stringertheory: (Teal'c)
[personal profile] stringertheory
Title: S is for Second Chance
Rating: PG
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: Teal'c, Jonas Quinn
Word Count: 1766
Categories: character study, friendship, drama
Spoilers/Warnings: Set during early S6.
Beta: [personal profile] fignewton
Summary: Teal'c and Jonas and second chances. For the SG-1 Gen Fic Day Friendship Alphabet Soup!

Without looking up from his plate, Teal'c knew Jonas Quinn had entered the commissary. The shift in the air alerted him to Jonas's arrival, the impact of his presence rippling through the assembled personnel like a stone thrown into still water. Though obvious to anyone paying attention, the effect was subtle. There was no pause in conversation, and no gazes followed Jonas on his walk through the tables – though more than a few eyes flickered in his direction as he passed by. The feel of the room simply changed, a faint tone of blame, anger, and cool consideration settling over the crowd.

The familiar combination rang with memories for Teal'c, but he ignored their whispers to observe Jonas. He had no doubt that Jonas had felt the change in the room – he was as astute an observer of people as the man whose office he now occupied had been – but if the scrutiny bothered him, he didn't let it show. He approached the food line with his normal gait, back straight and a generically friendly expression on his face. As Jonas filled his tray and turned to find a seat, Teal'c watched the room closely.

No one made any motions to exclude Jonas from their tables, but none welcomed him, either. Instead, they avoided his eyes and gave no indication that they noticed him at all. If not for the fact that the room hummed with everyone's overwhelming awareness of Jonas, the overall impression of their actions would be that he simply did not exist.

Jonas, for his part, never faltered, walking decisively between the tables, expression still blandly pleasant. However, Teal'c could see in his eyes how much the rejection – or at least lack of invitation – bothered him. Not just because he wanted to belong, but because he genuinely wanted to interact with and get to know the people here, in his new home. And because he was concerned that such acceptance might be beyond him. Teal'c doubted that, though.

The majority of people, it seemed, had taken a neutral stance on Jonas, content to wait and see what he would do with himself now. Jonas had done much to help himself in that regard by returning to Earth with the naquadriah, and with his eagerness to learn and to help in any way possible. Many did not blame him for Daniel Jackson's choices, and those who felt he bore a measure of responsibility did not blatantly condemn him with their actions. There were even some who sympathized with him, who understood the weight of bad decisions and the burden of penance. Teal'c counted himself among them.

Though Teal'c had already finished his meal, he remained seated. He knew that Jonas would soon spot him and wanted to provide him with company. Once Jonas's gaze met his, Teal'c nodded his head in greeting. Jonas's expression finally changed then, a genuine smile warming his face and mostly masking the relief and gratitude that appeared there.

“Hi, Teal'c,” he said, sliding into the chair across the table, his back to the majority of the room.

Teal'c nodded in response. “Jonas Quinn.”

“The commissary is busy today,” Jonas casually commented. “I thought I'd have to eat in the lab.”

Teal'c noted that Jonas did not refer to the lab as his own; it was obvious that he still didn't feel any ownership of the space. The fact that it remained full of the work and possessions of a dead man probably didn't help in that regard. Teal'c wondered how often in the past few weeks Jonas had returned to Daniel Jackson's lab, or his own sparse quarters, to eat alone.

“How are you adjusting to life among the Tau'ri?” Teal'c asked. Open questions were often much more effective at eliciting truths than direct inquires.

“I--” Jonas began to give a standard response, but cut himself off, brow furrowing momentarily in thought. “I'm used to people not liking me,” he finally said. “Anyone who rises through the ranks as fast as I did is going to make at least a few people unhappy, so I'm no stranger to the looks or the whispers. But this – I don't think I'll ever fit in here,” he admitted, hints of both surprise and sadness in his voice. He threw a glance over his shoulder, the action causing a small flurry of movement around the room as the few people looking his way turned their heads a second before he could catch them staring. “No one is begrudging my presence – at least not to my face – but no one wants me here, either. And they don't have to come out and say it; they just don't look at me or talk to me unless they have to. And most of them don't have to.”

Jonas half turned again, this time locking eyes with a passing lieutenant who didn't register the motion quickly enough to stop his study of the back of Jonas's head. As their eyes met, the man quickly averted his gaze, his expression shifting from open curiosity to careful blankness. He strode by with his eyes on the commissary doors, acting for all the world as if he hadn't noticed Jonas at all. Jonas sighed as he turned back to Teal'c.

“Many are still recovering from what happened to Daniel Jackson,” Teal'c said. “He was well respected and loved, and he met his end on your planet.”

“And I am both a constant reminder of that loss and the person to blame for it.”

“Not all blame you,” Teal'c assured him, “and those who do may, with time, come to realize the error of that belief.”

“You don't blame me, do you?” It was less a question and more a statement of realization.

“I do not blame you for Daniel Jackson's decisions.”

“But you blame me for mine.”

Teal'c tipped his head thoughtfully. “We all have choices whose weight we carry. I believe the blame you place on yourself is punishment enough. I do not need to add to that weight.” The words recalled his own experiences, and the time a man had once forgiven him because he could not forgive himself. The memory stung slightly, like sand blown across sun-burned skin, rubbing against the rawness of his own loss.

“I don't think the colonel agrees with you,” Jonas muttered.

Teal'c studied him for a moment before replying. “The Tau'ri once took in another who had caused them great pain and who, by joining them, became a traitor to his own people.” He knew Jonas had read all the SG-1 mission reports and would understand who he meant. As Jonas held his gaze, Teal'c could all but see the pieces coming together behind Jonas's eyes. “My sins were far greater than yours, but I was forgiven and accepted, with time.”

He had, of course, had the benefit of SG-1's full support, something that Jonas currently lacked. That he was a warrior – not to mention a former enemy combatant with firsthand knowledge of the new, wholly unfamiliar threat the Tau'ri faced – had helped to facilitate his acceptance with the base's military majority as well. Though he had endured much more aggressive behavior than what Jonas had so far faced, he had also had people who were completely on his side. While there were people who felt for Jonas, there was no one as of yet who was standing up for him. Despite this, Teal'c was certain that Jonas's sacrifice and efforts would be fully appreciated, given time.

“What do I do until then?” Jonas asked, as if in answer to Teal'c's thoughts.

“Whatever you can, whatever they ask of you.”

Jonas let out a huff of laughter. “That's a problem. They never ask me for anything. I can't try to make up for what happened if no one will let me.”

“You cannot make up for what happened. It is past and cannot be undone. But you can help with the trials of the present, with the problems of the future. Be ready, be available. And when you see that you have something useful to offer, do not hesitate to do so.”

Jonas stared at him for a long moment, then smiled, understanding in his eyes. “What a pair we are,” he said, “the fallen First Prime and the former government golden boy turned traitor. All it took was one moment, one choice to destroy everything we had built our lives into.”

“And to gain something much better. In joining the Tau'ri, I did more for the fight for Jaffa freedom than had been accomplished in the many centuries before me. And you had the wisdom to see what your government did not. I believe your choice will save them, will save all the people of your planet.” Teal'c paused, then added, “We are more than our mistakes, unless we allow them to be all that we are. You are a good man, Jonas Quinn. I do not think you will let this mistake be all there is of you.”

He paused again, but it appeared that – for the moment, at least – Jonas had nothing to say. With a final nod, Teal'c pushed back from the table and rose to his feet. “I must leave for a meeting with General Hammond,” he said. Then, a little more loudly and therefore clearly audible to every ear stretching their way, he added, “You have expressed interest in learning defensive skills. If you would like to practice sparring, I will be available this afternoon.”

Jonas looked up at him, and his smile this time was the one Teal'c remembered from before everything went wrong on Kelowna. “Thanks, I – I'd like that. I'll come by your quarters around, say, two?”

“That would be acceptable.” Teal'c picked up his tray, and nodded in Jonas's direction. “Until then, Jonas Quinn.”

While the other diners had avoided Jonas's eyes, they did not do the same for Teal'c. As he returned his tray and wove his way between the tables back toward the door, Teal'c could feel the weight of being watched. He kept his stride even and his expression relaxed. As he pushed through the door, he gave the room one more glance, and was pleased to see a few people studying Jonas's back with more open, gentle looks than before. The Tau'ri were firm believers in forgiveness and second chances, and Teal'c would help Jonas Quinn get his.

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