stringertheory: (Stargate)
[personal profile] stringertheory
Title: I is for Infirmary - aka, Those Who Wait
Rating: PG
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: Teal'c, Janet Fraiser
Word Count: 1613
Categories: character study, friendship, drama
Spoilers/Warnings: None. Set during an early season.
Beta: [personal profile] fignewton
Summary: Waiting is always the hardest part. Fill in fic for Friendship Alphabet Soup!

Janet had never minded working the night shift. When she was first starting out, she was often assigned the late shift as the lowest member of the totem pole, so she had become accustomed to the hours. Even as she moved up the ranks, she would take on night shifts from other doctors and nurses who had children at home. She appreciated the quiet, the pervasive sense of rest and healing found in darkened wards after visiting hours.

Moving underground to the SGC, dozens of floors below daylight, hadn't changed that.

They set their timetable by the rotation of other planets, so 'night' came to be a relative term, but Janet strove to maintain – as nearly as possible – the normal operating hours of a military infirmary. And between 23:00 and 06:00, that meant lowered lights and lowered voices. Under her regime, nighttime in the SGC infirmary became hallowed ground that no one – lowliest private to highest general – dared sully. Night was her sanctuary, the time when it felt like the chaos of the day was contained, set right, and on its way to being better when the sun came up. It was one of the few times she felt completely in control, or at least not entirely out of control.

So much of what she came up against in the SGC was beyond her conventional medical training. Even with experimental treatments and an ever-expanding knowledge base, usually her instructions ended with “wait and see.” When you were relying on untested methods to battle unfamiliar ailments, you just had to watch and see what happened. And as much as they dealt with the alien, there was still plenty of garden-variety military damage to go around. Add in the fact that the entire base seemed comprised of trouble magnets, and her hands – and beds – were usually full.

The only beds currently occupied held the human portion of SG-1, recuperating from a mixture of combat, escape, and alien narcotics. Janet ghosted past Jack, who she'd had to sedate two hours or so earlier to keep him from exacerbating his injuries, to check on Sam, who still hadn't come to. According to Daniel, she'd received the biggest dose of the drug and had lost consciousness about halfway back to the Gate. Her vitals were stable, though, and her brain scans indicated a deep sleep, so Janet refused to be worried. She shifted around Sam's bed to check on Daniel himself, who had finally fallen asleep. He was resting quietly, the pain medication having kicked in, and Janet let herself relax.

Nerves of steel – and the sanctity of the nighttime quiet – were the only reasons she didn't jump out of her skin when she turned back around and found Teal'c sitting between Jack and Sam. He was in the space she had vacated only minutes before and she marveled once again at how quietly someone his size could move when he chose to.

“Teal'c, what are you doing here?” she asked softly.

“I apologize, Dr. Fraiser,” he replied, his voice a low rumble, “I know it is after visiting hours. I merely wished to inquire about the others.” He gestured to her three patients with the sweep of one massive hand.

After-hours visits generally weren't frowned upon so long as the number of visitors at any one time remained small and they kept the noise down. Soldiers were a fiercely loyal bunch, and keeping them away from their injured comrades often caused more of a ruckus than letting them in. As such, the rules were bent about as often as they were enforced.

Teal'c was a model patient, and he maintained that behavior when on the other side of the cot, so Janet didn't begrudge him the violation of visiting hours. He wasn't long out of the infirmary himself, having lingered after receiving treatment for his own injuries to see after the well-being of his teammates. Janet's sharp eyes could already see how the bruising – not even twelve hours old – that crawled up one side of his neck and down his arm had already begun to fade. She didn't miss the fact that he had abandoned his sling, either.

“They're all in stable condition right now,” she advised, repeating nearly word-for-word what she had told him just a little over an hour before. “Dr. Jackson has finally joined the others in unconsciousness – I didn't have to sedate him,” she added at Teal'c's raised brow of inquiry. “And they're all getting the best, and most, rest they'll probably have all month.” She eyed him closely. “How are you doing?” she asked, half knowing the answer.

“I am healing well, thank you.” He flexed the fingers of his hand as if testing it. “The injuries were minor.”

Janet held back a snort at that. His injuries might have been minor for a Jaffa, but they would have kept a human off active duty for at least a week, and probably more. At the rate he was going, he'd be completely healed and no worse for the wear in a day or two.

“It is strange to wait,” Teal'c murmured.

Janet frowned. “To heal? Teal'c, even for Jaffa healing takes time.”

“It is strange to wait for one's teammates to heal,” he clarified. His eyes roamed over the colonel's still form before focusing on Janet. “It is not something that happens often for Jaffa.”

“Oh?” Janet asked, curiosity piqued. She knew for a fact that Jaffa could sustain injury just as easily as humans – it was merely the severity inflicted, the probability of recovery, and the time of healing that were different. And with every injury there was a recovery period, for human or Jaffa.

Teal'c was silent for a few moments before he answered. Janet was still learning to read him, but she got the impression that he was collecting his thoughts, maybe deciding how best to word his response.

“Jaffa do not have healers,” he said finally. “Every Jaffa learns basic medical care: how to stitch and bind wounds, how to set broken limbs, and how to deal with anything that might occur during battle. And there are those who look after the health of Jaffa children, who are more vulnerable before they undergo prim'ta and receive their symbiote. But we do not have individuals who study as you do, who work as tirelessly as you to heal.”

“And why not? Do the Goa'uld forbid medical care?” Janet asked, feeling anger bubble inside her: another sin to add to a long list.

“We do not need it,” Teal'c replied, and Janet felt her ire vanish at his straightforward tone. “In general, any injury that would require extensive medical assistance is a death blow, and any disease that manifests as debilitating illness is strong enough to kill us. If our symbiote is unable to heal us, nothing we can add would be of benefit. If we are keeping vigil at a bedside, it is typically a vigil for death, not healing.”

Stunned, Janet pondered the assured finality in Teal'c's voice. Humans had shorter lives than Jaffa, and were – for lack of a better term – more fragile, but they fought to the last for every precious breath. It was one of the reasons why they had doctors; they wanted to live. Perhaps it was that frailty, and the short lifespan, that made them fight so hard. Just as it was likely that knowledge of their own strength made the Jaffa so willing to let go when the time came: because they knew, with absolute certainty, that it was time.

Teal'c's gaze dropped to search first Daniel's face, then Sam's. “Somehow this waiting is more difficult.”

“Because when you wait for death, you know what's coming,” Janet advised, her voice gentle. “Here, you don't know. It's just waiting.” She paused, and the faintest hint of bitterness crept into her tone. “Half my job is waiting. Waiting for the wound to heal, for the medicine to take effect, for the patient to wake up.” She laid a hand atop Sam's, still and sun-browned against the starch white sheets. “I wait for you to get hurt.”

Teal'c's eyes snapped back to hers at that. Janet mused that she read surprise in his gaze.

“I sit here every day and watch all of you go off to who-knows-where, and I wait for you to return, knowing odds are that you'll come back injured or sick.” She doesn't add the 'or worse,' but it hangs heavy in the air. “Then I'm presented with wounds made by weapons I've never seen before, or alien diseases that have no known treatments, or aliens who only have a basic understanding of their own physiology,” she said, giving Teal'c a small, wry smile. “I have to make up a lot of it as I go. And then I wait.”

Mirroring Teal'c's earlier gesture, she waved a hand to encompass her quiet domain. He nodded and looked away, his gaze going distant, and Janet felt herself soften. She waited before, the soldiers after. It wasn't easy on any of them. With unfamiliarity, it must be even harder for Teal'c.

“This is the hard waiting,” she said, stepping around Sam's bed to lay a hand on Teal'c's uninjured shoulder, “but you don't have to do it alone.”

Teal'c glanced up at her and then nodded once in understanding. Janet returned the nod, then rolled a chair between Sam's and Daniel's beds. Perched there, keeping the vitals monitors in her line of sight, she kept vigil.

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October 2015

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