stringertheory: (Teal'c)
[personal profile] stringertheory
Title: To Stand in the Sun
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: Samantha Carter, Teal'c, Jonas Quinn, Jack O'Neill
Word Count: 2064
Categories: gen, character study, drama
Spoilers/Warnings: Set during and immediately following "The Changeling" (6.19). Spoilers for the same and the series up to that point.
Notes: Beta by [personal profile] fignewton.
Summary: When Teal'c misses check-in, the team goes after him. What Sam finds doesn't match what she feels.

Sam was about to leave the lab to meet Jonas in the commissary when Colonel O'Neill appeared in her doorway.

“Teal'c's missed his check-in,” he announced without preamble, “so Hammond's sending us to follow up on him. We're leaving in 20.” His voice was casual, but Sam recognized the hard, tense set of his face and felt her stomach drop. He tried to joke about it - “Probably up all night sharing war stories and lost track of the time” - but they both knew better. Teal'c never missed check-ins.

The nerves started then, twisting inside her chest as she followed the colonel down to the locker rooms. Gearing up, Sam listened in silence as Jonas asked questions none of them could answer and Colonel O'Neill gave curt responses. Worst-case scenarios unfurled in the back of her mind, but she held on to the practiced mental calm she'd almost perfected over the years as they walked up the ramp and through the Gate.

They arrived at the scene of a massacre, so many bodies strewn from Gate to shore that it was difficult to process faces. Colonel O'Neill didn't bother to muffle the oath he let slip as they stepped down from the Gate dais. A quick visual sweep of the area showed there was no remaining danger; whoever had perpetrated the ambush was long gone, their objective completed. While Sam braced against dual waves of shock and sorrow, she fought against the fear that somewhere in the group, Teal'c lay dead. Possibly Bra'tac, too.

Colonel O'Neill waded carefully into the killing field, grimly surveying one body after another with the sort of brisk, efficient manner that told Sam he'd had too much practice at it. Jonas, eyes overly large in his pale face, called Teal'c's name again and again, to no reply. If there was the slightest quaver to his voice from time to time, it was only to be expected.

Sam stepped into an open patch of grass, closed her eyes, and tried to reach past the overwhelming presence of the Gate. She couldn't sense anything, either because there was nothing to sense or because the Gate was blocking it, and her stomach clenched so tightly she felt for a moment that she might throw up. Pulling in a deep breath through her nose, she opened her eyes and started to cautiously step over and around the fallen Jaffa, taking note of each face, searching for any she recognized. Colonel O'Neill had headed off to the left of the Gate, and Jonas to the right, so she worked her way straight ahead, toward the water. All the while, she kept waiting for the tell-tale hum to rise under her skin, for the sign that somewhere in this static, macabre tableau, a Jaffa lived.

She had so fiercely been willing it to happen that when the first flutters of sensation rose in her, she ignored them, scared to get her hopes up on something imagined. But the sensation grew as she got closer to the shoreline. By the time she accepted it as truth, she was almost running as she jumped over bodies, following the feeling as it pulled her toward a pair of Jaffa lying together almost in the water.

Their faces were familiar, but far too motionless, and she was still a few meters away when it struck her that one of them was dead. There was no outward sign on either to suggest as much, nothing that separated one as alive and the other gone, but she could feel it. Or rather she couldn't. The sensation she felt wasn't strong enough for both to be alive.

As she darted around the last body, she called out to Jonas and the colonel. Then she took the last few steps to kneel beside Teal'c.

Beside him Bra'tac lived, but Teal'c was dead. Sam knew he was dead. She couldn't sense anything from him, and the emptiness was more damning than any wound ever could have been. Even as Jonas joined her, Colonel O'Neill close behind, she laid a hand on Teal'c's shoulder, grief stretching inside her. But Teal'c's shoulder was warm under her palm, and she frowned at it in confusion. Then his chest rose and fell with a breath, and the world tilted.

“He's alive!” Astonishment and relief mingled in Jonas's voice as he knelt across from her and checked Bra'tac. “Bra'tac, too!”

Sam almost contradicted him, the proof that Teal'c was alive having not quite superseded in her mind the knowledge that he wasn't. But all she could manage was to stare at Teal'c, his heartbeat faint under the hand she had laid across his chest.

“We need to get them back to the base,” Colonel O'Neill replied. His tone was steady, but Sam heard the hint of gruffness that meant he was relieved, too, though more concerned now that he had seen the state of the survivors. “Carter--”

Sam looked up at him, and she saw his expression shift slightly in reaction to whatever he saw on her face. He checked himself, and turned to Jonas.

“Go dial the Gate and let them know we're bringing Teal'c and Bra'tac back and need a medical team on standby. And to send another team through to search for more survivors. Then come back to help us carry them.”

Jonas nodded once and stood. As he started away, Sam found her voice.

“Tell them Teal'c doesn't have a symbiote,” she called over her shoulder.

Jonas' step faltered, and he paused to look back at her in shock and confusion.

“Go!” she urged, waving a hand toward the Gate. “Hurry!”

Sam watched him take off again, then turned back to help the colonel with Bra'tac. She could tell he was worried, but she avoided the glances he kept throwing her way. She was still stuck on the fact that Teal'c was both alive and dead – breathing under her fingertips but still under her skin – and didn't think she would be able to answer any questions he might ask.

Teal'c was conscious and talking once they were back on base, but even as the medical team took over, Sam hovered. She couldn't shake the feeling, irrational though it was, that if Teal'c was out of her sight for too long, the stillness she felt would be the reality and he would actually be dead.

Two days later, she slipped into the infirmary late at night to check on him. Even as she watched Teal'c's chest rise and fall, watched expressions flitter across his face as he slept, she had a hard time processing the fact that he was alive. Every atom in her body told her he wasn't there. She had become so used to the feeling his symbiote produced in her, had become so accustomed to its presence when around Teal'c, that the two had become one. Even though her brain had accepted the change, it was proving more difficult to get her instincts to do the same. She mused that it would be a reversal of the process, acclimating to not sensing him whereas before she had to get used to the opposite.

She was watching him breathe, thinking about the past, when his voice pulled her out of her reveries.

“You should be at home, Major Carter.”

Sam met his eyes and shrugged. “It isn't that late,” she lied. “I thought I'd sit with you a while.” She shifted in her chair, edging forward on the seat. “How are you feeling?”

It was a sure sign of how much he had gone through that Teal'c pondered the question longer than he normally would have before answering. “Dr. Fraiser says I will heal. The tretonin the Tok'ra have supplied appears to be working.”

“That's not what I meant.”

Teal'c fixed his gaze on her then, studying her even as he contemplated his answer. “It is strange,” he began, his tone thoughtful and his words deliberate, “to be without a symbiote. I feel too still inside, too quiet. And also too weak.” She heard the subtle shift in his voice, the clipped tone and bit of gravel that expressed his irritation, mild though it was. “I am not accustomed to healing so slowly.”

Sam nodded, but continued to watch him expectantly.

“Everything feels... different. The symbiote I carried enhanced my senses as well as my physical strength. My vision does not seem as sharp, nor my hearing, nor anything else.”

He frowned at the far wall of the infirmary, and Sam remembered what it had been like with Jolinar, how it had felt as if all of her senses had been dialed up as far as they would go. And she remembered the aftermath, how off everything had seemed to her then, as if her entire body was out of tune.

“I can imagine,” she muttered. Then she gave him a soft, teasing grin. “I'm sure you're still far superior to humans.”

Teal'c nodded in acknowledgment of the gentle joke, but his serious expression did not fade. “That is not all I have lost,” he said. He turned his head to look over at Bra'tac, who was asleep in the next bed. “I can no longer sense Master Bra'tac, though as he is without a symbiote as well, there would be nothing to sense.” He looked back to Sam. “Nor can I sense you.”

Inexplicably, Sam felt tears well in her eyes. “Same here. When we first found you and Bra'tac on the planet, I thought – I thought you were dead. I could only sense one symbiote --” Her voice cracked and she cut off with a deep breath.

Teal'c was alive, and she knew that, but it was difficult to reconcile that fact with the loss she still felt. The memory of what it had been like to find him among the other bodies and not sense anything from him wouldn't fade quickly. She couldn't sense him anymore, and that emptiness was a loss of its own. After so many years, the feeling had become a comfort, something familiar and normal, and to no longer have it was jarring. It was like going partially deaf or blind. She imagined it would be much worse for Teal'c, who had lived with the sensation for decades.

“I have been dreaming,” he said suddenly, and Sam looked up at him.

“Is that unusual?”

“Jaffa do not dream,” he replied. “When in kel'no'reem, we experience a state of deep thought, but it is not dreaming.”

“What did you dream about?” Sam asked, curious. What would a Jaffa's first dream be?

Teal'c didn't answer immediately, turning again to stare at Bra'tac beside him. Finally, he rumbled, “The idea of a free Jaffa nation is so fragile and new that those of us who believe in it rarely pause to contemplate what will happen after we achieve freedom; simply maintaining the battle requires all of our strength and will. But no Jaffa who fights ever completely forgets that defeat of the Goa'uld does not mean an end to our reliance on them for our survival.”

His gaze shifted to Sam, and the expression on his face made her breath catch in her throat.

“I dreamed of the impossible,” he told her, “of Jaffa without symbiotes, of children born without pouches. Master Bra'tac and I should be dead; no Jaffa can live without a symbiote. But we are alive, and we are healing.” He paused, and when he spoke again, his voice was deep and clear. “We are the first of our kind. There will be more.”

As much as Sam shared Teal'c's hope about tretonin's possibilities, she understood all too well how long a road they had ahead of them. “There is still a lot of work we have to do,” she gently cautioned, “before tretonin will be a viable replacement for symbiotes.”

Teal'c nodded his agreement and stared at her with grave eyes. “We have taken the first step, and that is often the hardest.”

Sam reached out and laid a hand over his where it rested on the bed. It was warm and solid under hers, and though her skin no longer hummed near him, everything else felt the same. She smiled. “Yes, yes it is.”


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October 2015

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