A Loss of the Same Size


Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child's loss of a doll and a king's loss of a crown are events of the same size” Mark Twain

Jack O’Neill walked down the underground corridor of the SGC, hands deep in the pockets of his green fatigue pants.  His eyes never stopped moving – flicking between the colored lines on the floor, the few airmen who passed, the security cameras installed at intervals along the hallway.  Not that much different from any other posting he’d had over the years.  Maybe fewer salutes, a different kind of anxiety, less out and out bullshit.  But military minds ran along a familiar track: assess, observe, identify the enemy, react to the threat, and always respond to the unknown with the highest level of fear, distrust, and suspicion.  That kind of thinking had kept him alive for many, many years, but, when he’d retired – again – after Abydos, he’d finally let go of his well-honed paranoia.  Wonder who started that, he smiled to himself.  Good thing, too - somehow he knew that dealing with the Stargate would require an entirely new philosophy.

When Daniel Jackson had figured out the code that had sent them both across the universe to an alien planet under three moons to come face to face with an ancient Egyptian god with glowing eyes, everything had changed.  And, a year later, Jack had a feeling that the shit was still only beginning to make its way towards the fan blades.

Hammond seemed a good enough commander- flexible, thoughtful, with a mind open enough to take in the honking huge changes that had come at what he’d figured were the last few months of his military career.  He’d come around about Daniel and had shifted Samuels back among the paper pushers at the Pentagon before the guy could do any more harm.  The general had realized that this command couldn’t be like any other, and had proved it when he’d allowed them all back through the Stargate even when the time limit he’d imposed had ticked right by.

Debriefing after Chulak had been… interesting.  Daniel hadn’t said much – empty blue eyes filled with the awareness of his losses as they stared down at the table, long fingers tracing invisible patterns on the polished wood.  Jack had caught Carter and Kowalsky – even the general - watching the archaeologist and knew they were asking themselves when the kid would break.  Jack shook his head.  Daniel was close to the edge – that was one reason the colonel was heading in this particular direction at zero dark thirty when he was supposed to be sleeping in the bunkroom.  He’d felt Daniel’s eyes on him when Jack spoke about Teal’c, describing the Jaffa’s sudden action in their defense, and listening to him assure General Hammond that the alien would make an invaluable addition to the newly created Stargate Command.

He came to a halt outside the holding cell, returning salutes to the two SFs who stood nervously in the empty hallway.  Guarding an alien.  Not a duty they’d ever expected, he’d bet.  Motioning to the door he raised his eyebrows until one young man swiped his card key through the monitor and stepped aside.  The door clicked shut behind him.

“Hey, Teal’c.”

If it was possible, the large Jaffa looked even more alien dressed in the plain blue jump suit than he had in the snake-headed armor he’d worn on Chulak.  The strange gold tattoo of the serpent on his forehead was a chilling reminder of the pale, squirming larva hidden away in the alien’s gut and Jack couldn’t help that his gaze lingered on the Jaffa’s smooth abdomen, anticipating any hint of movement.


Teal’c stood, motionless, hands clasped behind his back.  He stood as if he had been – or could remain – in that same position for hours, days even, with no outward show of boredom or restlessness.  His face was calm, his eyes hooded, but Jack had the feeling this guy missed nothing and had already carefully threat assessed this facility and every soldier he’d passed on his way from the ‘gate to the infirmary to this holding cell.  The Jaffa had only been on Earth for about ten hours, but it had taken far less time for Teal’c to decide to turn his back on everything he knew and save the captives on Chulak after meeting O’Neill and his team.  Decision made, his world abandoned and god betrayed, Jack wondered what thoughts swirled through the Jaffa’s mind now that the action was over.

Hammond had ordered downtime – for Jack, Carter, Daniel, Kowalsky – everyone who had gone through the ‘gate to Chulak.  Casey and Ferretti were recuperating in the infirmary – Jack had already assured himself that they were taken care of, but he’d bet that the others were as on edge as he was.  And Jack’s gut told him that he shouldn’t wait – he couldn’t wait for the morning to talk with Teal’c.  It had to be now, before that spinning fan could let fly in all directions.

Jack lowered himself into the folding chair that sat opposite the military bunk and stretched out his long legs.

“You can sit if you want to,” Jack offered.

Teal’c blinked deliberately at the invitation but did not shift his position.

“Or… you know… standing is fine.”  Jack’s fingers fidgeted with the cuffs on his shirt before he leaned suddenly forward.  “Listen, this is my first alien interview, so, go easy on me, okay?”

The stolid figure raised one eyebrow and, after a moment, sat stiffly on the thin mattress, back straight, hands resting on his knees.  Big hands.  Big, big hands, Jack thought.

“Great!”  Jack slapped his own hands against his thighs.  “So, Teal’c.  You’ve had the obligatory light in the eyeballs from our crackerjack medical staff, washed the dust off in our state-of-the-art showers, and enjoyed a couple of flavorful Earth-type meals from our commissary.  How do you like us so far?” he asked with a grin that flashed over his features quickly before disappearing behind careful, calculating eyes.

“I have met no humans like this in all of my life.”  The painted lids of Teal’c’s eyes remained at half-mast, but the tone was flat, unshaded by emotion, guarded.

Jack felt his eyebrows rise, curious.  “Really?  How are we different from other humans?”

“Your people are strong.”

“Not as strong as you,” Jack crossed both arms across his chest.

“I am not human,” Teal’c replied, as if reminding a child of some basic truth.

“Okay,” Jack drawled, knowing he had to get this interview back on track, quickly.  He could almost hear the ticking of a countdown echoing through the room.  It wouldn’t be much longer.

Teal’c continued as if Jack hadn’t spoken.  “I saw the strength in your females first when I chose them for Apophis.  They were uncowed by fear, fought and battled through their terror.  And your weapons were formidable – different from Goa’uld technology.  You have advanced greatly.”

Jack felt himself still to motionless at the alien’s first sentence.  “Wait - you chose them?  You chose…”  Huh.  A slam in the gut with one of the Jaffa’s meaty fists would have been less painful.  He closed his eyes and saw again the inhuman glow in Skaara’s eyes, the twisted smile that he’d worn as he’s aimed the jeweled weapon at Jack’s chest.  He looked up, dark eyes pinning the Jaffa into place with their intensity.  “The choices were yours?”  He dared the alien to tell him, to have the balls to…

“As Apophis’ First Prime it was my duty to bring before him the strongest females to find a host for his queen.”  The deep voice was quiet, precise; the words pronounced carefully so that there could be no misinterpretation.

Ah, crap.  Jack rubbed both hands over his face and blew out a great puff of air before raising his eyes to the wide face before him again.  This was…

Raised voices from the hallway carried through the weighty silence and Jack’s lips thinned in troubled frustration.  Dammit.  Time was up.  He kept his gaze locked on the Jaffa’s and saw…  If he hadn’t been looking, he might have missed the slight widening of Teal’c’s eyes, the fleeting look of raw sorrow within their brown depths.  Jack wondered if his own looked any different.  He stood slowly and watched the Jaffa rise in one fluid motion to mirror his own pose facing the door.

Short, sharp words in an icy baritone slipped through the locked door.  Stammering tenor responses of the young SFs tried to meet them, but were swamped by stabbing, demanding tones that rose hurriedly in reply.  Jack raised one fist to the Jaffa in an unconscious gesture that he used to tell his troops to wait and was surprised to see the careful nod of the bald head in answer.  He stepped to the door and knocked.

“Airman!” he shouted firmly.  Both voices broke off and Jack heard the snick of the magnetic lock.  The door was pushed inward, and Jack stepped into the gap, raising both hands at the sight of the bulky SFs, weapons ready, framing the rigid figure of the ashen-faced archaeologist.

“Colonel O’Neill?” one clearly uncomfortable SF asked.

“It’s okay, Airman,” he nodded, “Dr. Jackson can come in.”

Daniel’s mouth had already opened to voice his insistence, and Jack watched a lightning-quick gear-shift take place behind the glittering blue eyes.  The SFs holstered their weapons and returned to their positions, a slight ease in the tension of their shoulders the only outward sign of their relief at the colonel’s interruption.  Jack stepped backward and Daniel followed him through the door.

“Teal’c, Daniel Jackson.  Daniel, Teal’c.”  Jack dropped the unnecessary introductions into the silence and waited for the echo.

It was an amazing contrast.  Just inside the door, as far from the alien as he could be and still be in the same room, Daniel Jackson stood – face starkly white, blue eyes huge behind wire-framed glasses, hair still rumpled from uneasy sleep, his arms wrapped tightly around his lean waist.  Jack could see the tendons standing out in his neck, the quivering of the muscles in his arms.  He wondered how long the young man’s rage and stubbornness would keep him standing.  Across the room, unmoving, the dark skinned alien faced him.  Hands hanging at his sides, face set into frozen stoicism, Teal’c’s shadowed eyes rested unhesitatingly on Daniel’s face.   And Jack stood there, watching, knowing that this confrontation had been coming and helpless to defuse it.

“Where is my wife?”

It was hard to hear, hard to see the misery and loss overwhelm his young friend, but Jack stiffened his shoulders and resolved to stand witness to Daniel’s tears.  He wouldn’t run from this, wouldn’t refuse to be touched by this man’s pain.  A year ago – well, a year ago Jack couldn’t taste anyone’s pain but his own – not his wife’s, not his parents’ – and had convinced himself that his grief gave him the right to feel nothing else, for anyone else, ever again.  Until the man who stood before him, now himself devastated had pierced through Jack’s well armored defenses with his casual wisdom and artless sacrifice, draining his soul-deep wounds and offering Jack a chance for healing.

Jack’s gaze was drawn to the alien, eyes narrowing as he took in the aborted move which Teal’c smoothly turned into a renewed clasp of his hands behind his back, legs braced in an ‘at ease’ position that, apparently, spanned star systems.  What had the Jaffa been about to do?  Jack didn’t sense any physical threat here; no stifled attempt at escape or attack, but the dark, stony mask seemed less detached, its coldness more disguise than protection.  “Your wife.”  Jack’s eyebrow rose at the Jaffa’s tone.  That had not been a question.

Daniel’s throat moved as if he was swallowing nails.  “Yes.  Sha’re.  My wife.  Apophis’ queen.  You have to know the Stargate address, where she is, where he took her.”  Desperation.  Rage.

“I do not.”

The tilt of the Jaffa’s head looked like an apology to Jack, but, evidently, said something else to his hurting friend and Daniel took one step towards the alien.

“You have to know.  I heard you, you told Jack they would take the… the children,” he chewed the word and spit it out, “home.  Where is it?  Where is home?”

Yeah.  This is exactly what Jack had come there to ask.  He’d wanted to present the intel to Daniel when the grieving man realized what the alien had said, but, naturally, Dr. Daniel Jackson’s brain had easily fought through a fog that would have left most others grasping for their own names.  The man was too smart for his own good.

Teal’c’s eyes never left Daniel’s face, but Jack knew that the alien’s words were directed to him.  “Apophis controls many worlds.  His reach has grown greater of late – he is bolder, willing to commit many forces to his conquests, and yet he holds his secrets that much closer.”

Jack nodded to himself.  Secrets.  Beings who saw themselves as gods ruling over worshippers and slaves weren’t too likely to share.

“No.”  Daniel was shaking his head, eyes closed momentarily against the knowledge, refusing to believe.  “You have to know,” he repeated, as if by demanding it, it would be so.  “How would you have gotten home?”

“Apophis dialed the Chappa’ai.  He alone knew the symbols.”  Teal’c insisted.

“You… you…”  Furious tears choked off the words and Jack moved to Daniel’s side, halting only when the young man held up one finger and tightened his jaw, driving his emotions deep, covering his effort with a strangled laugh.  “You are his, what, captain?  General?  Leader of his Legions?”

“*Was*, Daniel.  Teal’c *was*-” Jack reminded him.

Teal’c didn’t need the help.  “I was First Prime, leader of thousands at his bidding, taught to follow without question.”

“Well, you couldn’t very well have led his armies without any idea of how to get them home,” Daniel sputtered, arms waving.

The dark eyes locked with Jack’s.  “I could indeed lead you to many staging worlds.  Worlds filled with Apophis’ Jaffa, guarded by his legions, training daily in arms awaiting their god’s command.  But only Apophis himself could open the… Stargate…” he hesitated over the word, “to his home world.”

Of course.  Jack knew it would be something like this or the alien would have said something on Chulak when Daniel had asked him if he’d seen the glowing symbols after the wormhole had swallowed Skaara.  He let that thin strand of hope ravel to nothingness and gripped Daniel’s arm with one hand.  Maybe he could stop this now, get Daniel out of here, lead him back to the bunkroom for another few hours of tormented sleep before any other revelations cracked his thin veneer of control.

“I was afraid of that, Daniel,” he muttered softly.  “It would have been too easy, huh?  And when has any of this ever been easy?”  He smiled faintly and jerked his head towards the door, feeling the iciness of Daniel’s skin, the swaying of his defeated body under the arm he stretched across the archaeologist’s shoulders.  He sent a grateful glance at the Jaffa as he maneuvered the young man to escape, but nearly stumbled at the intensity he found staring back at him.

“Daniel Jackson.”

The lean form halted and Jack tried hard to relax his hold but only felt his fingers grip tighter.  Dammit.  They each needed some time, some space, some distance between the life-altering changes that had heaped up in waves between that dank cell on Chulak and the cold light of day.  But the archaeologist dragged him around, stubborn independence shaking off the Air Force colonel’s hold, determined to face whatever fresh hell this dropped them all into.

“Teal’c?”  Eyes devoid of emotion, emptied of hope, Daniel blinked at the alien.

“The woman who is now Apophis’ queen.  She was your wife?”

The finger came up again.  “*Is,* Teal’c.  Sha’re *is* my wife.”

Jack waited out the fleeting refusal that flared in the Jaffa’s eyes but never made it to his lips.

“And the boy?”  Teal’c turned towards him.  “Your son, O’Neill?”

God.  Jack felt his nostrils flare, his teeth clenched so tightly he thought he’d dislocate his jaw as he saw the shaggy blond head lifting, eyes bright, lopsided smile striking straight to the heart superimposed with the sparkling eyes of the young Abydonian.  His throat closed over his denial.

“Skaara.  His name is Skaara,” he heard Daniel state quietly from his side, his shoulder pressed firmly into Jack’s.  “My… my wife’s brother.  He and Jack were…*are* very close.”

The Jaffa stood straighter, face composed.  “I accept your choice of retribution.”

“What?”  Daniel shook his head, brows furrowing in confusion.  “Retri- what does that mean?”

Teal’c’s chin lifted.  “Your losses came at my hand – blame is certain.  As certain as I hold guilty the Goa’uld for the enslavement of my people, for the certain loss of my wife, my son.  Only the one wronged can determine fair reckoning.”

Oh, God, Jack whispered to himself.  Losses all around.  Three men, all wounded, emptiness throbbing with the sharp, aching need to dull itself with words and acts of vengeance, hate, bitterness.  He knew this taste, felt its familiar tang in his throat lashing his gut into knots.  Teal’c’s depthless eyes held the same guilt Jack had wrapped around himself for months.  And Daniel… it was written in the dull blue of his eyes, sunk in shadows and surrounded by tense lines on the young face.  Jack snorted in sour recognition.

“I don’t know what you’re expecting, Teal’c, but nobody’s looking for revenge here.”  Jack lowered his head to meet Daniel’s eyes, the unspoken question asked and answered.  “At least, not from you.”  He wouldn’t trust Daniel anywhere near Teal’c’s old boss, but he never thought he’d have to protect Teal’c from the archaeologist’s wrath.  No, keeping him away from Teal’c had been about protecting Daniel from any visible reminder of Sha’re’s pain, of holding off crushing any more of his friend’s hopes until he’d found his footing.

“I do not understand.”  The Jaffa looked almost disappointed.  Yeah.  Jack understood that, too.

“Listen, Teal’c.”  He held both hands out to his sides.  “Clearly, we need to talk – about a lot of things.  You.  Me.  General Hammond.  I’m sure Daniel has more questions,” he hurried on before the archaeologist could jump in, “and Captain Carter, Major Kowalsky.”  Jack sighed.  “But I’m tired and Daniel needs some sleep.”  The slumped shoulders and lowered head of his friend made any denial unnecessary.  “It’s been a rough couple of days.”

After a moment, the Jaffa nodded.  “Indeed.”  Jack didn’t think he imagined how Teal’c’s eyes softened as they took in the shaken form of the young man before him.  The alien lowered himself stiffly to the metal-framed bed.

“Right.”  He turned and rapped his knuckles on the door.  “You need anything?”

Half-lidded eyes met his, but the wariness, the impenetrability now held that same touch of vulnerability Jack had witnessed in the empty cell on Chulak when an alien soldier had torn off his armor and dropped it into the dust at his feet.  A shared mourning, the suggestion of a bond, and the potential of friendship linked the three of them.  Jack hadn’t expected this when he’d turned down the corridor to this holding cell – didn’t quite know what to do with it now that it was there.

“I do not.”  Teal’c inclined his head in a gesture that Jack figured he’d better get used to.

A few steps down the near empty hallway, Daniel stopped.  "I never thought about his..."

"I know," Jack nodded.  "Me neither."  He started walking, knowing Daniel would catch him up.  "Try not to beat yourself up about it too much, okay?"  He allowed a whine to color his voice and was rewarded by a soft snort at his side.

"You, too," Daniel advised.  A moment later, standing at the elevator, the archaeologist looked over his shoulder as if he could see into the Jaffa's holding cell.  "How does he live with it?"

Jack shook his head.







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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.