Jack came to screaming, sound and light both vaulted from his mouth
and eyes as his body writhed against a tight web of restraints, his
whole world a seething sun of pain.
Abruptly, he discovered that he could breathe, and he ceased his
heaving to escape the unendurable. His nerves tingled and frozen muscles
turned to warm Jell-O as he lay trembling and astonished at his
The alien who he'd come to know as his brother and teammate loomed
large and menacing over him as Jack found that he was strapped down to a
table and wondered just when that had happened.
"Teal'c, whatcha doing?"
The question sounded inane even as he asked it. It was kinda obvious
- Teal'c, pain stick, strapped down - even an idiot would know his goose
was cooked. Not that in his wildest imagination would he imagine this.
This was his friend, his buddy, his warrior brother of the heart. A man
to whom he'd entrusted his life and those of his friends on more than
Now, before - the before when Teal'c was First Prime, probably all
capital letters and in flashing lights - he could imagine that, only not
that it would be done to him - not ever in a million years. But the
evidence was pretty overwhelming. But then again, this sort of thing was
probably pretty routine back then - just another day at the office. Ho
hum, 'another' torture.
It was easy to forget that the honorable, logical and gentle man whom
he had befriended had ever been capable of such an act. Sure, it was
either do it or have it done to you. But the man had to have been good
at it. After all, he had climbed to the apex; he'd been king of the
heap, a not-so-honest-to-god's FIRST PRIME, fully capable of killing on
command without a second thought.
Yepper, he and Teal'c - two of a kind.
Jack swallowed hard with a mouth that was suddenly devoid of any
liquid and tried to slow his pounding heart. He lay totally exposed and
helpless before someone with twice his experience at carrying out damned
distasteful things. And he was about to find out just how good his
friend was at doing those things, up close and personal.
"You don't have to do this, Teal'c."
"You have offended the honor of my god and myself - and must pay for
"So, I've got to pay?" He shook his head with frustration at Teal'c's
oh-so-flawed logic. "For what? Protecting my planet? He came after us,
remember?" He flexed his hands and wrists, trying to find some give in
his restraints but found none. "Come on, you know. You were there!"
His voice had ratcheted up in volume but his eyes widened when he saw
Teal'c's scowl deepen. The First Prime of Apophis - his friend - brought
the pain stick close to Jack's side in an obscene parody of a caress, so
close, his skin prickled in reaction to the perceived - and all too real
'This is so not working,' he thought as he swallowed hard and
tried to bring his emotions back under control - tried to look amiable
and harmless, anything to sidetrack and distract - to postpone the
inevitable touch of the pain stick. 'Mouth, don't fail me now.
Like the calm before the storm, Jack's mind quieted and he was able
to think again, to step back and take a good long look at his situation.
With a lucidity of thought that was almost scary, he realized that
nothing he could say at this point would stop Teal'c from doing whatever
he'd already decided to do. That whatever happened was not up to
'But then again, if he's gonna stick it to me anyway, maybe I
should just get my digs in while I can - and make it
He bared his lips in a humorless smile. "Or should I just give you a
buck-fifty and call it even?"
The pain stick touched his side lightly and he arched his back and
Teal'c stood stunned in the doorway of O'Neill's office, after only a
moment of hesitation he moved forward to offer his hand to his fallen
friend, only to be shocked and shamed when Jack cringed away from
'It would be unworthy of me to not heal the breach I have opened
between us. My own weakness opened it; O'Neill must not bear the weight
of its healing, and I refuse to believe that he will not allow it. This
cannot - must not continue.'
His brother's eyes seemed to stare past him to another place as
Teal'c instinctively pulled back, O'Neill shook his head in seeming
confusion; sweat beaded his forehead. Only when his friend's eyes
fastened onto him did he again offer his hand - slowly.
Jack smiled and took Teal'c's hand. "Sorry about that, big fella."
Together they stood, each awkwardly keeping their distance. "You
shouldn't sneak up on a man like that. I could've hurt you."
"On the contrary, it is I who have injured you."
"Me?" Jack slapped himself on his chest with both hands, his palms
rasped against his olive drab shirt. "Nah, not me. I'm fine; fine as
frog's hair as a matter of fact. Right as rain and never been better,
especially now that we've got you back." He paused, an almost
hesitation, and then slapped Teal'c on the back. "Not that I ever had
any doubt that we would."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow in question. Typically, Jack ignored him,
and bent to right his chair, both knowing the lie that had just been
The Jaffa waited through the transparent delaying tactic, finally
Jack straightened and looked around the room, lighting briefly on his
desk and computer monitor. Then he switched it off, yet another moment
of falseness between them.
"I'm hungry," Jack patted his stomach and gestured to him. "Wanna
Teal'c hesitated a moment and then nodded. Concern for his friend
made him accompany him to the commissary even though he wasn't hungry.
It seemed clear that O'Neill was not doing well, despite his
protestations to the contrary. For a moment, Jack had been caught by the
past, and an ugly one - one that they alone had shared.
However, the Jaffa had learned that his friend was a very private man
whose pain ran as deeply as that of his own. If not deeper. He knew all
he could do, for now, was be there for him, to win back a trust that he
had violated most grievously. And if O'Neill would allow him, he would
accompany him on whatever inner journey that might be needed to heal the
rift between them, even if it took them both to the edge of sanity
"Yes, I too am in need of nourishment."
Jack tossed and turned in bed; his sheets twisted and tangled in and
around his legs, further restricting movement. His legs churned as he
twisted to avoid some unseen torment. His long frame seemed surprised
that it could curl and uncurl at will and became more agitated by this
"No, don't," he murmured, his head shaking in negation. "You don't
have to do this," his lips barely formed the words as they stretched in
a plea. "Wild horses, Teal'c . . . wild horses."
His eyes continued to move rapidly underneath closed lids, a sure
sign that he was dreaming. Once again he was back in the corridor of the
doomed Mothership, the sound of gunfire competed with the chirrup and
chitter of the Replicators, and the gun sight of his P-90 glowed green
against the breast of his friend, Teal'c.
'Don't make me do this, Teal'c. Please.'
His friend's scowl was his answer as Teal'c twirled his staff weapon
in his fingers and leveled it at Jack. His bullet twanged against the
Jaffa armor and Teal'c collapsed unmoving onto the floor.
Abruptly, Jack sat bolt upright, his eyes wide and unseeing. "No!"
His mouth opened in a soundless scream of denial.
As his racing heart pounded in his heaving chest, his eyes darted
about the quarters he'd been assigned, searching for the danger that his
mind and body insisted was there. The dim light of the bathroom lit the
room, throwing shadows across the darkness. After a moment he realized
he was alone, no one and nothing dangerous threatened him there in his
bed. The danger came from within - deep in his memories. The same one's
he'd hoped were safely locked away in that box where all his demons
Apparently the lid on that box hadn't been shut tightly enough, for
he'd just had the mother of all nightmares. He blinked to further ground
himself in the reality of the quietness of his bedroom and then scrubbed
his face one-handed, the other one propped him up in bed.
After a meal with Teal'c in the commissary - one that he'd only
pretended to eat - they'd parted company. Their time together strained,
with none of the underlying understanding that was typical of their
camaraderie. Jack couldn't get away fast enough as Teal'c had headed for
his own quarters for more kel-no-reem and he for his office.
When he'd reached it though, he'd taken one look at the computer
resting on his desk and did an about-face. He wasn't ready to face those
reports yet and his bed beckoned. He would have much rather slept in his
own bed, but he'd slept on base so often lately, it had become his
second home. And since Hammond had said no, it was the next best
Come to think of it though, as tired as he felt, a long drive home
probably wouldn't have been the safest thing to do anyhow. Once he'd
closed the door to the bedroom assigned to him, he felt immediate
relief, a slight decrease in the stress and tension he'd been living
with for months.
Even though the door presented only a flimsy barrier between him and
the activity at the SGC, it was a barrier nonetheless. And a welcome
one, it presented him with a chance to recharge his batteries with
restful sleep. A chance he was not going to pass up. The constant press
of events he'd rather not deal with wearied him beyond tired.
And he'd thought he was home-free when he lay between the crisp
sheets of his bed. Sleep had come, but it had been far from restful. He
constantly jerked awake and flung himself from side to side seeking a
position of comfort that did not exist. Jack peered into the darkness;
it took too much effort to hold his eyes closed. He huffed in
frustration and flung his arm over them.
His mind was acting like the old truck he used to drive down the
frozen dirt road of his grandfather's Minnesota driveway; once in a rut,
it trundled and bounced along refusing to follow any path except the
well-worn but extremely bumpy one it had already traveled. And like that
truck, his mind refused to shut down and instead reviewed and rehashed
old events that were best forgotten.
"For crying out loud," he muttered. "Can't a guy get some sleep?" No
one answered except the restless demons inside his head. "Crap, it's not
as if I haven't earned it."
Knowing that sleep would not be in the cards for the rest of the
night, he untangled the sweat-dampened sheets from his legs and padded
barefoot into his bathroom. Standing at the sink, his boxer shorts
plastered to his legs, he peered bleary-eyed into the mirror. His
reflection showed an ashen face, reddened eyes underlined with dark
"Crap," he muttered and averted his gaze from the haunted man that
stared back from the mirror. Jack gripped the side of the sink, his only
link to the here-and-now, his mind fell back into that unwanted memory -
like he were still there, like it was happening for the first time.
"I seek to unleash that which I have kept hidden for so many years,
Tau'ri dog. You will suffer for each moment I had to lie to myself and
pretend to be what I was not."
This was so not what Jack had expected, his friend, his buddy, going
postal on him with the kind of rage that he had reserved for that snake
- that would be god, Apophis. It made him wonder if somehow Teal'c's
deep-seated feelings for him and the snake he'd already named had been
reversed. The thought gave him an inner shiver. This could be serious -
"You don't say?"
Washed over by that familiar pain, he knew the answer had come in the
form of a touch of the pain stick.
"So . . ." Jack struggled for control of his breath. "Apophis okayed
this?" He rasped.
From the slight expression that passed for panic with Teal'c's face,
Jack knew he was in deep shit. "So this is on the QT."
Another wave of pain hit him as Teal'c's face hardened in his
resolve. When reason again returned, Jack knew that the same force that
had pushed this seasoned warrior to turn against all he knew to join an
unknown human was in play, the same force that fueled 'The Jaffa Revenge
Thing' - a force that once set in motion, could not be dissuaded from
its chosen path by mere argument or reason.
Nonetheless, he felt he had no other option than to play along,
hoping against hope that he could get through to his friend. "That would
be a no?"
"That is of no concern of yours, human."
"Now, there you sound like Bra'tac." 'Yeah,' Jack thought with
the desperation, 'remind him of who trained him and what he stood
for. What can it hurt? Right?'
Teal'c paused at the name and only someone who really knew him could
see the confusion in his eyes. With the hope that this might provide the
opening he so needed, that this memory might trigger a return to the old
Teal'c, the one he'd called his brother, Jack pressed on. "You remember
Bra'tac, the Shol'va."
Teal'c must have upped the juice because Jack didn't believe he'd
ever breathe again once the incandescent pain ceased and his friend's
look of outright gleeful satisfaction cleared from the white haze that
his vision had become.
'What can it hurt? Me, that's what it can hurt, me.' Jack
gasped for breath. 'Can't let him know he's getting to me. Keep up
the front, Jack. Whatever you do, keep it up.'
"What was that for?"
"To silence you."
"Me? You want to silence me?" His giggle teetered on
the knife edge of hysteria that scared even him. With an effort, he bit
it off in mid-giggle. "Come on, this is me we're talking about.
There's not a snakehead alive, or dead that could shut me up."
Jack's smirk felt forced, even to him. "You hear some truth..." More pain cut off his
reply along with his breath.
"...pain. You will be silent, except for screams. I will not hear
anymore of your lies," Teal'c's lips were right there, moving out of
sequence with his words.
"And if I don't?"
Jack's voice grew softer and more strained with every touch of the
pain stick. At the rate he was going, he'd lose his voice completely in
a couple of minutes. But he knew that he couldn't stop talking, hoping
that some word might be the magic one that would do the trick, snap
Teal'c back to his senses.
"There is the woman," the tone of voice used to say the words scared
him more than the look on Teal'c's face. "You value her for more than
her abilities. Would you have her suffer?"
Jack's heart sank as he stilled, his brown eyes the only
part of him that seemed alive. For a moment, they blazed with anger
which was almost instantly hidden. "Who? You mean Carter? She's nothing more than..."
"Do not lie to me, Tau'ri. You foolishly told me all." Teal'c's scowl
deepened as he studied the prong tips of the weapon he employed with
"You don't have to do this, Teal'c." Jack panted and vainly tried to
dodge the touch of the pain stick he knew awaited him. "Wild horses,
Teal'c, wild horses."
Pain enveloped Jack once more, this time when he opened his eyes only
his own face reflected back at him from the mirror in the dim light of
his on-base quarters. He shivered at the memory of what he had just
relived and gulped at the feelings that threat had engendered in
Teal'c's eyes snapped open as his symbiote writhed inside his pouch.
Lighted candles threw ominous shadows throughout the room he'd come to
call his home ever since he'd forsaken all he was and knew to join with
the Tau'ri in their fight against the domination of the Goa'uld.
'No,' Teal'c amended. 'You did not join with the Tau'ri.
You joined your cause with that of O'Neill. It was to him that you
pledged your allegiance. It was him that you named your warrior brother
when you were both floating lost in the blackness of space, held captive
inside a sabotaged Death Glider. And it was to him that you caused the
most harm when Apophis caused you to rejoin his ranks of Jaffa as his
His symbiote thrashed once again in distress and Teal'c sighed. He
knew now that any attempt at kel-no-reem would be riddled with the
memories of what he had done to his friend. His symbiote would continue
to show its displeasure at his inability to sink into that state of
peace required for each to coexist.
From experience, Teal'c realized the only way he could regain a
healing trance was if he somehow was able to bring a resolution of sorts
to these memories. He would have to face O'Neill and ask for his
forgiveness for the wrongs he had done him.
But would O'Neill allow him this? From what he knew of this man, he
realized that this would not be an easy task. For O'Neill had survived
what would have destroyed many a lesser man by burying previous hurts
deep inside himself, never to see the light of day again.
As a Jaffa, though, Teal'c would die if he were unable to achieve
true kel-no-reem, so he really had no choice. For to live knowing that
his friend, his brother of the heart, feared him was not an option.
Unfolding his legs, Teal'c rose gracefully from his cross-legged
position on the floor. It mattered not that the hour was late, O'Neill
would be in his on-base quarters, and likely be lying awake as he
wrestled with his own demons. Demons inspired by his own actions and
words. Only by working together could either of them put these demons to
As he opened the door to the hallway, he reflected that he would be
placing his life in O'Neill's hands. But, despite all that had so
recently transpired, he knew he could entrust it to no other. Just as he
had known, deep down inside, when he watched O'Neill's gun sight appear
on his breast, and had forced himself to do nothing to prevent the
killing shot that would be his salvation, he knew he could not abandon
his friend now.
"Undomesticated equines cannot stop me," Teal'c murmured as he walked
toward his warrior brother's room.