elgrey: Artwork by Suzan Lovett (SamTeal'c)
[personal profile] elgrey
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Author: ELG
Title: Bad Dreams
Category: Teal’c fic
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: S6 spoilers (set after ‘The Changeling’)
Date: August 24th 2007
Pairings: Sam/Teal’c friendship
Warnings: None really.
Summary: After the events of ‘The Changeling’ Teal’c is afraid to sleep in case he loses himself again.
Note: This fic was written for [livejournal.com profile] rydra_wong’s "Emergency Brother From Another Planet" Fic Challenge!". Summary: Write a fic of at least 500 words, gen, het, or slash, that features at least one humanoid or human character who is from another planet but is in contemporary Earth human racial terms, a person of colour.
Disclaimer: Stargate Sg-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions etc. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
Note: Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ankh_lj for the super speedy beta.

Bad Dreams

O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

In the quiet of his chamber, a dozen candles burning to gild the air with a waxy warmth and the soft golden glow of their flame, Teal'c wondered which of his lives was the dream from which he must struggle to awaken.

He was afraid to kel’no’reem, as a Jaffa must – still necessary to him, Jacob Carter had said, if only to find the balance inside himself that he had lost when he lost himself on all those different planes of being. He was afraid to sleep, as a human must if he was to live. But most of all he was afraid to dream.

Think about it. If you can't distinguish between them, if the one seems equally as real as the other, maybe you don't belong in either one.

Dying among the countless dead, their stench forcing itself down his throat like a fist, the shrieks of carrion birds the music that gradually overlaid those earlier cries of Jaffa dying whom he could not save, where was that place but the realm of nightmares? No wonder he had fled from that reality to another. The fear was that he was fleeing it still. What if he was still there, a piece of soon to be swiftly cooling flotsam on the stinking shore of the dead? Daniel Jackson had once told him that he had lived out a dozen future lives in the second it took for his gun to fall from his hand to the ground; trapped in the sticky amber of those possible responses to an event that had not quite happened yet. What if this was the long drawn-out dying of his symbiote’s last gasp? What if they were still locked in their cycle of mutual hatred and mutual dependence; what if he was dying now, in this very instant, the last free Jaffa, taking with him the last spark of resistance? What if this was the very moment where it was written in the book of time that his people would never be free?

If that were the case then no doubt his courage had deserted him and he had run to other realities, less difficult to bear. Fled to a world where he had always been human and never worn the emblem of any Goa'uld; where Shaun’ac yet lived and they were lovers once again; where he could keep with him the friends that he made amongst the Tau’ri and call himself a hero still. A man who battled fire – an element dangerous enough to conjure champions from its flames yet that had no power to enslave anyone. A man who had never felt the treacherous squirm of a symbiote in his guts. All these years he had thought he fought for freedom and yet he had sought a world for himself in which to hide where he was not himself.

He was so weary that only the fear was keeping his heavy eyes from closing. Sleep called to him like a lover after a forced separation, and his body was still unsure whether it was Jaffa or human, tentative yet in its reliance on the tretonin, like a man tiptoeing upon thin ice, feeling for the comfort of the hated symbiote and finding it gone.

But in this sleep of death, what dreams may come?

He could not lose himself again. He could not lose them again. He did not want their shadow shelves, but the people he remembered meeting upon Chulak all those years ago. He wanted to know what was real, yet was afraid to learn that this reality, after all, was the lie.


He had not heard the door open and he did not know how long Major Carter had been standing there, gazing at him with that poorly concealed concern in her eyes. He noticed the delicate mauve shadows under her eyes, the way the candlelight glinted in the gold of her hair. She looked almost as exhausted as he felt, and he thought again how delicate she was, as all humans were, so easy to break. If this was reality and he was indeed without a symbiote these days then perhaps he would come to comprehend their fragility only too well.

“Major Carter.” Hearing his own voice saying her name helped a little. He said it with more certainty than he felt, trying to reassure her and in the process reassuring himself.

She came and sat down next to him then shifted awkwardly. “I’m sorry, do you mind if I…?”

“Please do.”

He remembered being human. It was almost a century since that had been his condition, and he had never been an adult human, nor a Tau’ri, nor a firefighter who used the vernacular of North America with all the ease and comfort of a staff weapon in the hand, and yet he remembered being that man so well that he did as that unreal version of himself would have done and took her hand in his.

“I want you to stay.” Those were not his words. He would have been less direct, but that human he had almost been was still closer than grief for the departed in the instant when the funeral fires first blazed. Perhaps that was another man’s shadow the light of the burning candles cast upon the ground.

She looked surprised, but then her fingers curled in his and held them tightly. He thought he recognized the expression in her eyes as she gazed at him, and guessed that she was imagining how close he had come to being lost to them forever. That was how Daniel Jackson had looked at him in his vision – so full of love for him that it was almost too much to bear. It would have warmed him, as Major Carter’s tenderness was warming him now, except that he had seen Daniel Jackson as the wise man of another world, aiding Teal'c in a life that he had never lived, and seen him also, here in the SGC, even though he knew that Daniel Jackson had ascended to another plane of existence and now had no more reality in this world than a ghost. The loss of him hurt still. He knew that it always would. It was the sorrow the survivors of SG-1 almost never spoke of, but carried separately, a burden they would have lightened for each other if they could.

Major Carter’s voice had a tremor she was trying hard to suppress: “You gave us a really good scare this time, Teal'c. I think we’d all appreciate it if you didn’t do that again, you know – ever.”

He remembered her breaking down after the O'Neill’s absence had seemed permanent, turning to Teal’c in her grief, her body feeling so brittle in his arms, as breakable as her spirit under this unendurable pressure of loss.

It’s been almost a month, Teal’c... It feels like we just lost Daniel, and I don’t know if I can…

Still holding her hand in his, he pressed it to his heart, extending to her wordless comfort for a grief they both still shared. He wanted to believe that this world was real, that he was here, as he felt himself to be, that Bra’tac was alive, as was he, and both of them were healing from their ordeal with the assistance of the tretonin. He wanted to believe that the past he remembered was real, that he was indeed a free Jaffa who fought for his people’s release from slavery – even if it meant that he had once been a slave, even if it meant that Shaun’ac was dead and that he would never again taste her lips or inhale the scent of her hair, or feel the warmth of her body against his. Even that he would give up, as he had given up so much in this battle, if it meant that this was the real world and he had returned to it. But if the world in which he had been human was nothing but a dream and Daniel Jackson had been in it only as part of his craving for the friends he loved, then why had he also – impossibly – seen Daniel Jackson here?

A dream itself is but a shadow.

A shadow of what? Of what he was or what he yearned for? What was the shadow and what the substance? Who was he now that he remembered being human? Was he scattered on the seas of the unconscious of a dying man? How could he find his way back to himself when he did not know which version of himself he truly was?

Major Carter seemed to sense his confusion and despair. “But you’re home now. That’s all that matters.”

“Am I home?” He felt adrift.

Her fingers tightened on his, reminding him that he was anchored after all. “This is real, Teal’c. This is where you really are.”

He turned his head to look at her sadly: “But if you were a figment of my imagination would you not say that also?”

She considered that for a moment, clearly a little taken aback at the prospect of having to prove her own reality. “Okay – if I were a figment of your imagination, you’d know everything about me, because you’d conjured me up, right? So, who was the first man I ever slept with?”

He raised an eyebrow and she held up a finger. “See? You don’t know, do you? That means I can’t be a figment of your imagination.”

“Your logic is flawed,” he reminded her patiently. “I do not propose that Major Samantha in her entirety is a figment of my imagination. Only that my being here, with you now, is a fantasy summoned by my subconscious as I lie dying on another world.”

Major Carter looked around his spartan room. “I don’t mean to criticize, Teal’c, but if I was going for a last gasp fantasy I think I’d go for something a little…bigger budget.”

He smiled despite himself. “Indeed, Major Carter. My other fantasy was much more complex and involved both a Tau’ri fire station and a fully fitted hospital.”

She looked impressed then confused. “Your subconscious ran to a fire station and a hospital but not to a harem full of beautiful naked women all feeding you sherbet and Turkish delight? Because, I have to say that if I was going for a dying breath fantasy I’d want handsome men of easy virtue and lots of really good chocolate. If all I got was a fire engine to play with, I’d feel a little cheated.”

It occurred to Teal'c for the first time that when it had offered an escape from the unbearable nature of reality, that his subconscious mind had indeed not been quite as generous as he might have expected. “It did provide me with Shaun’ac as a most loving and attentive partner.”

Major Carter gave him a sympathetic look. “No wonder you didn’t want to come back to us.”

“I did…” He pressed her hand to his heart again. “I do. My fear is that this is not…that I am not…” He broke off, feeling the salt tears burn his eyes. His love for them was better felt than expressed. It was the thought of them already being lost to him, even as he sat here, in this familiar chamber, warmed by the light and smoke of burning candles, that was so unbearable. “I do not know in which reality I should believe.”

Major Carter slipped her fingers loose from his and then hugged him, awkwardly, her slight form not really able to encompass his muscular shoulders. “Believe in this one, Teal'c, because this is the reality that believes in you.”

He found that a tear was trickling slowly down his face and blamed it upon his recent experience of feeling what it was to be human. A view confirmed when Major Carter looked up at him and he saw that her lashes were also wet with tears.

“We thought we’d lost you too,” she murmured. “When we stepped through the gate and saw…”

She shuddered and he remembered that the human version of himself had memories of having pressed a kiss into her hair when she had been weeping – thinking O'Neill lost in a burning building. He bent his head to do as he had done when human and then found himself holding off, because he was not that man. Somehow, with Major Carter holding onto him, it came to him with more certainty that he was indeed not that man. He had never been that man. He had embedded himself in that fantasy as a larval Goa'uld anchored itself in the pouch of a Jaffa, but it had never been real. There were too many memories of this world, stretching back too many years. But then there had been Shaun’ac and a warmth that he could feel, unmistakably real – or just a memory of how they had lain together in the past, with the forbidden scent of the temple upon her skin? Even now, with Major Carter telling him that he was truly home, the fear persisted.

“I am afraid to sleep,” he admitted quietly. “I am afraid that I will lose myself in dreams of another world and never be able to return to this one.” He was certain that he was here only because Daniel Jackson had found him and stayed with him while he slipped closer and closer to death, but Daniel Jackson was gone beyond recall, despite having seemed so real, and if Teal'c had followed a ghost back to the SGC then where was he now but already in the underworld?

Major Carter noticed the book he had been reading and picked it up. She wrinkled her attractive nose. “Hamlet? I really don’t think that’s what you want for bedtime reading, Teal'c. You need something…happy.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Happy?”

She looked at the books on his shelves, ones in which he had spent many fruitful hours seeking after wisdom: the Bible, Koran, Torah, the works of great philosophers, the mythologies of many lands which spoke of the powers of gods whose followers had long since faded into dust. Often had he and Daniel Jackson spent many hours here comparing the gods of the mythologies of the Tau’ri with those of dead and living Goa'uld, debating whether or not the Goa'uld had taken on the mantle of the gods of men or if the gods had no existence except as the aliens of other worlds. Teal'c felt that his array of books were most fitting for a warrior in search of hidden truths and took a quiet pride in their wisdom but Major Carter seemed less impressed.

“If you can’t sleep – and if it turns out that I’m just a figment of your imagination then perhaps you shouldn’t, because I have a date tomorrow night that I’d really like to get a chance to go on – then you should read – or better, be read to – a happy book.”

He felt a slight sense of disquiet. On occasion, it was true, Major Carter had been most accommodating in viewing with him some of the movies of the Tau’ri for which he had developed a particular fondness, but he also remembered that she – like Doctor Fraiser – had an unfortunate attachment to movies in which there were no spaceships of any kind, nor battles, nor explosions, but only a great deal of talking and – often – crying.

“By a happy book, Major Carter, do you mean…?”

Major Carter was already delving into her pockets with every sign of pleasure at having exactly what the situation required. She flourished a worn paperback at him. “This is the best book ever written.”

“Indeed.” His feeling of disquiet was not dispersed by her certainty, or indeed by the way her blue eyes were shining with conviction. He was reminded all too clearly of Daniel Jackson’s excitement when faced with the prospect of a wall of tomb art which would afford the rest of them considerable boredom while he shared his excitement at this discovery with them at great length.

Major Carter snuggled in against him as if he were a comfortable pillow, and he found himself putting his arm around her shoulders as if it was the most natural thing in the world, unsure how much that action owed to his human counterpart or to their long association and ease with one another. She turned to the first page and began to read: “‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’”

Teal'c frowned. “I was not aware that this was a universal truth. Might a single man possessed of a good fortune not wish to keep it entirely to himself? Or indeed to seek the company of those of his own sex?”

“It’s meant ironically, Teal'c,” Major Carter explained patiently. “Just go with it.”

The phrase was unfamiliar to him and familiar at once, the two realities between which he had so recently drifted like a ship in a restless sea, still overlapping one another like waves, yet, as Major Carter kept reading of a time and a country which he had never visited and – barring solar flares – never should, in a tale that seemed to focus solely on whether or not two fictional humans could overcome their largely self-created problems and admit their attraction to one another, he found the other worlds which were not this time in this place slipping further and further away. He was not sure if it was because he did not believe that he could have conjured from his subconscious mind a story of this kind, told in these words, or if it was simply the presence of Major Carter by his side; a warmth that he could feel; but by the time she read to him the words: ‘Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters’ he felt himself again.

He felt that he was here and this was real and that he might sleep and even dare to dream and would still awake in this world as this man, and know himself to be Teal'c, son of a valiant father and father of a valiant son, sholva, widower, free Jaffa, and member of SG-1.

As she finished the last page, he nodded his thanks. “That was indeed a most satisfying tale.”

“I knew you’d like it.” Major Carter glanced up at him, and it occurred to Teal'c that he was very comfortable with her leaning against him in this fashion, and that she seemed equally comfortable with his arm around her shoulders. “Teal'c, would you mind if I stayed here for the rest of the night?”

He blinked in mild surprise then inclined his head. “I would be most gratified by your company, Major Carter.”

“I thought you might find it easier to sleep if there was someone here with you – even if I am a figment of your imagination.”

Knowing she was teasing him, he could not help smiling back, the fears which had seemed so paralyzing earlier appearing a little foolish now. “I do now believe that you are entirely real.”

“Well, that makes two of us, but just in case it should turn out that you are actually somewhere else entirely and I’m just a voice in your head, why don’t I stay here while you sleep and then if I start fading out, I can wake you up, and keep you here…?”

His candle flames were reflected in her eyes, along with a glint of humor she could not suppress. His fears now seemed very foolish, but it was not entirely unpleasant to be mocked by a friend, especially a friend for whom he cared so very much and who clearly cared for him with equal warmth.

“I would be most grateful if you would do so, Major Carter,” he told her, and bowed his head so that their foreheads touched in respect. She showed no surprise at his having done so but laid her head upon his chest as if she needed to hear his heartbeat, her fingers entwined with his so that he could not slip away again – to other lives, or other deaths.

When he slept he dreamed, not of the wailing sirens of fire engines or the spirits of the dead Jaffa taking flight like birds upon the wing, but of himself in a small chamber in a gray concrete bunker buried far beneath a mountain, with a friend sleeping beside him, and another friend watching over him, and this time the words that came back to him brought nothing but comfort.

I promise you this is real. You're just going to have to trust me on that. You go to sleep. When you wake up, everything's gonna be fine.

Teal'c slept on, comforted by the echo of those words, and did not wake for many hours, and when he did it was to a small gray room, smoke-hazed from candles burned down to the wick, and a left arm numb from being slept upon by a friend. And this time, even though he was certain now that he had never truly been that fireman with no emblem on his head, who acted like a Tau’ri and knew nothing of the dignity of the Jaffa, and certain also that he was not dying amongst the other dead with the screams of the buzzards echoing in his ears, he did not hesitate to press a grateful kiss into her hair.

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