Teal’c studied the Tau’ri as he struggled to breathe in the wake of
the pain stick’s heavy use. O’Neill’s frail human body shuddered and
shook as overexcited nerve paths forgot their exquisite timing. He
smiled at the pain the man was feeling as pain receptors wailed in
outrage at such misuse, producing waves of agony that were nearly on par
with the original assault.
Something inside him – deep inside where even a god dared not go –
did not feel right about seeing this man like this. That he should not
be doing this. Yet, he also could feel the rage and fire of hatred that
his head told him was true, that the Lord Apophis had ordered him to
consort with this beast of the field, to pretend to be his friend and
Teal’c constantly fought the urge to wrap his fingers around the
vulnerable neck of his hate’s object, to rid the universe of the Tau’ri
O’Neill and in so doing further the glory of his Lord and Master,
Apophis. This, his Lord had forbidden him; but for that command alone
the man breathed.
Yet his Lord had not commanded him to make this one’s life easy. And
he would not, though a part of his mind still continued to protest his
actions. Ruthlessly, he silenced that inner voice as being unworthy of
his station as First Prime of his god, Apophis.
Again O’Neill’s eyes opened, foggy and unfocused. And again they
sought him out, and – an unexpectedly horrible sight made him hesitate
in his resolve for a moment – forgiveness shone from them. This sight
was as painful to Teal’c as the light of the pain stick must have been
to his helpless prisoner.
Lacking the usual grace of long practice, Teal’c buried the pronged
tip of the pain stick into the soft flesh below O’Neill’s ribs. Energy
surged out from those hated eyes obliterating the man’s painful regard
of him. How dare this beast of the field, suitable only for labor,
presume to offer him that which only his Lord and Master had the right
The re-instated First Prime of Apophis reveled in his anger and his
satisfaction as he worked the pain stick across the Tau’ri’s naked
torso. The man’s screams of pain were like sweet music to his ears. This
was his purpose of existence, his reason for being. He gloried in the
giving of this pain, an offering to his Lord – a prefect offering.
Teal’c shuddered as the personality that had gripped him so fiercely
shattered like brittle glass before a sniper’s bullet. He could hear the
shards scatter across the room, though he could see no evidence of
And for a split second, he faced O’Neill across a hallway and awaited
the bullet that would put an end to this existence. The rest of his
squad of Jaffa lay on the floor around his feet, dead. He was on his
knees and had just shot a Replicator off the wall behind him with his
He could see the expression of grim determination on his friend’s
face, a resolve to do what he had to do, no matter the cost to his own
soul. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as he stood and twirled the staff
weapon to face O’Neill. His weapon was primed and ready to fire. Yet, he
O’Neill did not.
When it ponged against his armor, the bullet punched into his chest
and felled him – but did not grant him the bliss of oblivion for which
he had hoped. Dimly he could feel the touch of fingertips against his
throat and Major Carter’s pronouncement that he still lived.
The sensation of hands on his shoulders grounded him and he realized
that his friend, his warrior brother sat before him, gripping his
shoulders. And the compassion that had poured from his eyes back in that
torture chamber was now openly displayed on his face. Such naked emotion
made Teal’c felt a shame so deep he wondered why he did not die of
“Is it possible for one to forgive the unforgivable?” Teal’c voiced
shakily. This recent vision was proving to be more torturous than the
whole of the rite of Ma’l Sharran.
Jack stared wide-eyed at Teal’c, uncomfortable with the older,
harsher memories that statement brought up. Damn, when would that box
deep down in the basement of his dinged-up soul be finished? How long
did it take to put on a little addition? And he knew immediately it
wasn’t the size of the hurt, but the ‘who’ had created that pain, that
was his big problem here.
Slowly, tiredly, he pried his hands from – for a human – too tight of
a grip on Teal’c’s arms. Then he was up and pacing, short swift steps on
a path that never neared either wall. Jack began to speak:
“Once I ‘knew’ that the unforgivable had been done to me, and once I
‘knew’ for certain that I’d done the unforgivable.”
Jack paused and seemed to stare at the floor, lost in thought for a
moment. Finally he slowly turned to face his seated friend.
“But ya know ‘I’ was wrong both times.” He grinned sheepishly as if
embarrassed to admit what had haunted him for so long.
Teal’c looked expectant, and Jack knew he really couldn’t dredge up
the incidents, not in any kind of detail. Both were pivotal to his life,
each a jagged break from one Jack O’Neill to the next. But all these
jagged pieces together were what made him the man he was now – today;
for better or worse – or to coin a phrase, the good, the bad, and the
“I think it was the emotion. I can remember the fear – and the
feeling of betrayal. Only hate kept me going those months of hell, hate
of my friend – a friend that would never abandon me – but had. Only I
didn’t figure out until too late that I didn’t have to hate that friend
and that perhaps I hated for the wrong reasons. Hate had become a
Stepping up to Teal’c, Jack dropped back to floor to sit cross-legged
He licked his lips nervously and swallowed. For a moment he
hesitated, afraid to continue. But he had to do this, it was vital if
Teal’c were to be healed. And anything less was unacceptable in Jack’s
“Then I did the unforgivable. My whole world was shattered by my
perceived lack of vigilance. Mired in my own guilt, I could not see any
way out the bleak place I’d built around me – except one,” Jack sighed
heavily. “I came so close, so very close, to repeating my mistake a
thousand-fold because I couldn’t see past my sorrow or my own pain.”
Jack hung his head. The silence was long, but it was not cold, nor
hollow. That spark that had ignited between he and this alien warrior
warmed the void between them. He raised his head and presented a crooked
“For what it’s worth Teal’c the only forgiveness anyone needs is from
themselves.” He tapped Teal’c’s chest. “Inside here.”
Never had O’Neill spoken so openly of his feelings before to him. His
words held great wisdom for a warrior of so few years. Bra’tac himself
would have been hard put to impart such self-knowledge.
Teal’c grieved at the pain his friend must have felt to admit to
having such feelings. Worse was knowing of the events that each point of
explanation sprang from. Though not mentioned, any close friend of
O’Neill’s would recognize he spoke lastly of the death of his son, a
wound that would never heal.
What does one say after such an admission? Could he not offer back
the wisdom so sagely given him?
“Jaffa spend many years training, not just the mind but the body.
Master Bra’tac personally trained my body in the necessary reactions
that are needed to keep one alive on the field of battle. And many are
those fields of battle.”
O’Neill cocked his head. Teal’c knew that this was a sign that his
friend wondered just what he was trying to say.
“The body is swift to learn, even though the mind can control the
body, it is slower. Many young Jaffa reacted to their trainers by
flinching – even I. Bra’tac followed tradition by using this to help
train our minds,” Teal’c saw the moment that O’Neill began to
understand, so he continued. He knew he must insure that his friend
fully understood a concept that his culture would assume as being the
“Our bodies are our best protection; it is wise with hundreds of
thousands of years of experience. It will react to anything that has
hurt it in the past. But it is blind too. It seeks to prevent an injury;
unlike the mind it feels nothing. I believe that here on Earth it is
known as conditioned response.”
His words were heard. O’Neill fidgeted and squirmed, his discomfort
evident in his restless movements as he climbed to his feet to pace once
Then Teal’c asked the question that his friend must answer for
himself. “Can there be shame in the desire to survive?"
Jack’s mind skipped ahead to that scene in the hallway when the green
light from his gun sight centered on Teal’c’s chest and his finger
slowly tightened on the trigger of his P-90.
“You let me shoot you, didn’t you?” O’Neill asked
with widened eyes. “Back in that hallway when we were making our
getaway, Replicator bugs swarming all over the place. With the rest of your Jaffa
dead on the floor, you should’ve ducked for cover. But you didn’t.
Instead, you got up off your knees and twirled your staff weapon so that it
faced me. But then you hesitated. You didn’t fire... but I did.”
“It was a struggle, but no, I did not. For a part of me knew that my
allegiance to Apophis was a false one.”
“So my words...”
“So all that crap about Tau’ri dogs and the pain stick?”
“I heard your words and did not wish to believe, though a part of me
knew them to be the truth. Only by silencing the voice that said those
words could I continue in the service of Apophis.”
“So, where does that leave us, T?”
Teal’c shrugged. “That remains to be seen. I ask again, is it
possible to forgive the unforgivable? Will you ever trust me again?”
Teal’c watched his brother warrior, emotions he could not name
flitted across his friend’s face, more than he could decipher, showing
him that though his pride shouted he knew this human, his brain
concluded that he did not, for he could not read what was writ for him
to see as his question was pondered.
Was he correct in even asking? If things had been reversed could
Yes, he would. But caution would rule, the trust of before would not
be there, that would have to be regained. Knowing that he did not know
O’Neill as he had boasted to himself, he realized that he would have to
work to rebuild what he had destroyed. All fault lay on his head, no
matter what O’Neill said.
O’Neill stood before him in obvious pain and indecision, this could
not continue. His torture of his friend would end now. Teal’c carefully
announced his intent with a discrete cough before gracefully rising to
stand before a human he would follow into certain death if need be.
“O’Neill. I have heard your words, but know that I still am at
fault,” He signed for silence when his brother prepared to deny his
right to claim what was his. “I have not lived up to the pledge I gave
you years ago. My loyalty and submission have not been complete and for
this now I ask your forgiveness.”
Slowly reaching out he griped his friend’s shoulder, bringing his
full gaze onto his face, Teal’c wanted to be certain that he heard what
he was going to say.
“I rejected your command when I indulged in what you refer to as ‘The
Jaffa Revenge Thing.’” O’Neill grinned at the use of his coined phrase,
yet shook his head at the notion.
“Teal’c, it was my responsibility to
prevent you from running off on that particular little wild goose chase of yours, I... I
“Could not stop me in what you saw as an action you would have
It was not a question or a guess, but a certainty. He had allowed me
to pursue Tanith, for he, being the brother of my soul, would have done
the same. O’Neill knows the pain of losing one he loves and would turn a
blind eye. And I knew he would do this and ignored this flaw in my
brother, knowingly took advantage of him to my everlasting shame.
“My brother, no words are needed but these,” Teal’c declared, letting
his hand drop from his friend’s shoulder. With great solemnity and
fisted right hand over a humbled heart, he continued, “I now swear my
full loyalty and obedience to you, O’Neill.”
He’d been enjoying the warmth of his friend’s large hand when it
dropped away. He so didn’t agree with what was being said, not by a long
“Teal’c. I’m not your master, just a man who happens to also be your
commander,” to say that his friend’s oath made him damned uncomfortable
was an understatement.
When the rubber hit the road, it was his fault for not reining Teal’c
in when he should have. There was truth in his words; he would have done
the same, though he knew that he would have left Teal’c cooling his
heels somewhere while he did it, for his own safety. But would he be
safe where ever he left him? And for that matter, would a man such as he
be content to wait in that safe place while he went off on his mission
of vengeance? He didn’t think so.
There seemed to be little difference in their methods. Anyone who
happened to be there would have been at risk whether being taken along
or left behind in a perceived place of safety.
Silent, Teal’c stood before him awaiting a reply. Jack balked at the
heavy weight that suddenly seemed to weigh him down. What does one say
to someone who had just declared himself to be his to command?
On one hand, it smacked of the blind allegiance that was expected of
any Jaffa that was expected to lay down his life for his god. But on the
other, this was Teal’c, a man who did not give his trust lightly. To
reject the gift that the Jaffa had just given him would be tantamount to
rejecting the man behind it. And that was just plain not acceptable.
“No more ‘Jaffa Revenge Thing’?” Jack’s fingers automatically hooked
quotes around the phrase.
“Not even a little bit,” Jack held down his hand so Teal’c could see
the VERY small space between thumb and forefinger.
“Not even that much.”
“I’m not so sure I like the idea of that,” Jack declared in a stern
voice. He struck a defiant pose as Teal’c lifted his head, a bemused and
slightly confused expression on his face.
“I’m not so sure I want a potent weapon like that made totally
Teal’c appeared to ponder his words thoughtfully, dipping his head in
that regal way he had before replying.
“Perhaps, it could live in a small way; at your command of
“Of course,” Jack grinned and he promptly and without any hesitation
clapped him on the back.
Jack blinked, he’d reacted naturally. He could see the effect that
move was having on Teal’c who could barely keep himself from beaming
with unfeigned joy. Or at least what passed for that on his friend’s
‘Guess it’s time to deal with the big issue now,’ Jack
admitted to himself.
His decision must have shown in his face and alerted Teal’c. Before
his eyes that happiness he’d grown on his friend’s face diminished. He
was thankful that it was not replaced with the mask that Teal’c could
wear as well as himself, that emotionless shield he employed when forced
to deal with the distasteful. Teal’c instead settled for an ‘I’m all
ears’ expression; at least that was what he liked to think it meant. And
since his friend was prepared, he dove right in.
“I trust you, Teal’c. But it was never about trust,” Jack licked his
lips and looked away for a moment before continuing. “It was about
perceptions. You weren’t torturing me; I was someone else to you. There
was never anything to forgive, at least as far as I’m concerned.”
Jack spread his arms wide as he had when he’d first seen Teal’c
living and breathing – alive. His warrior brother returned from the
dead. He felt the very same feelings all over again. Now Teal’c was here
in mind – as well as body – whole once again.
Each man stepped into the personal space of the other and embraced.
The joyous greeting that should have happened the first time was now
allowed to occur. Each gripped fiercely their friend; each hoped to rip
the pain from the other. Yet each settled for knowing it existed beyond
their reach and always would. And somehow that was more than enough, for
they had each other.