Title: Into the Breach
Word Count: 1002
Summary (or something): In Teal'c's experience, there was a point when sex became acceptable between comrades in arms.
ETA A/N: this story was remixed in 2008 by abyssinia4077 for the gateverse_remix. Abyssis' story is Rosemary for Remembrance (the Paragon of Animals remix), and it's an extraordinary partner for this one.
Into the Breach
“Is this a custom?”
“Aye, merry, ‘tis. But to my mind one more honored in the breach than in the observance.”
Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
In Teal’c’s experience with the Jaffa, there was a point when sex became acceptable among comrades in arms; it related not only to a warrior’s experience but also the length of the mission, both elapsed and expected. Jaffa were expected to marry and would be presented with an invitation to do so at some point in their career, but missions were long, and wives were not warriors. Understanding would be sought and found on long missions, or particularly desperate ones.
Teal’c suspected that this, like many other things, would be different among the Tau’ri, and he steeled his will to wait for his understanding to indicate what would be acceptable with them, now he would be indefinitely separated from his wife. He slept beside each of them alone, and did not speak of it. He walked the perimeter at night and sat by a fire and thought of the warm hands of a warrior and the cold hands of his wife. Of the difference between the comfort of one who was familiar and a new subordinate. Of fires and stars and tents and missions long buried in shame and comforted in comrades.
If O’Neill or Samantha or Daniel joined him as he thought of these things, he did not speak of it. They seemed content to simply sit beside him and think their own thoughts, never reaching out. It was the first time it occurred to him that the chasm between the Tau’ri and the Jaffa might be too wide for him to bridge alone.
Teal’c came to realize that though he had never lacked for them, he had never chosen a lover. Now he thought of the implications of this newfound freedom, and found that he would have welcomed an intimacy with those who were fast becoming his closest friends, not just for the release, but for something more; he would have been grateful for the honor of being chosen, but he had not the will to choose. In the quiet center of his heart, he wondered if his passivity in this, like service, like slavery, was a legacy of the downtrodden; and if it wasn’t a tradition better honored in the breach than in the observance.
Still, he waited. In matters of choice, one must weigh the options carefully in order to opt wisely. He noted that release among warriors was forbidden among the Tau’ri, but as freedom laced everything they did, and he wondered if they would choose to break this rule as they chose to disobey orders from time to time.
He watched them move like boxers, a game O’Neill had taught him: dancing together and then lashing out. He watched Daniel solidify under O’Neill’s care and then lash out at the careless distance created when O’Neill focused on Samantha. For the first time, he was sought out, but only to sit in silence. It was then that he understood: Daniel had chosen O’Neill, and O’Neill had chosen not to disobey orders. Turning to Samantha was an impressive right hook.
Teal’c wondered if there wasn’t less honor for O’Neill in dancing around Samantha, and he wondered if he could stand either of them getting too close and lashing out at the other. Yet they, who had sworn to the same code, seemed to have more need to reassure him that all was well than to doubly break their rules. Samantha sat by him after her watch ended to avoid implying she looked forward to sharing a tent with O’Neill; and O’Neill organized watches on missions where the tent assignments fell thus to allow for this gesture. Teal'c enjoyed her company, and had stopped expecting her to reach out to him. He didn’t mention the gesture to Daniel, but after the murmured acknowledgments at the changing of the watch he returned to his place in the tent to find the man awake. It was dark, and Teal’c could read little in Daniel’s shadowed eyes but in the set of his mouth saw grim understanding. They settled, Teal’c waiting for his pallet to warm and watching Daniel set a curved arm over his face: oddly unprotected, hands empty. Teal’c unclasped his own hands and, the whisper of movement against synthetic fabric a warning, reached out to touch the back of Daniel’s extended arm; the one that lay helpless by his side. Without looking, without moving the arm over his face, Daniel turned his wrist and locked their hands together. They stayed thus for some time: neither sleeping nor meditating. It was the closest Teal'c would come to speaking.
Daniel died, and it was an undercut to O’Neill, to Samantha, to all of them. Teal’c felt, though, that his connection to Daniel was the simplest and the least painful because they had lashed out in the beginning, and hadn't felt the need later in the friendship to do so. Teal’c would not risk testing the limits of Daniel’s forgiveness any further by broaching a taboo subject, and simply said farewell, my friend, you will be missed, and mourned separately from the others. When Daniel returned, he reached out again for Teal’c in companionship and for information; and Teal’c understood this time, that that was all he sought.
Teal’c chose. He stood before a woman and saw yellow hair, a warrior. She spoke to him of souls and companions and with relief he reached out in words. She offered understanding, uncomplicated; he saw yellow hair, and the strong arms of a warrior. There is no shame in taking comfort of another lonely soul, she said. She reached out; he answered her with a kiss, and went to her bed.
Teal’c did not see the hit that indicated O’Neill and Samantha had danced too close, but he saw that she sought and found a lover. Teal'c wondered whether she had chosen Pete or he her. Samantha danced away from them, and Daniel and O’Neill stood apart as well; carefully backing away until there was nothing to do but turn and run. When any of them reached out to Teal’c he saw it was only in despair and fading friendship, he answered with a measure of reassurance, as far as he was able, wondering if the freedom of mutually choosing one’s lover wasn’t an ideal honored more in the breach than in the observance.