suspect to the colonel's mind and always would. Even if it was there by invitation.
SGC Gate Room
Daniel shook Rostif by the hand. "I can never repay you—"
"—forget it," the Tok'ra shrugged dismissively. "Just keep reminding your 'superior' there to be a bit more open-minded, huh?"
Daniel side-eyed Jack and grinned. "Tough job, but I'm working on it!"
Rostif nodded sympathetically.
"Chevron Seven, Locked," Sergeant Harriman's voice echoed through the microphone.
"Good luck with your mission," Daniel escorted the Tok'ra up the ramp. "Watch your back, it sounds dangerous. Keep in touch, let us know how it goes."
"Since your people haven't trusted me with your 'iris code' that could prove a bit problematic," Gaborth rejoined without rancor. In their position, he'd have been equally reticent. Protecting the location of the Tok'ra home world was so sacrosanct that the mere suspicion it had been divulged to outsiders led to the entire community uprooting and settling on – or rather in - a new planet.
Then without a backward glance, Gaborth hurried through the event horizon, hoping that he could complete his mission and still get back to base in time to test his suspicion that Cordesh was a spy in their midst before he could betray the Tok'ra, enabling the Goa'uld to descended upon them and destroy them all.
Moments later the Gate was in standby mode once more, but SG-1 remained where they were. Daniel descended the ramp to rejoin the others. The door opened and Janet escorted Princess Ro'Pita to Daniel's side. Behind them a bunch of technicians had been pressed into service to carry the half-dozen trunks of clothes and gifts her Highness had procured to take back with her. They were loaded onto a small flatbed on caterpillar tracks normally used for transporting crates of weapons or emergency supplies.
"Ready to go home, Highness?" Daniel offered his arm and Ro'Pita linked hers at the elbow, reflecting his smile with one of her own.
The Princess had agreed to resume the formality of address and many of the other conventions of her former life so that the loss of her 'gift' would remain undetected, but she had decided that the 'do not touch' rule had to go. It had been a major contributory factor in isolating her from others and making her life miserable. From her time with SG-1 - chiefly Daniel - she had learned that she preferred friends who liked to be with her instead of subjects who were too afraid not to cater to her every whim. Being of superior rank didn't have to mean being aloof to the point of being obnoxious. She may not have liked hearing Jack tell her that, but she now appreciated the truth of it.
Though she had been crestfallen at first that Gaborth's healing had not restored her gift, Daniel had soon helped her to come to terms with it. He told her it was a blessing in disguise. She had to stop thinking that the only thing special about her was her gift, and explore the fact that everyone is unique and important in some way, regardless of any 'magic powers' they may or may not have.
"I think I am going to have fun finding out who Ro'Pita really is, don't you?" the Princess asked as they watched the Gate begin to dial Salverit.
"I'm sure you will, Highness," Daniel responded, before reminding her that she had slipped out of the pluralis majestatis again.
"We thank you, Daniel. We thank you for all you have taught us." Ro'Pita leaned over and kissed Daniel on the cheek, causing him to blush and Jack to nudge Teal'c, winking.
"We shall never forget what you endured to keep us safe, Daniel. We are forever in your debt."
"It was indeed an impressive display of fortitude, Daniel Jackson," agreed Teal'c. "Particularly for one not raised as a warrior."
"I've been meaning to ask you, how did you manage it, Daniel?" Sam queried. "It must have been sheer Hell every step of the way. How come you didn't give up?"
"Well, um... Jack said to hang in there and you guys would come get me. So I uh... I followed orders. I hung in there."
"You didn't think maybe we weren't gonna get free to rescue you?" Jack raised an eyebrow.
"Nope; never doubted for a second." Daniel shook his head emphatically. "Though you sure took your damned sweet time about it, Jack!"
Daniel's hand flew to his mouth as he realized how inappropriate his language had been in the presence of royalty.
Ro'Pita shrugged and giggled, releasing the momentary tension in the group.
Their footsteps as they climbed the metal ramp to escort the princess home were drowned out by the sound of their collective laughter.