is he that will plead with me? For now, if I hold my tongue, I shall
give up the ghost."
“Hey,” Jack drawls the moment
I open my front door. He’s leaning nonchalantly against the wall,
hands deep in his pockets, feet crossed at the ankles, rising from a sea
of take-out bags and beer.
Not bad, Jack. Really.
Good opener. Nice, casual ‘Hey! Look who was passing.
Blow me off and I’m SO gone. And by the way, the food comes WITH’
pose. Almost convincing. “Hi,” I say pleasantly, stepping back
to wave him past me. He grabs the beer and the bags, frustrating
my efforts to help. I close the door behind us, get two steps down
my own hallway and Jack orders me to ‘lock it!’ without even slowing down.
When I catch up with him, Jack has dumped the take-out and the beer on
the table. He’s dangling the remains of my dinner accusingly.
“Didn’t we have the apple talk
already?” Jack glares at me. “Didn’t I tell you vitamins were no
substitute for food?”
“You told me, but I didn’t say
I listened,” I tell him lightly, loping into the kitchen to grab plates,
“A freezer full of haughty cuisine
and the man eats an apple for dinner,” Jack complains to the sweating bottle
of beer he’s caressing. “A RAW apple,” he shudders. “Raw apple
is just apple in its pre-pie state. You don’t eat them like that,
y’know. Wait for the pastry next time.”
I let it go. Jack hasn’t
eaten since yesterday and it’s almost tomorrow. He looks like I feel,
dull and dimmed, his face harsh with the nervous and physical exhaustion
we’re all suffering from. I hand him the bottle opener and
delve into the take-out bags. When I get the first container open,
the rich smell of chicken pie wafts across the table. Jack inhales
“The Hacky Sack,” Jack gloats.
“A big comfy blanky with a crispy crust.”
“They don’t DO take-out.
What’d you do? Pull a gun on Marge?” I ask as I dish out the pie,
Jack’s jealous eyes laying into me in case I get the ‘big’ half.
Jack tries to look mysterious,
but stalls at smug as he pours two beers. Two expensive imported
beers. Jack is pandering to my expressed loathing of the god-awful
domestic brew with Grolsch, plus we have chicken pie oozing down-home goodness
all over two plates, mounds of mashed potato and rich gravy. I have
to admit I’m fairly alarmed here. We’re talking full-frontal culinary
assault and whatever Jack has in mind for me right behind it.
“Beer,” Jack drawls, turning
his glass in his hands. “Now there’s a temporary solution,” he says
wryly. “Teal’c,” he adds, toasting me.
I’ll drink to that.
“It’s been a hell of a few weeks,”
Jack sighs, smiling at me with obvious effort as he slices into the pie.
“Marge shoots,” he chews interrogatively then gives me a thumbs up.
“And she scores,” Jack observes complacently, digging in. “And the
universe makes a little more sense to me. Eat,” he orders, waving
his fork imperatively at my plate.
I take a cautious bite and the
pie DOES taste as good as it smells. We eat steadily, in silence;
the peace, the quietude hard-edged still with barely relieved anxiety and
so many issues to be resolved as a team, as friends, I for one don’t know
where to begin. I’m too tired, and too wired to think straight, and
looking at Jack’s jerky movements and glittering eyes, I’m not alone.
Our vigil of last night spilled over into this night. None of us
was willing to leave Teal’c’s side until Janet was.
In fact, it’s only been a couple
of hours since Janet suddenly decided we were under her feet, Teal’c needed
his rest, Junior needed room to work and she needed coffee in the WORST
way, and the general emphatically ordered us home, under escort if necessary,
leaving Bra’tac to be at Teal’c’s side when he emerges from kel’no’reem.
Jack was too tired, too…too BEAT to even HAVE a ‘way to go, Junior!’ moment
when Teal’c roused enough to say goodnight, so I’m…I’m glad he came here.
I’d rather he was here, talking, where I can keep an eye on him, than home
“So, you wanna talk about it?”
Jack asks gently.
I don’t, I truly don’t.
It’s all so raw and close, TOO close. Jack and I never imagined when
we got Teal’c back we had anything more to deal with than our own painful
awareness that we’d never truly known him, never understood him until that
day. We were struggling to work our way back to a point where we
could trust him, now we knew Teal’c too had his limits. Jack and
I talked, and Jack was doing okay, he really was, he knew he’d reached
his limits too. Teal’c’s blind faith in his ‘god’ knocked Jack on
his ass, literally and figuratively.
It didn’t take me long to realise
the brainwashy thing was exactly why the Jaffa didn’t use the sarcophagus.
With Teal’c’s brain chemistry already compromised by the powerful narcotic
effect of the sarcophagus, Junior helped Apophis have a field day with
Teal’c’s perceptions. We’ve learned so little about kel’no’reem,
but one of the few things we know for certain is that Teal’c’s conscious
mind is suppressed to allow the symbiote to receive and interpret the signals
from his unconscious mind. He truly isn’t in control of his body
at that time.
We’ve seen the effects for ourselves,
for the three interminable weeks since our return. Not exactly hail
the conquering heroes, not when we brought Teal’c back in chains for our
safety, as well as his. We tried to reach Teal’c and failed, and
it was bad for all of us. He knows us so well, knows our weaknesses,
and he looked to wound. He told Sam she’d come closer to killing
Jack than anyone, her weakness, her narrow mind killing Jack by slow degrees
in that ice cavern in the Antarctic, and of his satisfaction that Martouf
died in pain and knowing his guilt, at her hands. He reminded Jack
of the orb we brought back from P5C-353, of all the ways he’d worked with
the organism to make Jack suffer. He told me of his pleasure at seeing
me crazed and weeping during my incarceration in Mental Health. He
asked to speak to Jack and I together, only to describe to me in loving
detail just how Jack had killed Robert, and how it was Sam who prompted
Jack over and over to stop, to rest, to leave me out there alone, how Sam
was more interested in burying the dead than keeping me alive.
I…I hadn’t known before.
About Robert. Not the details. I hadn’t wanted to know.
Jack never wanted me to know, not…not like…like THAT. He couldn’t
look me in the eye for days, wouldn’t let me talk to him about it.
The guilt has never left him, that he was the one to kill my friend, the
only friend I had left from my past.
Janet put a stop to it when
Teal’c was in full flow about how little Jack had hesitated to detonate
the naquadah reactor, how Sam had reminded him constantly of the time,
had urged him to do it then or never. Janet and MacKenzie were convinced
Teal’c was using us to feed his delusions, and MacKenzie took over while
we sat on our thumbs and waited uselessly, endlessly. The past few
weeks have bowed me down, made me feel OLD. I’m not the only one.
Teal’c was so clever, so insidious, his manner so recognisably his own
as he distorted truth after truth.
Divide and conquer. It
wasn’t going to work with us, didn’t matter how hurt we were, how angry.
We were never going to lose sight of Teal’c, never going to relax our vigilance
to permit the ‘First Prime’ to escape. Looking back, the time has
been dreary silences punctuated by halting conversations, all beginning
with ‘you KNOW’. I couldn’t tell who was holding whose hand at any
one time. Literally and figuratively.
Everyone’s nerves were at screaming
point, and Jack wasn’t the only one who wanted to be out and DOING.
Hammond gave us the go to extract Bra’tac, bring him back with us, but
even that was a ploy, a feint to draw Teal’c out when every word flowing
so smoothly from him whispered every lie we wanted so much to hear.
MacKenzie tried, but Janet’s conviction that the symbiote was preventing
Teal’c from taking conscious control was proven to be correct when Bra’tac
removed it. If she hadn’t been so sure the answer lay in interrupting
the communication between Teal’c and the symbiote I’m sure she would never
have allowed Bra’tac to convince her to permit the Rite to continue.
A search for a medical treatment, chemical or surgical intervention could
have taken years.
Jack looks at me steadily as
he grabs up two fresh beers and heads purposefully over to achieve urban
sprawl on the larger couch. “Ah, the Bergman kick. You should haul
ass back to the mountain. You and Fraiser can be Alone together.
I left Carter circling warily with coffee, cake and hopefully confidences
in the Commissary,” he calls as he heaps cushions.
“Is Janet okay?” I ask anxiously,
dropping heavily onto the two-seater opposite. I don’t need to ask
about Sam, we had some time in her lab, talked a little, held a lot, still
have finger marks on my ribs. She wept on my shoulder, a few hard,
stormy tears, insisting all the while it was just the tension. Just
the…THAT choked me up. The general came in, just to check on us,
not ‘seeing’ hastily swiped eyes or hearing the hitch in Sam’s voice.
Or mine. He was very kind, and talked about a…a lot. About
us. He’s…he’s proud of us and all we did, how we did the hardest
thing and waited. He warned us to lock the door next time we felt
– um - tension. Sam had that instant ‘people will TALK’ anxiety attack
and then her whole body tightened into ‘well fuck them if they do’ and
she found a smile for me, but all the general said was the colonel would
be hurt to be excluded and he was too old to survive O’Neill orchestrated
group hugs at the briefing table. He found us crying and left us
almost laughing. Almost. Sam is doing okay. She had plans
for Chianti and confidences, if she could convince Janet to leave Teal’c’s
side. Sam would have come home with me tonight, wanted to…I wanted
her to. She has so much on her mind, so many ‘failures’ to protect
me, that’s what’s hitting her so hard. I’m worried about the way
she lost Martouf, that wound cuts deeper than most, even now.
“Yeah,” Jack sighs as he sinks
down into the cushions, balancing the beer on his chest. “Still pissy
as hell, but fine. Carter seemed to have a firm grip on things so
I left them to it. Carter says take care, by the way, Fraiser too,”
he shrugs. “And get some rest or else.”
My smile is perfunctory.
Janet has had a hell of a day, having to wait and watch at the sidelines
while we allowed Teal’c to suffer to the point of death in the name of
friendship. Janet had so many conflicting duties weighing her down;
officer, doctor, friend. It hurt her so much to have to stand idly
by when the cure – the symbiote – was right there. The general forced
Janet to obey him and stand down as an officer, and Bra’tac forced her
to choose as Teal’c’s friend, to make it personal, and that is not something
she will lightly put behind her. It’s never supposed to BE personal,
not for a doctor. They don’t judge, they don’t choose, they heal.
Janet fought all her beliefs today, and if we’d lost Teal’c I believe we
would have lost Janet too. Sam told me Janet planned to resign if
Teal’c had died under her care and by the general’s order. I don’t
think she could have reconciled the conflicts of interest and been able
to function as the person we know, or the doctor she needs to be.
Jack gulps his beer greedily,
then sets it down, idly toeing off his sneakers so he can stretch out comfortably
on the couch. He smiles across at me tiredly as he settles.
I sit quietly and watch Jack’s
palpable attempts to unclench and relax, muscle by muscle it seems.
Talking isn’t always the answer. With Sam, with Jack too, sometimes
silence speaks. Easy, companionable silence that speaks of friends
who’ve been through it, come through it and are maybe the better friends
It - what we did – effectively
torturing a man we all care for, putting him through agonies, physically,
emotionally and spiritually…well, I’m not sure how we’ll be able to resolve
that conflict, but I know we’ll work through it together. We need…
I need to hear from Teal’c that we could have done no more for him than
we did. I want…I NEED to know he…he forgives, need something to take
the cutting edge off this leaden grief of loss and…and failure, and the
aching, unwanted awareness of our friend’s limitations. And our own.
Beneath it all, still, the anger bites, jolting through me when I least
expect it. Anger at Teal’c for opening Pandora’s box, for forcing
so many changes on us after what was already the most difficult year the
team has known. He’s dealt blow after to blow to Jack’s belief he
could do his job and be our friend, and part of Jack will never get past
this, how bad things can get and how fast it can happen because he cares,
he’s too close. We can’t change that, we can’t change Jack, not now.
We can only compromise, and adjust.
Yes, there’s anger. Jack
was already feeling a little insecure, a little lost. A lot replaceable.
He isn’t, couldn’t be, but convincing Jack of that…
And I’m angry at myself.
“Okay, we’re off-script now,”
Jack grumbles. “I say ‘do you wanna talk?’ and you say ‘no’ and then
you….“ he looks at me expectantly.
I deliberately cross my arms
over my chest and look back.
“You spill!” Jack accuses indignantly.
“Jesus, Danny, don’t make me out to be more whipped than I already am,”
“Jack, you’re never scarier
than when you’re supportive,” I say tartly.
“It’s a gift,” Jack acknowledges
complacently, lips quirking into a grin.
I sigh. “If only I was
as sappy as you are, I wouldn’t mind you loitering with intent around my
psyche, but I’m not, and I’m fine, so back off,” I insist.
“Sappy?” Jack enunciates crisply.
“It’s only sappy if you BLUB,” he contradicts with dignity. “And
if you’re fine like Carter is fine, Hammond is fine, Fraiser is fine, I’M
fine, well, then fiiine,” he says witheringly.
“You want to talk about it?”
I ask provocatively.
“No,” Jack says crisply.
“I’m impervious to your womanly wiles.”
I glare at him. “Prick.”
Jack snuggles into the cushions,
smirking maddeningly. “I believe there is some doubt in Teal’c’s
mind as to the veracity of that claim in your case.“
“You’re never going to let this
one go, are you?” I snap.
“I believe,” Jack thinks it
over for a moment, eyeing me pensively, “…not. I’m not strong enough
to refrain from the fun of getting in touch with your feminine side, even
if it is as subtle as a tactical nuke to the head.” His grin is evil.
“You hating me for it is just an added bonus.”
“And if I don’t spill?” I ask,
pretty much knowing the answer.
“I will help you through the
pain of this ordeal if I have to make your life a living hell to do it,”
Jack beams at me. “And as you know, I’m so much more annoying at
persistently close quarters. I mean, come on, Danny! With friends
like me, who NEEDS enemies?” he asks, raising eloquent hands to the high
heavens. “Lay it on me,” he invites, sobering.
“Where do I begin?” I sigh,
surrendering. I should have known…I DID know he wouldn’t miss the
way I choked the moment my ass hit that stool. I sat there floundering,
not able to find a single word that would help Teal’c, because my mind
was full of images of Sha’uri. I couldn’t do it, I tried…I tried
and I…I failed. The ONE irrefutable act, the only act Teal’c’s own
logic would have impaled him on was his killing of Ammonet, Apophis’ beloved
queen. The single act in all his time as part our team - our lives
- Teal’c could not rationalise to fit his delusion of ‘service’ to his
‘god’, and the one I couldn’t put words to.
I glance at Jack, biting my
lip. Jack knows me so well. I couldn’t put words to it, but
Jack heard me anyway. Teal’c should have heard me too. I…I
failed him when he needed me most. ‘We are brothers, DanielJackson’,
he told me. Well, his ‘brother’ choked BIG time. If Teal’c
had died, I’m sure it would have been a great comfort to Rya’c and Drey’ac
to know that I…
“Daniel,” Jack prompts gently.
“Please, Danny,” he asks earnestly.
I can’t just launch straight
into the heart of it. I need to work this through myself, understand WHY
I wasn’t able to help Teal’c in the way I knew I should, the most effective
way. If challenging him about Ammonet had put an end to his suffering,
brought him back to us one minute sooner, I…I don’t understand, I just
don’t understand why I failed him.
“Do you think we took the easy
way out for us, Jack?” I ask seriously.
“Whaddya mean?” Jack rolls
onto his side to face me, propping his face on his hand. “Go on,”
“I feel like we shifted the
whole burden onto Teal’c,” I say carefully, trying to put words to how
conflicted I feel. We made a choice on Teal’c’s behalf, and essentially
our choice was to kill him. Bra’tac had never known a Jaffa warrior
to survive the Rite of Masuraan. “Because it was easier for us to
sit at his bedside and have him die free than it would have been for us
to have to live with him lingering on for years, trapped in his own warped
delusion of faith.”
He was dying with every breath
and we were bickering about velour, for God’s sake. VELOUR.
Jack’s face twists as he shifts
uncomfortably on the couch. “There was nothing easy about it, Daniel.
Nothing. Effectively we were choiceless. If we hadn’t taken
action, Teal’c would have gone on as he was. Sergeant Wittiger is
going to be out of action for three months while that break heals, and
we’re lucky Teal’c didn’t have time to break his NECK.” Jack straightens
up, eyes hard. “Hammond would have had no choice if we hadn’t attempted
the rite, you know that. It would have meant solitary confinement
for Teal’c.” Jack’s lips tighten. “And Death Row. Literally
a life sentence. Five years tops before the symbiote matures and
then Teal’c would have died. I know you think we should have contacted
Drey’ac as well as Bra’tac, Daniel, I know part of you thinks we have a
long track record of disregarding Teal’c’s rights for the sake of expedience…“
Jack’s eyes soften when I lean
in instinctively, shaking my head emphatically.
“Did I say I disagreed?” Jack
asks wryly. “But we’ve never faced this situation before, Daniel.
Teal’c in his right mind would have died before he betrayed us, Teal’c
outta his fucking mind would have been hammering at the iris with an army
at his back in NO TIME, armed with everything WE taught him. You
saw yourself what he was capable of in those other realities. He
wiped out the ENTIRE planet. We couldn’t take that risk.”
“I know, Jack,” I sigh, distressed
he thinks I would fault him or the general for that. “But we just went
for it. Sam was right to suggest other options, but no, we wouldn’t
wait, we just went straight from that loveless fuck Mackenzie…”
Jack pulls a face. “Still
bearing a grudge?”
Can’t I? Is there some
universal axiom that states for the record Daniel Jackson must be noble
and selflessly forgiving to all those who fuck him over? When I found
myself twisting into knots trying to rationalise the fact that neither
Janet nor MacKenzie exactly made ‘heroic’ efforts to find a cause for my
condition because it was so much easier to believe I’d gone nuts, because,
after all, it was ME, I cut to the chase and blamed. As Teal’c took
great pleasure in pointing out to me, in case I hadn’t got it, if Sam had
been the one who said something brushed by her and started to hallucinate
Goa’uld’s in her closet without warning, they’d have looked long and hard
for an alternate explanation. Sam isn’t nuts! DANNY is the
flaky one. I don’t hate MacKenize, too much effort. Despising
him, though, that takes no work at all.
Having Jack scuffing the walls
and muttering gruffly about the whole damn base taking a deep breath every
time I break a nail, while Sam hovered anxiously at my side, both of them
going insistently over the ‘if only I’d…no!…if only I’D…’ routine did nothing
to soften my attitude towards Mac the Hack. That’s another one my
friends can’t chalk up to experience and move on.
I never knew how many small,
bitter wounds, insecurities and losses we all carried until Teal’c forced
them out into the open.
“Straight to the Rite of Masuraan,”
I drag us ruthlessly back to the point. “The Last Rite. Kill
or cure, Jack,” I argue earnestly.
Jack quirks his head at me questioningly.
“O-kaay,” Jack says slowly. “What choice did Teal’c have, Daniel?
Death and freedom, or captivity and death.” He scrubs his hand roughly
over his face, shifting edgily on the couch.
No choice. I know that,
but…“Were we thinking of Teal’c, Jack, or were we thinking of us?”
“We were fucked either way is
what I think, Daniel,” Jack admits suddenly. “Damned if we did and
damned if we didn’t. I went for it…YOU went for it because we knew
if Teal’c were with us HE would want to die free.”
I shake my head, sighing as
I reach out for my beer, sip, shudder and set it down out of reach.
“It isn’t a comfortable rationalisation,
Daniel,” Jack begins seriously. “Hell, it isn’t a comfortable ANYTHING,
but it IS what Teal’c chose. He’s never wanted anything more than
to die free if he had no choice, if he couldn’t fight, and that was the
only fucking thing Bra’tac COULD promise us,” Jack says bitterly.
“Little enough,” he grates.
“Jack, don’t,” I sigh, aching
for the naked pain I glimpse on his face before he shuts down. Jack
knows exactly what responsibility he has to take for this, for NOT ordering
Teal’c to break off the attack and return to the ship. He let it
get personal and we’ve all reaped the whirlwind as a result. The
only thing Jack can do is ensure we’re never put in that position again
by Teal’c, or by him. He sees his blind spot now, as do we all, and
it’s going to be difficult to adjust.
I admit it. It’s going
to take time to rebuild trust, for the conscious effort we’re all making
to be together to be unnecessary and the myriad of small, unremarked and
keenly felt hesitations to fade. “We weren’t much help,” I mutter
“What’s frosting YOUR cookies?”
“Velour,” I blurt involuntarily.
“Aah. Snobby linguists
and words that begin with ‘v’,” Jack’s eyes brighten a little. “How
could it possibly be that I, a mere Air Force colonel, heard velar and
you heard velour?”
“Well, I couldn’t believe Teal’c
would choose that moment of all moments to launch into a discussion of
PHONETICS,” I snap. “Velum is the soft palate, and velar pertains
to the way you pronounce velar or back consonants such as ‘k’ and ‘ng’,
the sounds which are formed when the back of your tongue touches your soft
palette, so I thought I’d misheard,” I admit defensively. “What with
Teal’c DYING in AGONY and all.” Like velour – VELOUR – was any better!
And bickering about it with Jack like we were…like…it wasn’t right.
“I see,” Jack says thoughtfully.
He takes a long draft of the beer, eyeing me broodingly. “Pardon
me for getting in touch with MY feminine side here, but what you perceive
as callousness is simply a defence mechanism. THE defence mechanism.
You get close, but not too close.”
Jack and I both wince.
“You’re not supposed to,” he
amends, more quietly. “Gallows humour isn’t pretty, but it works.
It helps you distance yourself from what is happening, so you can FUNCTION.
You have a responsibility for the safety of the living, and you owe it
to the guys who bought it that their loss has meaning,” Jack says simply.
“You have to fall apart on your own time. Arguing about velour doesn’t
mean we didn’t care, as far as I’m concerned it kinda meant we cared too
much and that was the only way to get through it.” Jack leans forward,
eyes earnest. “I know this stuff bothers the crap out of you Danny,
but we weren’t there to handhold. As friends, yes, but not as officers…“
Jack breaks off as I flush at
the unexpected compliment.
“Shit. I just meant we
were doing our duty,” Jack shrugs deprecatingly.
“It’s…it’s okay. I know
what you mean,” I assure him, the flush deepening.
“I don’t REALLY think of you…“
“No. ‘Cause you’re…“
“Not,” we agree.
“CAN,” Jack praises his sneakers
“Not,” I offer kindly, the flush
deepening a little.
“Y’know,” Jack assures my sneakers.
I know. “So?”
“So-o,” Jack drawls. “We
gonna keep dancing around this or are you gonna just cut right to early
“You can be such a shit sometimes,
Jack,” I snap.
“I prefer realist,” Jack drawls.
“Wallowing in self-pity just isn’t you, Daniel. I want to be sure
you’ve got perspective. If there was anything more I think you should
have done, don’t you think I would have smacked you upside the head and
MADE you do it? I know what you’re thinking,” he admits. “I
knew what you were thinking then, what’s been on your mind the whole damn
time. I could have tackled Teal’c about Ammonet myself, Daniel, any
time these past three weeks, if I thought it’d do any good.” Jack
hangs his head for a moment, world worn and weary. He straightens
with an effort. “I figured if we drove him too hard, we’d lose him.
He…Teal’c was in there, you know?”
“I know,” I agree. ‘We
are brothers, DanielJackson’. I could hear it in Teal’c’s voice,
the pain and bewilderment. I shudder. The moments of lucidity
were far, far worse than the delusions. Those we could fight, but
Teal’c, our friend, crying out to us, not understanding how we could do
that to him…God. I’ll never forget the pain we inflicted – for ‘his
own good’ – until the day I die. “I know,” I say dully.
“Bra’tac told us Teal’c needed
his friends, needed us close for HIM, needed us to prompt those memories.
Yeah, we engaged with the dark side, but if we’d pushed him, really pushed
him…with that? Of all things…“ Jack shakes his head firmly.
“The part of Teal’c that had faith in Apophis could have snapped.
Teal’c would have been GONE,” he says bleakly, in a way that makes me think
he knows, he’s seen someone fracture that way.
“And the part of Teal’c that
was with us? Danny, he’d rather die than hurt you with Sha’uri and
you know it.”
Jack stares at me until I nod
reluctant acquiescence. I’m not ready to let this one go, not ready
to let the anger bleed out of me.
“He could forgive himself for
a lot of what he’s done these past weeks, but that…no. No way.
The two of you worked too fucking hard to get past that to have it come
between you again. Will you trust me on this, or do I gotta order
you to get down off that cross you’re nailing yourself to? I need the wood,”
he adds wryly.
“Jack?” I ask, startled.
“Aw, hell,” Jack says roughly,
glaring at my wall. “You as much as told me I dropped the ball on
this one. Got myself a bad case of the coulda, woulda, shoulda blues.”
“I never said you dropped the
ball, Jack!” I argue fiercely. “It’s just that…“
“When it comes to Teal’c I’m
one big blind spot, yadda, yadda, way ahead o’ ya,” Jack’s lips twist as
he waves an impatient hand. “Truth is, I agree with you. I
should have ordered Teal’c back to the Big C’s ship. I should have,
and I didn’t because I was afraid the answer would be no,“ he admits again,
reluctantly. “I couldn’t face it, so I just went with the flow.”
Jack shakes his head wryly. “Fooling myself I had a choice.
Big time,” he says softly. “Look where it got us. I lost Teal’c,
I lost our edge, and Carter the Unstoppable Physics Machine’s incendiary
impulses got us Lost in Space. Pretty stupid, huh?”
I wince. I’m sure Sam
didn’t mean it to come out like…like THAT. She was just tired, and
worried, and not…not thinking. She would never deliberately hurt
Jack’s feelings. A momentary lapse under pressure doesn’t argue lack
of respect. I wish Jack would let it go, but the big sap is sensitive.
It’s one thing for him to make out he’s dumb, another thing entirely for
someone to think it. Um…say it. However inadvertently.
I sigh. Especially someone he respects. I’m crazy about Sam,
but she isn’t always the world’s greatest at reading people. Especially
“No, not stupid, Jack, just
you,” I contradict. “At least accept the possibility that you went
along with Teal’c because you’re his friend, because it meant enough to
him to risk his life…“ I bite down hard on the thought Teal’c risked all
our lives. Jack told me Teal’c would’ve bet the farm on our turning
up to pull their nuts from the fire.
Jack grins suddenly. “I’ll
show you my mission report sometime,” he offers generously, eyes sparkling
with mischief. “It’s a thing of beauty. Perfect twenty-twenty
hindsight vision allows one’s spin to be wonderfully plausible.”
“Teal’c will tell the general
the truth,” I say with absolute certainty.
“Sure he will,” Jack agrees
easily. “But he doesn’t write the mission reports and I…“
“Lie like a rug?” I suggest
pleasantly. “I’ll ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ appropriately over your kick-ass
tactical mind when the time comes,” I promise.
“Do,” Jack grins tightly.
“It could have been worse,” he says softly. “Much worse. If
any of you had died…“ he trails off into silence.
I wait quietly, respecting his
“He chose freedom,” Jack says
“We know where we stand, Jack.
Teal’c never lied, never misrepresented himself to us. His driving
ambition is to free his people. We have his total commitment to our
cause so long as…“
“Our cause is his cause,” Jack
finishes for me. “I got my memo this time.”
My turn to shrug. “So
we just make sure Teal’c never has to choose between his people and us.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Jack raises
We can’t change what makes Teal’c
the man he is, can’t undo the lifelong learned responses of a culture as
alien to us in many ways as the symbiote he carries. It’s our fault
we judged Teal’c by the mores of OUR culture, not his. His need for
a revenge is part of who he is, it’s at the core of him, and we ignored
it because it made us uncomfortable. It is ignoble by our standards,
yet it is an integral part of the honour code of the Jaffa. Jack
wasn’t the only one to make like an ostrich because Teal’c had a little
darkness inside, needs that conflicted with our perceptions of the man
and his motivations. And his friendship for us. We lost sight
of who Teal’c IS trying to make him fit who we needed him to be.
I stare back at Jack, watching
me…watching over me so kindly. His concern, his attentiveness are
warming me, slowly but surely. “Teal’c is carrying a burden of guilt
and culpability the depth of which we never suspected, Jack,” I begin tentatively.
“His whole life has been a judgement call. Who lives, who dies.”
I lean in. “He told us, Jack, at Cor-Ai. We listened but we
just didn’t hear. The lives he accepted responsibility for were not
just those of his enemies, but of friends. Friends whose lives he
traded for the greater good. I can’t…I can’t imagine,” I confess.
I can’t. I’ve walked my own dream-path and found my own capacity
for cool, calculating mercilessness to be limitless. It was an object
lesson I’ll never forget. I didn’t HATE, I didn’t feel. I broke
the world simply to make a point. Teal’c denied his fellows mercy,
but he lost a part of himself with every sacrifice and gave of himself
freely to help his people.
Jack’s face wrenches before
he fights it to stillness. “We don’t want you to,” he says roughly.
“Teal’c will kill or die or
do anything he could for us without hesitation. We shouldn’t expect
him to betray his people for us. It’s too much, Jack, too much to
ask of any man.”
Jack nods, not quite meeting
my eyes. “And as for the Jaffa revenge thing,” he tells me coolly,
“The lazarus act brought Teal’c back. All the way back.”
Jack wants me to believe that.
I want to believe that, but…“Tanith is still out there, Jack.”
“So we get him together.
ALL of us. Put him down for good.” Jack eyes me questioningly.
“Put him down HARD.”
I nod. What else can I
do? It’s a little too late in the game for me to be getting squeamish
over killing Goa’uld. I tell myself killing from necessity is better
than killing from hate, but the only thing I’m certain of is that it’s
Amazing how the unthinkable
becomes the commonplace in such incremental stages you don’t even know
it. I barely knew Jack, but I could die for him, my own instinctual
response to the threat to his life from Ra was to protect. I set
myself on this path when I picked up that staff weapon and made a conscious
decision to fire it at Ra. My path brought me to Shifu. I’m
still struggling to find my balance from the lesson he taught me, not least
from how quickly it happened. I didn’t wake up in my dream a megalomaniac,
no, not me. Too easy. I made a conscious decision to have my
way, planned and executed with surgical precision. I made that decision
when I was still recognisably ME, punchy from overwork, all the newly accumulated
knowledge skittering through my mind, and my first act was to kill Teal’c,
my friend. I still haven’t come to terms with that, and to come so
close to losing Teal’c…I thought I’d forgiven him, that I truly accepted
he’d done the right thing, the only thing. In my dream I killed him,
and here, today, I couldn’t say the words that might have dragged him back
from the brink.
“Danny, I’m dropping anvils,
here,” Jack’s voice abruptly breaks into my chain of thought. “You
gonna spill or do I have to hurt you?”
“I…I spilled,” I stammer.
Jack shakes his head.
“Not even close, Danny. We know how I feel about Ammonet, and Teal’c,
and I know how you feel about velour, and you’re still the only one who
knows how you feel about everything else.”
Jack’s tone is so unwontedly
gentle it makes my eyes sting.
“I got off light.”
“Aw, Danny,” Jack grimaces as
he jumps up and heads over to drop onto the couch at my side. “Crap.
That’s crap, and you know it. He got you PLENTY.”
“What he said to Sam, to you,”
I stare at my outstretched feet, glance up at him fleetingly, biting my
lip. “I got off light and you know it.”
“What was it you were saying
to me about this brainwashy thing?” Jack prompts, “Something like the delusion
was feeding off the cues we gave Teal’c, that he could rationalise every
action, even killing Apophis, because the Big A made it and Teal’c erased,
rewound and came up with he knew it was coming every damn time, knew his
God would be back, bigger and better.”
“Basically,” I agree.
“His delusion was of necessity inclusive.” Sam attacked him over
his knowledge of Goa’uld technology, knowledge he claimed was forbidden
to him and all Jaffa by his God. We know that he learned covertly,
observing the ways Apophis used the technology. We understand now
how he so often knows what function a device has, how to operate it, but
can’t explain how it functions. His response to Sam’s questions was
serene satisfaction that his Lord had favoured him above all Jaffa, and
his sorrow the Asharak hadn’t killed her when he had the opportunity.
If only he had been able to delay O’Neill from reaching her side.
He shrugged it off. Sam…didn’t.
“Except?” Jack prompts.
“Except where we hit too close
to the real Teal’c,” I admit wearily. “Like the way I challenged
him over Apophis brainwashing Rya’c.”
“You got him good, Daniel,”
Jack rests his hand on my shoulder for a moment, giving me a quick, rough
shake of approval. “There was enough of the real Teal’c in there
for him to know he would never had served his ‘god’,” Jack spits, “by killing
his own son. He couldn’t rationalise it, so he shut down, the First
Prime started baying at the moon. Fraiser had to sedate him when
the escape attempt failed. You know that.”
“I know it drove him underground,”
I correct. “He came round in restraints and tried to finesse his
way out of the cell instead.”
“The point is,” Jack intones
with exaggerated patience, scowling a little, “Fraiser and Mackenzie…“
“Mac the Hack,” I say absently.
“Mac the?” Jack grins tightly,
“Mac the Hack believed pushing in those no go areas would cause a permanent
“Psychotic break.” Or
words to that effect. “I know, they were very clear about it,” I
admit. “That’s why the Hack tried treating Teal’c in place of us
“Our objective was to get Teal’c
back, and that tied our hands, Daniel.”
“He needed to choose,” I observe
“Exactly,” Jack agrees heartily.
“He needed to choose, not be driven. He couldn’t rationalise what
Apophis did to Rya’c any more than he could rationalise killing Ammonet
to save your life.”
“And because of that, he couldn’t
use Sha’uri against me and I got off light.” I turn impulsively to
Jack. “I got off LIGHT.”
“Ah, Carter’s a tough kid,”
Jack shrugs. “She’ll get over it. I’ll get over it.”
“I didn’t know if I was doing
it for me or for him,” I confess with difficulty. “Not…not speaking.
I know what the Hack argued, but I also know that was the one act Teal’c’s
delusion couldn’t explain away. He killed Ammonet to save me, he
killed Apophis’ beloved queen and she stayed dead. He couldn’t explain
that away as killing a rival Goa’uld to protect his ‘Lord’. Apophis…he…he
loved Ammonet. As much as any Goa’uld is capable of love, he loved
her. He forgave her freely for losing Shifu, I…I saw that with my
own eyes on Abydos.”
So many ways Teal’c could have
hurt me, if he could have made any reference to Sha’uri without admitting
the real nature of the Goa’uld. His delusion couldn’t process that,
his blind faith became hysteria-tinged and ugly when challenged.
So many ways. Taking Sha’uri from me on Abydos, Ammonet’s choice
of her as host, the blending he witnessed, one of the most telling acts
of all, since he saw the parasite take my wife’s body from her with his
My own weakness when I was forced
to face what I’d avoided so long in Sha’uri’s pregnancy, and failed to
give her all the support I should as the innocent victim of…of rape.
There is little I regret more than those wasted hours on Abydos when I
couldn’t bring myself to look at her, the vacillation that left us out
of time to return to the SGC. I’ve never known if we had time to
dial before Heru’ur’s ship landed, but we didn’t dial and that put Sha’uri
on the path to P8X-782, where I failed and Teal’c succeeded in killing
Ammonet. I looked and saw only Sha’uri, but I think…I believe Teal’c
saw only me.
I forgave him for saving me
and not her. Harder to forgive myself. When we found Sha’uri
on Abydos, we should have brought her straight through the Stargate.
I was a coward in the first instance, for not facing her, for…for blaming
her so clearly she saw it and was hurt by it. I refused to recognise
for far too long she had no choice. I was selfish too, thinking of
myself, not wanting to leave her trapped in solitary confinement, subject
to interrogations and tests. I didn’t want her to suffer, but it
would have been easier on her than the atrocities Ammonet inflicted on
her consciousness. She would have been with me, safe, and we could
have taken her to Cimmeria. Maybe. When Maybourne and his ilk
had extracted everything they could from Ammonet. If.
I still can’t believe to this
day I didn’t think of taking her to Cimmeria at the time, to the Hammer,
while Ammonet was sleeping. Janet would have come if needed, if Sha’uri
had gone into labour. It’s the most galling of all the ways I failed
Sha’uri, the most bitter of many regrets.
Teal’c killing Ammonet, he could
have tortured me with that, just like he tortured Jack and Sam, but he
couldn’t use Sha’uri against me without acknowledging he’d killed Ammonet.
If Ammonet was nothing but a dead parasite, how could Apophis be a god?
If Ammonet could die, so too could Apophis. How could he be anything
BUT a dead, false god? His god was a thief and a scavenger, nothing
more, dependent on the host and stolen technology to survive. That
was the conundrum Teal’c could not have solved, so he refused to face it.
“Hey. Danny?” Jack
nudges my shoulder, startling me from my reverie. “You look like
road kill on memory lane,” he says gently.
“Um…thanks,” I say feebly.
“Where are you right now?” Jack
asks, eyes warm with empathy and understanding. “Daniel?”
“He wanted her to die free,”
I say abruptly, shocking us both as the words boil up without warning.
“Is that what Sha’uri wanted?”
Jack asks calmly, after a long moment of anxious silence.
“She wanted to LIVE free,” I
snap, throwing up an apologetic hand, regretting it the moment the words
are out my mouth. “You know, it was Sha’uri who started the rebellion,
not Skaara. What I told her about Ra? The story I translated
in the tunnels?”
“She brought Skaara and the
other boys there and told them the same story, TOLD them this was why they
could no longer live as slaves. Maybe Skaara was doing the fighting,
but he was following where Sha’uri led.”
“She did her fair share,” Jack
says softly, smiling at me.
I nod sharply, and look away
a moment. “That second time on Abydos, she was willing to face anything
Maybourne and the NID could throw at her, just to be stop Ammonet,” I admit
in a stifled voice.
“To be with you,” Jack contradicts
“No, Jack,” I correct him.
“She knew she would be a prisoner, that we wouldn’t be together.
That there would be questions and…and tests. She chose that rather
than allowing Ammonet to go on taking innocent lives. She accepted,
but I…I didn’t. I was selfish, I didn’t want to see her suffer.”
“And?” Jack prompts.
“I waited too long.”
“Excuse me? If I recall,
Heru’ur dropped a mothership on your head,” Jack bridles indignantly, “and
started gating in Horus guards to sift the sands for Ammonet. You
did well to stay ALIVE.”
“We should have been long gone,”
I insist defiantly. “Instead I sulked out there by the fire until
Teal’c put me straight with a few home truths about selfishness.”
Jack shakes his head disbelievingly.
“Jesus, Daniel, I wasn’t far off the mark with early Christian martyr.
Finding your wife without warning, abused and pregnant by another man,
let alone the King of the Snakeoids would knock anyone, ANYONE on their
ass,” he says emphatically. “I don’t think there’s a get-out clause for
being human. If there was…“ Jack sighs heavily, five years and a
life away from me for an aching moment. He stares at me and nods
slowly. “This is why - part of why – you’re wigging over Teal’c,
right? You’re still kicking your ass over that time on Abydos and
you’re drawing parallels with how it went down with Teal’c.” Jack
looks at me searchingly, nodding at last, satisfied. “I think you’d
have to look goddamn far and wide to find anyone who’d say you were selfish.
I can think of other things they might say…“ Jack trails off suggestively.
“You’re saying my judgement
“I’m saying it was an impossible
situation for all of us, and we all did our best,” Jack tells me gravely.
His fingers tighten until the knuckles whiten and then he consciously relaxes.
“For what it’s worth, Daniel, I don’t think we decided for us. We
decided for Teal’c, because it was what he would have chosen if he’d been
able to make the choice.”
“Sha’uri forgave Teal’c, in
those last moments, she accepted, forgave and wanted me to forgive him
too. I thought I had,” I admit, bewilderment hitching my voice as
I glare fiercely at my feet, eyes stinging.
“Shit,” Jack groans. “I
should come with a health warning. ‘O’Neill: guaranteed to shred
peace of mind into pieces’.” He grabs me, turning me roughly towards
him. “Listen up, Daniel Jackson. Listen up good. Teal’c
killed your wife right in front of you and the first words out of your
mouth were for Teal’c and you told him, you TOLD him right there and then
he did the right thing,” Jack insists fiercely, “I could not do that.
I could NOT fucking do that. And God help me, I was glad, GLAD it
was Teal’c and NOT me, because I couldn’t carry it like he carries it.
It never leaves him, it never leaves you, but you ARE friends. You
FORGAVE, Danny, but Jeez, not forgetting is just as hard. Ask Sara,
not me. It hurts just as much. Teal’c did what he did, he accepted
the cost and he paid it in full, you both have. Don’t do this to
yourself, please. Don’t tear yourself up over this.”
I killed him, I killed him in
my dream. Was it…was it because I hadn’t forgiven, because I hated
or…or was it because he was the only one who would see me clear, who wouldn’t
let his personal feelings for me change his actions? Teal’c can separate
personal from important, he couldn’t have functioned as he had, undermining
Apophis at every step even as he served as First Prime. Teal’c was
a threat to me, a threat I eliminated without hesitation. I’m confused
about a lot of what happened in that dream, not understanding my motives
for that act, or at least only partially understanding them. Part
of it had to be because Teal’c was the only one of my friends who wouldn’t
just take good old Danny on faith. Faith is earned, like respect,
and you keep on earning it where Teal’c is concerned.
“It’s okay to be angry,” Jack
says awkwardly, grimacing ruefully, “Jack does Jerry Springer,” he
mutters apologetically, “You understand, you forgive.” He looks at
me. “Okay, you forgive him. It doesn’t mean you can’t still
be mad because you lived and she didn’t, that he chose you when you would
have chosen her. Don’t mistake today for anything more than confusion
over what was best for Teal’c,” Jack demands. “I don’t. Yeah,
you could have shoved the killing of Ammonet down his throat, sure.
In that condition, it could have been enough to drive him clean over the
edge. He could have DIED, and if he had lived, he’d never have been
able to make the choice that brought us back to him. You went with
your instinct and your instincts are good, Danny. I trust you, Teal’c
trusts you.” Jack pulls that pained face again. “Big Springer
finish…trust yourself. You did the right thing, for the right reasons,
and possibly only you could sit here and beat yourself up over it.”
He gives me one last admonishing shake and shoves me away. “That
was pretty good, huh?” he prompts hopefully.
“Very…uh…“ I trail off.
Okay, I admit it. I do. Compared to TLC Jack-style, Mac the
Hack had his moments.
“Cool,” Jack preens, helping
himself to my beer. “That’s what friends are for,” he says expansively,
leaning back and filling every available space on the couch with beer and
I hesitantly sit back too, start
to unclench, thinking he’s happy, it’s okay, it’s over.
“Not that I haven’t noticed
you haven’t said word one about how you actually FEEL,” he says innocently.
I sag and glare at him.
“Jack,” I protest.
“Me? Thanks for asking.
Allow me to define ‘fine’ in my case,” Jack says briskly. “Try fifty-fifty
fucking FURIOUS with him AND me, for getting us into this in the first
place, for almost getting us killed and putting you kids through the mill.
Disappointed. Depressed,” Jack checks off emotions rapidly against
his fingers. “Exhausted. Wondering how the hell we get past
this, how the team adjusts. How we get TEAL’C past this. Guilty.
Relieved. GLAD he’s alive.” Jack quirks a look at me.
“Did I mention furious?”
“A coupla times,” I assure him.
“Furious,” Jack grumbles.
“Old. Nerves are so shot they’re making my knees look good.
“Yes,” I interject hastily.
“I said thanks for doing your
damndest?” Jack asks dulcetly, eyes wide and innocent. “Cool.
Don’t need to embarrass myself saying it again, then, and I can concentrate
on YOUR definition of ‘fine’.”
I look away, biting my lip.
I’m not good at this, not good at talking about my feelings, opening myself
up. I talk to Jack, I have no choice, he won’t leave me alone until
he’s sure I’m okay with the trauma of the week. I can explain what
I’m thinking, but sharing what I’m feeling…it’s always difficult.
“I’d say you’re way up there
on the furious,” Jack observes softly, clasping my arm. “And mad
at yourself for being so…what? Human? Get over it,” he orders
with gentle sarcasm. “I fucked up, Teal’c fucked up. You didn’t.
Don’t beat yourself up because I had a blind spot and the only time you
tried to talk to me about Teal’c I shut you down. Not your problem.”
He nods. “A lot mad at him, a little mad at me. Hurt for everybody
but yourself. Convinced in your mind you – we – did the right thing,
but nowhere near feeling it. Still thinking you failed, still not
trusting your instincts were right. Hoping we get past this, because
having the big guy back with us is just a start.” Jack grins.
“Determined we get past this.”
As I stare at him, the grin
widens into a smile that warms his eyes. “What? I don’t know
You do, Jack. None better.
This is all far from over but we know what we’re dealing with, we know
what Teal’c needs from us, how to help him. We’ll build that trust
between us, whatever it takes. Never put ourselves or Teal’c into
this position again. Teal’c’s path has come clear, and though he’ll
walk at our side, his path won’t always be ours. We know that now,
we can deal. We’re all a little more realistic, and maybe, just maybe,
the team will be stronger for it.
“It’s a start.”
As for the personal, our friend
hurt us, and he needs to make reparation. We understand that, so
we’ll give him what he needs. We’ll talk, together, in time.
“I’m kick-ass at this supportive
“Jack the Hack.”
For cryin’ out loud, Jack, be
quiet! Let me process, here.
We can just sit here and enjoy
the easy silence of old friends who know each other so well…
“Jeez, you get pissy quick.”
“It’s all tender-hearted sympathy
when I spill my guts. I have the brass balls to tell you you’re human
and you SULK,” Jack sulks.
“I coulda hung with Carter,
you know. They were talking Italian take-out to go with that Chianti,
and Carter was paying. I only came ‘cause you’ve got ice cream.”
The silence WOULD speak if…
“I’m warning you, you don’t
got chocolate cherry, you got primal scream looming.”
…if Jack would just shut up
and LET it.
“Switch on the TV, huh?”
I turn, glaring, to find him
laughing at me, looking like years just lifted.
“Too easy,” Jack teases.
“Two spoons?” he coaxes as he lopes up the stairs. “Ice cream is
anti-social if you’re not fighting over who gets the cherries.”
“Any cracks from you about me
making someone a great wife and the team is going to come up short one
colonel,” I promise faithfully as I head into the kitchen for spoons while
Jack gloats over the contents of my freezer, spread out on the table, lids
levered off to further aid the selection process. Jack looks up as
I drop into the seat opposite and hand him his spoon.
“Did I ever tell you about the
time I…“ he asks, leaning in confidentially.
Maybe silence is overrated.
Ice-cream and conversation have their own attractions.
story is a companion piece and sequel to Blind Spot by PhoenixE