…sticks and stones…
Daniel tried to get the words Teal’c had spoken out of his head, but like the hurricanes of the Atlantic, the words would come out of nowhere. His sleep had been interrupted twice, so he’d gone to his office to concentrate on the language SG-7 had discovered. That hadn’t worked, either.
Having given up for the time being, Daniel now sat at one of the tables in the new commissary, for once nursing his coffee and holding the mug so tightly, he had to concentrate not to. He knew that what Teal’c had said to him hadn’t actually come from him, that the words had come from someone else, someone who’d been brainwashed. The person who had been lying in that bed hadn’t been his friend, not until the end. The man – the Jaffa – had literally had his sense of self hidden away and all that had remained in his surface consciousness was a persona that Apophis had put there. A mindless, soulless automaton. Almost like a Goa’uld.
Daniel told himself this fact over and over during the last ten hours, and though he knew the truth of it, the words that had been spoken the night before still cut deeply.
He hurt, and he remembered that hurt with a clarity he wished he didn’t possess.
Sam had come to tell him that it was time for his turn at the watch, so he’d gone in. For a while, as he’d sat at Teal’c’s bedside, it had been as before when he and Jack had been there. Teal’c had lapsed in and out of consciousness and delirium, begging at times for Daniel to release him. He had tried to twist the truth as well as Daniel’s ethics and morality. None of it had worked. For just over an hour, Daniel had persevered, reciting history. His history, with Teal’c. Telling him of times shared, of pain and of happy moments. During that time, Daniel had thought that Teal’c had been weakening. He had been argumentative, interrupting constantly, and sometimes going off into his own memory, mumbling names and other words Daniel had never heard before.
Then…the big guns had come out.
“I chose her on purpose, knowing it would hurt you.”
Daniel had closed his eyes, hoping that he would have been spared that. But he hadn’t.
“That’s not true, Teal’c. You told me that you had no other choice. You wanted freedom for your people. Remember, Teal’c.”
“I remember the moment that Queen Amaunet had chosen. She caused her host, your wife, great pain.”
“Teal’c, remember how you felt. You told me that it sickened you. That you had to believe that–“
“She lay there on the table, naked and screaming.”
Teal’c had had a particularly evil grin on his face the likes of which Daniel had never seen before. Or rather, he’d seen something like it as he’d stood in that room on the ship, when Teal’c had been answering Jack’s questions. The look of a cult believer. Daniel had been caught out, speechless, his mouth working silently because he simply hadn’t known how to respond. How does one respond? And before he’d been able to help himself, out came the word,
That had been a mistake. He’d let Teal’c know that his words had gotten to him.
Daniel closed his eyes and gripped his coffee mug harder. Naked. Teal’c had never revealed that part to him. It hadn’t been an omission. Daniel hadn’t wanted to know so he’d never asked Teal’c the specifics of what had happened. All that had mattered was that Shau’re had been invaded.
Now…now Daniel knew all the horrid details. Teal’c had continued, telling Daniel every sordid piece of information about Shau’re’s humiliation, both before and after her possession.
Daniel had wanted to run and run until he could no longer hear Teal’c’s voice in his head. But instead, he’d stayed, out of loyalty and duty to his friend, having told himself to sit there and listen, to continue to contradict, to talk over Teal’c, to tell him stories of their times together. It had become a shouting match at times. And even through his own raised voice, Daniel had heard Teal’c’s words and couldn’t rid himself of them. He couldn’t get rid of the images conjured up by his traitorous mind. Fortunately, Jack’s presence had calmed him somewhat when the man had showed up, uncalled, for his own shift.
“Hey. How’s it going? he’d asked, looking at Teal’c’s supposedly sleeping form.
“Fine,” Daniel had replied. He had immediately gotten up to give Jack his seat and that action had told Jack right away that something had gone wrong. Jack hadn’t asked and Daniel had been glad, though he knew the questions would come later. When they’d all gathered at the end, Daniel had noticed something strained around Jack’s eyes. He knew then that Jack hadn’t had a swell time of it, either. Selfishly, however, Daniel couldn’t think of anything Teal’c could hit Jack with that would have been as bad as Shau’re.
Daniel was suddenly aware of noise in the commissary and he looked around, startled, realizing that it was filling up for early breakfast. Too many people. Way too many people. There was the possibility that someone had heard his conversation with Teal’c. They may not comment but Daniel didn’t need the sympathetic looks, which to him would seem like accusations. He had to get out of there.
Looking at his watch, Daniel knew he still had time before he had to report for duty, so he pushed away from the table and hurried past those entering inside. Leaving the commissary didn’t help. People moved up and down the corridor now. He was set upon by a sudden, desperate need to breathe fresh air. He needed to get out, out of the mountain. It overwhelmed him. He felt closed in, nauseous, and a pain attacked his temples.
Moving to the elevator, he heard Sam calling after him but he ignored her, stepping quickly into the empty car just as it closed. He knew it was anxiety he was experiencing, caused by an irrational fear that he couldn’t pin down and label. He’d have called it claustrophobia but even that didn’t sound right.
Outside in the open air, on top of the mountain, Daniel was finally able to breathe. He felt safe, free, unconfined and unbarred – alone and…unjudged. Sometimes deep within the mountain, there were times that stress made him feel as if he lived inside a huge coffin. There was a name for that syndrome, but Daniel couldn’t remember it.
He sat down on one of the boulders nearby and watched the valley below. There was nothing to see but trees, but it still held a calming effect, one that enabled him to begin to put everything into proper perspective. The one thing he had to work out, and perhaps it was the most important thing, was how to talk to Teal’c and getting past what had already been said.
Jack walked into Daniel’s office and frowned. He looked down at his watch and bit at his lip. He’d checked the commissary, now here. Where the hell was he?
Sam stepped in the doorway at that moment and halted in surprise.
“Sir! Good morning.”
“Have you seen Daniel?”
“Not yet,” he said with mild irritation.
“I thought maybe he’d be back down here but…”
“Back down here?”
“I saw him as I was going into the commissary for breakfast. I called out but he didn’t answer. He got into the elevator in kind of a hurry.”
“Which way was the elevator going?”
He started to chew on his lip and Sam knew then that something was wrong. “Is something wrong, Colonel?”
“I don’t know, Carter. Maybe.”
She sighed. “Is it Teal’c, you think?”
Jack shrugged. “Do me a favor,” he replied, making for the door.
“Call the General and tell him that I’m at the top of the mountain.”
“Is that where Daniel went?”
“I think so.”
“Why would he go up there?”
“To get some air,” and he lowered his voice. “I think Teal’c said something to him. When I went to the infirmary for my watch last night, Daniel looked rather pale. After Teal’c was healed, he went to his quarters without a word. I haven’t seen him since.”
Sam was confused. “He seemed just fine when Teal’c was healed.”
“Yeah, I know. He’s got that ‘covering’ thing down to an art form.”
“I know,” she replied, hesitating, then asked, “Think Teal’c mentioned Shau’re?”
“What do you think, Carter?”
Sam winced and nodded again. “Hope he’s okay when you find him.”
Sam frowned, noticing just then that Jack didn’t look well. “Sir…are you okay?”
“Just a headache, Carter, I’m fine,” he said, leaving the office with a determined expression.
It was Sam’s turn to chew at her lip as she picked up Daniel’s phone to give Hammond a call.
Jack shoved his hands in his pockets, waiting for the elevator to move upward, past level 1 and proceed to T1 – the tower level that opened up to the clearing halfway up the side of the mountain. It was the same place that they had searched for the Tollans four years ago, and where Daniel had taken the Tollan, Omoc, when they’d sent that signal to the Nox.
The elevator doors opened and Jack stepped out into the steel grey lobby. He glanced at his watch and noted that it was just after 7 a.m. He should have plenty of time then. The meeting wasn’t until 9 a.m. He slid his key card through the port and opened the door to the outside. Walking out and turning to his left, he immediately took the trail that led to the lookout point and picked up his pace as he made his way up the short hill.
Reaching the top, Jack paused, catching his breath. Daniel sat on one of the three granite boulders, his back to the trail. His arms were clasped around his drawn up knees, his chin resting on top. He was staring out into the valley below it seemed, though Jack didn’t think Daniel was actually looking at it. His expression was far away. He took a step and cleared his throat quietly.
Daniel’s back muscles tensed for a brief second as he was startled by the interruption. He then relaxed as he recognized the sound of the clearing throat. Jack. Damn the man for knowing him so well. He wasn’t really surprised, and felt rather bolstered by it. If there was any single person who could track him down no matter where he was, that person would be Jack.
Jack walked over and sat next to him on the immense flat-topped boulder. “What’cha doin’?”
“Nothing, just…” and Daniel gestured at the valley before him with his index finger, “watching.”
“Watching what?” Jack asked as he drew his own knees up, locking his hands together in front of them.
Daniel shrugged and pointed half-heartedly. “Nature, the world, whatever.”
Jack didn’t reply and the two said nothing for a couple of minutes. However, Jack couldn’t let Daniel sit and mull over whatever had been said. Whatever it was, Daniel was clearly upset and Jack knew he needed to talk about it. He also knew that Daniel certainly wouldn’t leave him alone if the shoe were on the other foot.
“He brought up Shau’re, didn’t he?” Jack asked quietly.
Daniel looked over at him, giving Jack a double-take. He hadn’t expected Jack to bring it up right away, nor ask so directly. It also meant that Jack wasn’t on a fishing expedition. He already had a pretty good idea what was bothering him.
“Let’s just say that Teal’c gave me an inside view to Shau’re’s abduction and implantation.”
“Okay,” Jack replied, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. “So, do you think that any of it’s true, or did he twist the facts?”
Daniel didn’t look at him directly, but glanced sidelong at him. “Is that what he did to you?”
Jack cringed. “You could say that, but it was directed at me, not having anything to do with…anything.”
Daniel regarded him carefully. “He brought up Skaa’ra, didn’t he?”
Jack made a face. “Yes, but that backfired because I reminded him that Skaa’ra was free. That pissed him off. He ended up bringing up Charlie.”
Daniel winced. “I’m sorry about that.”
Jack stared. “Why? It wasn’t your doing.”
“No, but…it must’ve been hard.”
“Yes, it was, but it didn’t have the same impact on me as he had hoped.”
Daniel nodded. “Because Charlie was before. Teal’c had nothing to do with him.”
Jack took a deep breath, remembering the hateful words, remembering how he’d laughed at Teal’c for bringing him up. He stared down at the ground. “I can only imagine what he said to you.”
Daniel swallowed. “I didn’t need to know what he told me. It hurts, and I feel as if she’d just died.”
Jack’s face reflected the tight rein he was keeping on his emotions. He wanted to hold Daniel, to show him through action how much he wished he could take the pain away. But even here on the mountain top, he couldn’t. Not until they got home. He decided to show only a little, by doing what he always did. He placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder, close to his neck, and squeezed.
Daniel clenched his jaw. “Me, too.”
“Do you think you’re ready to talk to him?”
“No, but I have to. He’s my friend, part of SG-1, and if I’m…if we are ever going to get past this, I’ll have to talk to him sooner rather than later. I am avoiding him, but I don’t want to keep doing it. I can only imagine his guilt after the fact.”
“Yeah,” Jack said, grimacing at the thought. Guilt was always his companion, but Teal’c had so much of it to carry around with him. He certainly didn’t need this added bit. “You want me to come with you?”
Daniel looked over at him, then looked out over the expanse of valley. “Yeah, actually, I think I do.” He looked at him again and squinted. “Have you already talked to Teal’c?”
Jack nodded. “Yeah, I did that before breakfast.”
Daniel was startled and looked at Jack. “How’s he doing?”
“As well as can be expected, given what’s happened.”
“Right,” Daniel replied, pursing his lips.
“Listen, if Teal’c wants to talk to you privately, I can always hang around in the ward and bother Fraiser.”
That got Daniel to smile a little and Jack grinned, happy with himself. His grin faltered a bit when he felt the need to ask the next nagging question. “So…what brought you up here?”
“I needed to get out.”
Jack tried to figure out what was going through Daniel’s head, but this time, he couldn’t hazard a guess and that bothered him. “Did you have a nightmare?”
“No…well, actually, yes, but that’s not what drove me up here.” Daniel then frowned and thought about that. Maybe it was what drove him outside. Or at least partly. “I’ve been up since 4 a.m. I haven’t been able to sleep and I can’t concentrate.”
“Yeah, me, too, but what brought you up here? Why not get in your car and drive out of here?”
Daniel frowned, thinking about it. “I was in the commissary and I had this sudden need for wide-open space and clean air.”
“Ah.” Jack got that a bit, though not completely. “Feelin’ a bit of social phobia?”
Daniel’s head jerked up. “What?”
“Social phobia. Any phobia, other than agoraphobia, that has to do with crowds, people staring, judging, criticizing.”
“I know what it means, Jack. I’m just surprised that you nailed it, is all.”
They were silent for a minute, then Daniel went on as he stared out at the trees. “I guess I felt a sort of panic attack. I knew that a few people had heard the conversation between me and Teal’c. I wondered how far it had spread. I needed to get out of there before someone walked up and said that wrong, stupid thing.” Daniel carefully regarded Jack. “I would have decked anyone who brought it up, Jack. I’m still not sure I wouldn’t.”
Taking another deep breath, Jack said, “Okay, so we stay up here till you’re ready to go back down.”
It was then that Daniel realized that Jack’s hand was still on his shoulder. He shrugged, tilting his head in a secret sign of intimacy. Jack’s fingers squeezed.
Janet adjusted Teal’c’s I.V., carefully scrutinizing his facial expression and body language. She waited for it, and sure enough,
“I do not need this I.V. Doctor Fraiser. What I need is to kel-no-reem.”
“You will get to, Teal’c, just as soon as your body is done taking in the fluid from the I.V. You have no idea how dehydrated you are and I don’t care how well the symbiote can sustain your body, you still need fluid. So, another two hours, max, and you can go to your quarters. Nowhere else. I’ll have someone bring you a tray for lunch.”
Teal’c sighed, giving her an exasperated look. “Very well.”
Janet smirked and left him alone at his side of the small ward, where his was the only bed occupied. When she reached the door, she found Jack and Daniel hovering. She motioned and had them follow her down the hall. They stopped near the entrance to the main infirmary. “Sam just left him,” she told them.
“How’s he doing?” Daniel asked, his arms folding defensively.
Janet noted it privately. She had heard part of his and Teal’c’s conversation. “Physically, he’ll be good to go after his kel-no-reem. Emotionally…” She shrugged and blew out a breath. “I think that Sam’s visit helped but he’ll definitely need to speak with you. Both of you, sir.” She cast a look a Jack and he nodded.
“Can we go in and see him?” he asked.
She nodded. “I’ve already had his I.V. changed so I’ll have the staff leave you alone.”
“Thanks, doc,” Jack said.
Daniel nodded his head at her, too, and she squeezed his arm. “If you need me for anything, let me know, okay?”
Daniel gave her a fond smile. “Thanks.”
She left them then and went about seeing to other patients.
Daniel and Jack made their way back down the hall and into Teal’c’s room. When he saw them, he visibly tensed. Silently, Daniel and Jack sat down on the stools to the right of Teal’c’s bed.
There was an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes before Teal’c broke it.
“I feel I must apologize to both of you for my behavior over the last week, but most especially for last night.”
“No need,” came from Jack and from Daniel, at the same time, came, “It’s okay.”
“I was most hostile and verbally attacked both of you.” His eyes flickered from Jack’s and rested on Daniel, remaining there.
Daniel looked down at his hands. “It wasn’t you.”
“It was, Daniel Jackson.”
“No, Teal’c, it wasn’t,” Jack argued. “It was someone that Apophis created.”
Teal’c worked his jaw, wanting to argue, but he could see the determination in his friends’ faces. He did not miss, however, the hurt in Daniel’s eyes.
“Please forgive me, Daniel Jackson.”
Daniel blinked. He cleared his throat and took a moment to gather his thoughts. “It wasn’t you, Teal’c,” he repeated. “There’s nothing to forgive.”
“And yet you are in pain and I caused that pain, intentionally or not.”
Daniel fidgeted and cast a sidelong glance at Jack, more for comfort than anything else. “What you said…do you remember it?”
Again Teal’c worked his jaw, the muscles flexing hard. “I do,” he said simply.
“Was it the truth?” Daniel asked tightly. He felt his stomach knot and grow queasy. He held his breath because of it. It took all of his control not to look away from Teal’c’s eyes.
Teal’c was the one to look away, staring at some featureless spot across the room. “I am sorry, Daniel Jackson,” he said, and after a long paused, he added, “It was the truth.”
The silence was deafening and Jack heard both Daniel and Teal’c swallow. His hand itched with the need to reach out and take Daniel’s but knew he couldn’t. Never was anything so hard since Shau’re had died. He was about to say something, anything, to break the uncomfortable silence but Teal’c beat him to it. His Jaffa friend regarded them solemnly, looking perhaps the saddest Jack had ever seen him.
“Because there is no Tau’ri ritual, I need you to forgive me, most especially you, Daniel Jackson.”
Jack gave him a short nod and Teal’c relaxed slightly, a grateful glint in his eyes. He looked at Daniel just as his friend took a deep breath.
Daniel knew better than to argue. Teal’c was right. Forgiveness equated to closure, and that was just what was needed wasn’t it? He cleared his throat and without thinking, edged his stool closer to the bed and took Teal’c’s hand in his. He gave him a deep, soul-searching look, making sure that Teal’c knew he meant business. He squeezed Teal’c’s hand a bit, showing strength, and was relieved when Teal’c returned it.
“If you need to hear the words, Teal’c, then you have them. You’re forgiven.” There was a definite breath of relief from Teal’c. “I don’t think that the Jaffa I was talking to last night in any way resembles the Jaffa before me, but I wasn’t so sure earlier. I needed to sort things out in my head. Hearing what happened to her hurt a lot, but I know that had you been…you…I would’ve never heard what happened. Neither of us wanted to relive that trauma, Teal’c. I know that you couldn’t have done anything about what happened and I’ve already told you that before. But you do need to know that though I once was angry, I haven’t been for a very long time and nothing has changed.”
Teal’c swallowed again. “I believe you are the most forgiving man I have ever met, Daniel Jackson. Thank you.”
Daniel smiled. “You’re welcome.”
“And you, O’Neill,” Teal’c went on after a pause, “Is there anything you wish to say concerning what was said?”
Jack tilted his head slightly, giving Teal’c a fond look of tolerance. “What’d I say, Teal’c? I forgive you, so there’s nothing to talk about.”
Teal’c stared at him for a moment, then nodded. The three were silent for a few more minutes, and Jack was finally able to break the silence this time.
“Okay, so, we have a briefing at 0900, and after that, it’s Cadet Performance Reviews. You want me to bring them by your quarters so we can go over them, or would you rather me handle it by myself? ‘Cause you know, I can…if you want.” Jack-speak for I want the help.
Teal’c smiled gratefully at him. “I would very much like to participate, O’Neill. However, it would be a good idea to wait until noontime. I will need to meditate for a while.”
“Good enough,” Jack said, smiling back, glad that he was able to help Teal’c relax and feel comfortable again. “So, speaking of those reviews, I think I’ll get them sorted and go make sure there isn’t anything else hanging in the wind.”
“Very well,” Teal’c replied, not bothering to ask what ‘hanging in the wind’ meant. He had learned to read into Jack’s colloquialisms. “Though I do not require sleep at the present time, I do need to concentrate on healing.”
Jack and Daniel stood up and Daniel finally released Teal’c’s hand. “I’ll talk to you later then, okay? Perhaps join you in kel-no-reem later this afternoon?” Daniel asked.
“I would very much like that, Daniel Jackson.”
Daniel gave him a fully genuine smile then. “So would I.”
They left Teal’c’s room, their steps lighter as walked. Neither spoke until they approached the elevator and waited for the car to arrive.
“You okay?” Jack asked, having been watching Daniel carefully for any signs that he wasn’t.
Daniel nodded slowly and gave him a small grin. “Yeah. I am. You?”
Jack’s left cheek wrinkled in that sideways grin he affected. “Yeah, no problem.”
“So…breakfast?” Jack asked as they stepped inside the elevator car.
Daniel found that, this time, he was indeed hungry. “Yeah, actually. I could eat.”
Jack pressed the button, smiling enigmatically. “Me, too.”
Daniel took a half-step toward him. “We still talking about food?”
“Sure,” Jack said, letting his smile widen as he added, “If you want.”