Poppies in November

by Domenika Marzione

(A coda to The Jenny Code.)

They are drugging him against his will.

Having failed to self-medicate, he has been stripped of his right to lucidity. Since he wasn't using the morphine drip often enough for their tastes, they took away the button the other night and now he is doped at regular intervals, whether he wants it or not.

He doesn't want it. Not because he's any sort of masochist -- he's not even pretending that he isn't feeling every bruise and cut and the bullet wound -- but instead because with sobriety comes the moderate ability to keep the nightmares at bay. He has just sacrificed three marines to save Atlantis, lost another five (including his best lieutenant) in an ambush, and he'd rather not get stuck in a drug-induced endless flashback loop where Malthusa becomes Mindanao and Afghanistan becomes Atlantis. Again.

During the day, he's kept busy enough between visitors, both well-meaning social ones and apologetic official ones, and the endless stream of doctors and nurses and orderlies and one more test and one more bandage change and are you drinking enough water because that catheter bag should be full by now. But at night, it's just him and his memories and the duty nurse checking in every few hours just as he drops off into a doze.

Since they took away the self-serve drip, he's fought with every single nurse who has come to shoot up his intravenous line. Even Reilly, which is both embarrassing and dangerous because nobody looks good whining to a former marine the size of an SUV. Tonight's nurse is Birgita and he'll probably have to apologize to her later because he didn't mean to make her cry. But it's still two hours past when he should have gotten his last dose and if he's starting to (really) feel it, at least it's better than the alternative. Even if sweat is breaking out on his forehead and he's flexing his fingers to set the spikes of pain to a reasonable rhythm.

"I'm going to have to ask you to stop running off the nurses," Yoni Safir says as he appears at John's bedside. "Doctors are very lazy creatures and I don't want to have to do all of my own scutwork. Also, it has been years since I have run some of these tests and you would not enjoy being my practice dummy."

John doesn't glare at him. Not really. "I just don't want to get drugged again."

Yoni has an entire catalog of expressions to convey just how unimpressed he is with you. While Lorne and his marines are still learning the repertoire, John's pretty sure he's seen most of them by now.

"Yes, well I think pretty much the entire medical division has figured that one out," Safir replies. "But apart from the fact that we like you more when you are sedated, it is for your own good. Medically speaking. Not just in the 'You Won't Be Smothered in Your Sleep' way."

John sighs. Arguing with Yoni about this is like arguing with Reilly -- unproductive and guaranteed to end badly. But he doesn't want the drugs.

"Saving the psychological bullshit for Heightmeyer," Yoni begins with a frown, "is there a compelling reason why you are refusing pain management? Because we both know that this isn't about proving your manly warrior toughness and we both know you are in a lot of pain."

He's sure Heightmeyer's got plenty to say about the compulsion to lie after breaking under torture. Because the urge to fib is stronger than the need to tell the truth, his own thoughts kept to himself just because he can. But, surprising himself, he speaks the truth. "I'm tired of getting trapped in my memories," he says before he can bite his tongue.

Yoni nods once. Then snaps his fingers at someone across the room, beyond John's field of vision. One of the marine orderlies appears with a tray, the familiar syringe and little glass bottle resting on top, both of which Yoni takes after he's put on gloves.

John hates Yoni right now. Hates him with an anger he can feel rising in him like bile. Because Yoni knows. Forget about what Yoni's seen in a year and a half in Pegasus, John has seen his IDF service record.

"I'm reducing your dose," Yoni says, prepping the needle and John almost doesn't hear the words, focused on the actions as he is. "If you're still having problems, I'll reduce it again."

The needle goes in and John braces for the rush.

"The goal is not to render you a vegetable, as easy as that would make our jobs," Yoni continues in a conversational tone. He waits for John to look at him again. "The goal is to allow you to rest so that you can heal. If you'd just said that you were having nightmares, the dosage could have been adjusted days ago. It's a common enough side effect. Instead, we have miserable nurses and thus miserable doctors all because you are a stubborn, proud fuck."

John looks up at him. "Am not," he says. "And the marines would be proud of you."

It's as much of an apology as he can muster right now and it speaks to Safir's own similar twistedness that he can accept it as such.

"If you're done being a pain in the tuchus, then I have a full house to round on," Yoni says, which is as close to forgiveness as John is probably going to get from him.

Yoni turns to leave and John reaches out, hissing at the movement. His right arm isn't casted because it's not broken, but there isn't a single thing he can do with it that doesn't hurt like hell. Safir turns back, looking annoyed. "If you're not done being a pain in the ass..."

"How is everyone?" John asks. Because he's been flat on his back in this half-walled space for days and, when he's not spaced out on morphine highs or off getting x-rayed or scanned or whatever the procedure is, he can hear the sounds of the wounded marines who surround him. There are two dozen marines injured, some serious and most not and yet still enough so that Medical had to create an annex for the infirmary. (And re-open the morgue that hadn't been used since the siege.) He gets updates from Lorne and the captains, but he'd like to hear it from a doctor.

"Ask me that after I've rounded," Safir says, not unkindly. "But we released two more today. Now try and get some rest so I know how well the drugs are working."

John closes his eyes, letting himself float a little as the morphine wends its way through his system. The pain isn't gone, but it's starting to dull enough that it's not overwhelming. Instead of occupying every cell, it's now there on the peripheries, a hard edge to the soft feeling that works like an anchor to the real world.

He doesn't remember falling asleep, but he must have because when he opens his eyes, the overhead light is reduced to the ambient glow that passes for darkness in the infirmary. His area is lit, though, courtesy of the small desk lamp Rodney brought him as an awkward gesture of sympathy.

Sitting next to the bed is Safir, chin on his chest and laptop on his thighs. John thinks he might be sleeping until a quiet tap of a page down key proves otherwise.

"'m I the best you can do, Doc?" he rasps out, voice sleep-rough and his throat dry. There's a nurse's station and a place for the attending doctor to relax while on call, so there's no reason for him to be here. Certainly no reason for him to be awake, not unless someone else was having a crisis.

Yoni looks up with a cocked eyebrow, then takes his feet off of the stool they were resting on so that he can reach forward and get John's water glass, holding the straw in place with a finger. When John is finished drinking, he puts the cup back next to the lamp.

"What time is it?" John asks.

Safir looks at his watch. "Almost 0230," he answers, sounding impressed. "Not bad. Any trouble waking?"

John shakes his head no. He doesn't remember dreaming, either.

"Good," Yoni replies, typing something on the laptop. "You'll taper faster this way."

The doctors are much more mindful of dependencies since Ford. Rodney sometimes bitches that they're stingier with the good drugs now, but the rest of the time he remembers that it's not a personal vendetta against him.

"And then I can get out of here," John says a little wistfully.

Yoni chuckles mirthlessly. "You are not going from here back to active duty. Just so you don't get your hopes up."

John is too broken, in more ways than just physical, to be holding out for that particular fantasy. He knows how many hurdles he'll have to clear -- Medical, Psych, whatever tests Elizabeth will give to make her own assessment -- before Lorne can take a breather from quietly standing up to Caldwell. Speaking of...

"How's Lorne?"

Yoni doesn't even blink at the question. "He's doing his best to forget about the bullet hole in his triceps," he says with a small shrug. "He's only marginally better at taking his medication than you are. The marines are fussing over him a little, so he's being guilted into compliance."

Lorne's marines are fine; they were part of the assault force that rescued him and Hopewell, although John only knows that from Polito and not because he remembers much of anything about his retrieval.

"How're you?"

This gets another shrug. "I wasn't shot."

John knows that a few of the marines owe their relative health to Safir's being on the battlefield to treat them. But that's why Lorne wanted him on his team, so there's no point in making an issue about it.

The reports aren't all written yet, but John has already heard various tales of valor in addition to the acts he witnessed himself. He's already started talking to Caldwell about what sort of awards they can give for a fight to defend a mission that doesn't exist and Elizabeth has assured him that the Pentagon has long been willing to recognize the SGC's battlefields. He wants to get Maguire bumped up to captain; Brian had already been scheduled to return to Earth for promotion as soon as a replacement was chosen. He wants whatever he can get for Aguilla, Francis, and Olivet, which in turn will never be enough.

Thinking about such things brings tears to his eyes and he closes them.

"Go back to sleep," Yoni tells him. "You have a scan scheduled for 0700."

John opens his eyes to look balefully at Safir, who looks unrepentant.

"Your life of indolence will be over quicker than you think," Yoni warns. "Best enjoy it while you can."

He closes his eyes, feeling the tug of exhaustion at the edges of his mind. "Goodnight, Yoni."

"Goodnight, John."

feed me on LJ?


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26 December, 2006