SILENCE SPEAKS BY BIBLIO


Rating: PG-13
Category: Gen.  Angst.  Friendship Fic.
Season/Spoilers: Season 1.  Set immediately before Thor's Hammer.
Synopsis: In the wake of Teal'c's ordeal, all the words left unsaid by himself and his friends weigh heavily on Daniel.
Warnings: None.
Length: 39 Kb

Who 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, cutlery, glasses.

“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 ecstatically.

“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 alone, brooding.

“So, you wanna talk about it?” Jack asks gently.

“No.”

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 for it.

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,” he complains.

“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,” he invites.

“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 drearily.

“What’s frosting YOUR cookies?” Jack pushes.

“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.”

“No.  ‘Cause you’re…“

“I’m…“

“Not,” we agree.

“CAN,” Jack praises his sneakers awkwardly, “But…“

“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 Christian martyr?”

“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 Jack-shaped people.

“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 privacy.

“He chose freedom,” Jack says inconsequentially.

“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 his beer.

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 less exhausting.

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 whatsit.”

“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 interrogating him.”

“Our objective was to get Teal’c back, and that tied our hands, Daniel.”

“He needed to choose,” I observe softly.

“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 own eyes.

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?”

“I remember.”

“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 serenely.

“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 is off.”

“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 boy-scout satisfaction.

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.  “Or anything.”

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.  Did I…”

“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?”

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.  For now…

“I’m kick-ass at this supportive stuff.”

For now…

“Jack the Hack.”

For…

“In fact…“

For cryin’ out loud, Jack, be quiet!  Let me process, here.

“What?”

We can just sit here and enjoy the easy silence of old friends who know each other so well…

“Jeez, you get pissy quick.”

No words…

“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.

…are needed.

“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.

FINIS

This story is a companion piece and sequel to Blind Spot by PhoenixE

  Copyright
Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
Disclaimer
Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate Productions, Sci Fi Channel, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]