I totally thought it was the finale tonight. But it's just as well I got through the edits on this as the remix is eating my brain. Although from the title to the summary line I'm having trouble avoiding spoilers. Man! I never realized how much I was asking for when I demanded you people not spoil me.
I recommend you also check out rowan_d's Signal Fire, which also has lovely Sam/Teal'c, with respect for past relationships as well. PG-13, and excellent Sam, as always with Rowan. Spoilers for the finale as well.
Title: Five Things Teal'c Learned in Fifty Years, but Will Never Speak of.
Warnings/pairings: threesome, het
Betas: rydra_wong and ivorygates, love and thanks to both of them.
Spoilers: Series finale (Unending.)
1. Daniel Jackson
Had changed. In the time since O'Neill left the team and Daniel himself had failed repeatedly to join the Atlantis Expedition, he had become a hollowed-out shell of the man Teal'c had first known. The empty spaces were filled then with harsh words, cutting. Teal’c had long since learned to stop inwardly flinching at the disapproval in another’s voice, however: he had spent too much time with O’Neill to find sarcasm as threatening as he once did.
Privately, Teal'c had assumed the difference in his friend was due to the fatigue of fighting yet another war, assuming yet another responsibility to the universe when the first had nearly taken all his resiliency. Teal'c himself had felt that way sometimes -- had, in his most uncharitable moments, wished to wash his hands of the Ori conflict and separate it from the Jaffa and their current struggles for self-rule, and political organization. He'd thought, when he left the Tau’ri to be a politician, that having time to be something other than a soldier would be enough: to be a father, father-in-law, lover, leader. He had failed as a politician, though. Found himself extraneous as a father, in the way as a father-in-law, and unfulfilled as a lover. He could not help but wish for another chance to set down his staff weapon, though; to have the time to be something other than a soldier. Perhaps he was merely becoming an old man, like Bra’tac.
Still, they were the same people they had always been and Teal’c had expected Daniel Jackson to immerse himself in the Asgard library and find fulfillment inside its walls. Daniel Jackson, though, emerged no less frustrated for his distraction of unlimited time with an unlimited source to study. It was not until his quarters housed Vala too, and were less lonely than his library that Daniel began to resemble the man he had been when Teal’c first knew him.
Teal'c found Daniel’s relative contentment in the small community of the Asgard ship illuminating; he wondered about his own failed attempts to find a place in the Jaffa Nation, thought his dissatisfaction might have been self-inflicted punishment. Then again, Teal’c was keenly aware of his own role in beginning the first war for Daniel, and so he also wondered if Vala functioned as a balm for the hurt Teal’c had caused: his equal and opposite force. Once home to his proper time, he was unwilling to prompt either one of them toward the future he'd seen. At best his influence on Daniel had been anchoring, at worst destructive. Vala brought Daniel peace, such as she could; it was a great gift, and one Teal’c had no right to intrude upon.
2. Vala Mal Doran
Explored every room in a great empty ship and found them sealed too tight. Teal'c heard her say that she would not be able to handle confinement and he had not believed her; every Jaffa learns patience from an early age. Every Jaffa knows how to wait, to endure, to withstand a confinement, regardless of the torture it brings. Teal'c believed these to be qualities of character, of honor, of duty and obligation. He did not know how to respect an impatient mind except to tolerate it as one would a small child.
Teal'c had long believed that he knew all he needed to know of slavery and confinement. Of the Goa'uld and the havoc they wreaked. In Vala’s company he began to understand for the first time how narrow his thinking was.
He wondered if there had been such free spirits among the early generations of the Jaffa, and how long it took for the Goa'uld to destroy the trait. He wondered if he propogated the same values unknowingly, teaching his students and his son to obey, to endure quietly, to bow. He began to invite Vala and Mitchell with him when he had a duty to perform. Colonel Mitchell never accepted the invitation; Vala often did.
Perhaps it was his proximity to Vala Mal Doran that allowed Teal’c to see the energy she used willfully finding joy in innocent things. It meant that on his return to his proper time, seeing her at her proper age, with a smile on her face he had once mistaken for easily summoned, looking at her gave him pause. He meditated on the subject for two weeks before formally requesting leave to visit Ry'ac.
3. Colonel Mitchell
Accepted every invitation to spar. Teal'c found himself alarmed to see that as Colonel Mitchell's skills progressed, he did not find increased calm, but instead expressed more and greater anger. Teal’c could anticipate a sparring move, but he began to wonder whether there might not come a day when Mitchell would act in a way that he had not expected.
He allowed to Colonel Carter that perhaps the sparring ring was insufficient to work through such frustration for Mitchell. She had noted Colonel Mitchell’s evident frustration, and Teal’c had mentioned that his experience with warriors and with Colonel Mitchell in particular suggested that very few overtures of assistance would be welcomed, but he knew of one. He had spoken with Colonel Carter occasionally of romance, of things intimate, to see her reaction and because he felt comfortable enough to do so. He was, nevertheless, somewhat surprised when she agreed with his assessment. He wanted to reiterate that he felt insufficiently capable of handling Colonel Mitchell on his own, but it felt too much like weakness to say that he could not anticipate the outcome of such an overture, and he was too invested to convince himself to remain detached or objective; he did not know how to proceed.
The action itself still surprised Teal’c, for all he had said the words and expressed his expectations. Colonel Carter had walked into the sparring room and Colonel Mitchell had turned to her with no change in speed and no recognition that the new body in front of him was not an opponent. Teal'c saw Colonel Carter shift her weight and widen her stance, but for all her quick preparation, Teal’c was sure she would have been injured in the attack. And that Colonel Mitchell himself would have regretted the action.
Teal'c redirected the movement of Mitchell's arms and took him bodily to the wall with less effort than anticipated, all of which told him Mitchell must have begun to halt his own movements. The look in Mitchell's eyes while pinned and immobile had little to do with the amount of pressure Teal'c applied to his forearms, so Teal'c did not apologize, but eased his hold enough to allow Mitchell’s hard breathing to shift sweat soaked skin under his hands. Still Mitchell did not try to shake him off, even as Colonel Carter approached where they held each other against the padded wall. Teal'c held Mitchell’s gaze and focus as well as his arms and shoulders while Carter approached, and waited for Mitchell’s breath to calm, for his hands to stop shaking. He held Mitchell until she was beside them, and even then, he waited.
Mitchell spoke as though there were an arm on his windpipe, an apology choked through external pressure that was not physically present. Teal'c felt the heat of breath on his arm and then the dry press of Colonel Carter’s shirt as she raised her hands and swallowed Colonel Mitchell’s words with her mouth. He stood by her side and felt the press of her leg on his as she shifted her body to shift the kiss. He felt Mitchell lean forward, raise his hands and get one tangled in Teal’c’s shirt, and the other in Colonel Carter’s hair.
Teal’c was keenly aware of Colonel Carter’s clean soap smell, of the scent of her hair at odds with the stale odor of gym mats; he knew his own musk, the smell of Colonel Mitchell’s sweat and panic. Teal’c felt Colonel Carter’s hair brush his shoulder. Looked down to see the tops of their heads, fingers and hands visible, Colonel Carter’s hair tidy and geometrically parted, and Colonel Mitchell’s wet and messy.
Colonel Carter let the kiss stop, Colonel Mitchell having moved far enough into it that he too could lift his head back, and give a few inches. Teal’c shifted his weight, his hold on Mitchell no longer required. They both turned to look at him, and Teal’c almost smiled at the wary challenge in Colonel Carter’s eyes when she quirked an eyebrow at him.
“I was merely achieving a more comfortable vantage point,” he said, noticing how quickly the violence had changed to gentility. Except that Colonel Carter’s grin was mischevious, and he glanced over both of them to see if either would attempt a throw or some other physical attack. Colonel Mitchell merely tugged on Teal’c’s shirt, however, so Teal’c took a step forward, waited a beat scant inches from Mitchell’s face, and then kissed him, closemouthed and simply.
“I don’t want to know who’s idea this was, do I?” Mitchell asked quietly, the turn of his head grazing his nose across Teal’c’s skin. Colonel Carter’s answering smile was bright and playful; Teal’c could not help smiling at her.
After the time was set to right, Colonel Mitchell did not need to ask what had happened to know how he would have behaved when caged. He did ask, though, why Teal'c could still stand his company; why Teal’c would seek it. Fortunately, Mitchell seemed content with the sound of his own voice rather than needing any answer, because Colonel Carter was late, and Teal’c could not look to her for guidance.
4. General Landry
Was not O'Neill. At first, in his deepest thoughts, Teal'c had wished for a different commanding officer with them on the ship. It would have been fitting for O'Neill to bear witness to the last moments of the Asgard and their legacy; for General Hammond to command the ship, for either of them to be there with the team that they created. O’Neill and Hammond only two commanders, save Bra'tac, whom Teal'c had ever served for so long.
But the thoughts were uncharitable; to wish confinement on O'Neill was akin to wishing it on Vala. Teal'c had already witnessed O'Neill feeling trapped far too often; he would not consciously wish it on his friend again. Nor would he willingly deprive General Hammond of his family. The comparisons grew meaningless anyway, as time passed and Teal'c grew to appreciate Landry's quiet adaptability far more than he could have in a series of perfunctory wartime meetings in rooms that always seemed to be too hot and too small. Ultimately, though, Teal'c served under Landry longer than he served under O'Neill or Hammond. He would not have changed things, even if he had had the capability.
It was General Landry's death, though, dignified and without fanfare or battle, that taught Teal'c of mourning without the desire for revenge. He had not witnessed the long slide into peace that took so much out of the caretakers and so much dignity even as self-sufficiency slipped away. Teal'c learned a great deal in quiet conversations with General Landry during the unhurried and yet inevitable decline. And yet he felt deep shame at his inability to be at the deathbed, to have the patience to hover nearby for so many days, with such uncertainty. He regretted being absent at a moment of such weight. Only Samantha had the strength and the understanding to bear witness. His respect for her that day grew immeasurably. As did his understanding that there was no one in his many years of accumulated acquaintance that he would more wish to have at his side in such a moment, and no one that he would more fervently regret witnessing the passing of.
He greeted General Landry, when he saw him again, as a teacher.
Was the reason they had to survive fifty years with no other company, and the reason they all did. He knew she blamed herself, and for many years she fueled her continued work with that guilt. He also knew, with a faith that would not waver, that she would ultimately succeed. Even when the guilt could no longer fuel her, even when she could not listen to the holographic Thor tell her one more time of the impossible. On those nights they would hold her, and while Cameron whispered sympathy and platitudes and condolences and many other words Samantha listened to without protest, Teal'c spoke of faith with his hands and his arms and his warmth.
It was a feeling of safety he had never known, for all the frustration and the inability to keep Mitchell from turning into a bitter old man. He would never speak of it, because to do so would mean using words that could only bring pressure and obligation to Samantha's mind, but when they returned to their proper time, to their proper fight, to before the connections that kept them sane, he wanted to tell her. He had never, not under Vala's barrage of names or Daniel's quiet seething curiosity, been so tempted to speak. She had been clear, though, she who was his lover and friend and quiet religion: to say anything at all is a foot in the door. So he did not speak of a marriage that had lasted longer than any other love in his life, and he did not say how he dreamed her death while in stasis and ran that much faster to her side when time was reset. He did not say what it meant to him that she never questioned his giving her orders, or why he had to be the one to carry the burden of half a century together and forgotten. There was always the danger that she would not need his words to know these things, but he could not push her away when he wanted to pull her closer. She needed them to walk towards each other on their own; he felt they were already connected. He would need another fifty years to reconcile the difference.