There was no justice in the universe. If there was, how could Tanith
The very thought haunted Teal'c; his first when he woke, the last thing in his mind as he fell asleep each night. Revenge had become something he craved more than food or water, the thing that drove him onwards. The thing that made Daniel look at him like he had lost his wits.
Daniel had made his thoughts clear on the subject the last time they had spoken and since that conversation the two of them had fallen into an uneasy truce. It was as if Tanith's presence hung between them, almost tangible, but neither spoke of it. Any conversation was trivial, or mission-related, nothing more.
But Teal'c could still see the same emotions in Daniel's eyes, if he cared to look.
He busied himself with other things, anything to avoid the opportunity to look at Daniel. That way, at least, he could try and pretend it was unimportant. That he didn't care what Daniel thought, that revenge was all that mattered.
And most of the time Teal'c was able to convince himself that was the truth.
Though it brought him much pleasure to be the one to tell Tanith that the Tok'ra had known all along that he was a spy for Apophis, the fact that he still lived was a constant source of aggravation.
Even so, Teal'c was happy to be the one to bring the news to Tanith of his sentence. That he would be separated from his host and left to the dubious mercies of Apophis gave him some pleasure - after all, it was only fair that they should rescue the host, Hebron, if at all possible - but only some.
And then Tanith had attempted to goad him into violence and he had realised the fear that the Goa'uld was currently experiencing. That poor attempt to avoid the vengeance of an angry false god had shown him how scared Tanith actually was. It had been most satisfying, even as Tanith's words concerning the murder of Shao'nac had burned him.
After all, he could only kill Tanith once and the innocent host would suffer too. Apophis could kill Tanith a thousand times, each time a torment, and revive him again and again. It was only fit that the murderer be punished accordingly.
He could not stop looking, even as the Tok'ra continued their evacuation, despite the expression on O'Neill's face. He had been given the chance to kill Tanith, more than once, and had been persuaded to let him live, that he was more useful to the Tok'ra alive and passing information to Apophis. The information they wished passed, anyway.
Still, as the hours passed, he knew the search was fruitless. If he was to find Tanith, it would have happened by now - the Goa'uld had doubtless concealed himself somewhere, waiting for the chance to leave the planet one way or another.
Teal'c returned to the Tok'ra tunnels reluctantly, barely aware of the frenzied activity that surrounded him. It was as though he was contained, somehow, isolated from all that went on around him, caring for nothing but the fate of one individual still at large on the planets surface.
He was deep in thought when Daniel found him. He had come to make sure that Teal'c knew the plan Major Carter had dreamt up, not knowing that she had already been by to inform him of it. She had not stayed long, his obvious lack of interest in any kind of conversation apparent.
But Daniel was different, persistent, concerned.
"Twice I have had the opportunity to avenge the murder of Shao'nac. Twice I have let Tanith slip through my grasp. I have failed Shao'nac."
Daniel had an explanation ready for him, a reason why he should leave the planet without a second thought, but it held no real conviction. He could see in Daniel's eyes the answer to his question, even as he asked it.
He knew that Daniel had considered the death of Apophis at his hands, that he had stood over the other man as he lay dying in the infirmary at the SGC and only at the end desired to show the host some mercy. That there was a darkness inside Daniel equal to his own, but better disguised, less apparent.
In the end, they were very much alike.
O'Neill had been first puzzled and then dismayed, as if he could not believe what was happening. If he felt any pang of conscience about what he had done, Teal'c supposed he should feel it now, as he turned from what they needed to do in order to seek vengeance on Tanith.
But he felt no guilt.
Just a burning certainty that he was right, that O'Neill would understand once he had time to explain it. That he would make his friend understand the need for this action, given the liberty to talk about it, once Tanith's corpse lay mouldering somewhere.
And if O'Neill did not, then at least Teal'c had his revenge.
"Teal'c! Pull up!"
O'Neill's words echoed in his ears, but he paid them no heed.
All he could think of was Tanith, the gloating expression on his face when he had boasted of killing Sha'onac, the way he had been almost forced to agree to let the deceitful one go. But no more. He would see Tanith pay in blood for the suffering he had caused.
Even as they burned through the atmosphere, Teal'c could think of nothing else. He turned over possibilities in his mind, considering more and more bloody and painful ways to kill the one he hated so.
"Mayday! Mayday! We are so going in!"
He had been wrong, it seemed, about O'Neill. From his flippant comments, it was clear that he did not truly understand the desire for revenge that had led Teal'c to risk both their lives.
Still, that was a minor problem. In order to be rescued, they needed to head for the Tok'ra base and Teal'c found himself leading the way, O'Neill dogging his heels. And still complaining, though not openly, about being on Vorash in the first place. If he did not know better, he would have said O'Neill was without honour, that he did not comprehend the need for vengeance as any warrior should.
They would be rescued, Teal'c was certain of that. If he had learned anything in his time with the Tau'ri it was that they did not leave their own behind, even if it risked the rest. And when he had dispatched Tanith, even though his vengeance could not bear full fruit, he and O'Neill would be rescued.
"So, now what?" O'Neill asked. Teal'c turned, words of assurance on his lips, as a familiar sound ripped through the quiet of Vorash.
Teal'c awoke to pain, a burning in his back. He stretched tentatively, discovering that his hands were bound behind him, pulling his wound so that waves of agony arced through him at every movement.
Not unexpected, the voice he had heard so many times before, often in his nightmares. Teal'c closed his eyes as another wave of pain swept across him, gasping for breath as Apophis' booted foot shoved him over onto his injury. He lay awkwardly, a few shaky breaths passing his lips before he could open his eyes.
Nothing had changed with his former master. The same arrogance shone from his eyes even when the golden glow was not present - the eyepatch did nothing to hide the personality that possessed the host.
"I have use for you, Teal'c," Apophis continued, coming to stand over him.
Teal'c felt the solidity of Apophis' boot as it was carefully positioned in the hollow of Teal'c's shoulder. The smallest pressure made him wince, the pressure increased until he was certain he would black out from the pain. Then it was gone, only the residual agony any evidence of Apophis' actions.
"Is that the best you can do?" Teal'c snapped. If he angered his former master, could he make him enraged enough to kill?
Apophis smiled, a slow cruel expression, one that Teal'c had seen a thousand times before in his service.
"On the contrary," Apophis said. "It is only just beginning."
Teal'c had no idea how many hours or even days had passed - time meant nothing to him.
All that he remembered was the sarcophagus, interspersed with torture at the hands of Jaffa he had once considered comrades in arms, if not friends. At first he had clung to the thought of rescue, certain that his friends at the SGC would never stop looking for him, but as time had passed he knew that possibility was less and less likely.
Anger began to take hold, anger against the people who had promised him friendship and had failed to come to his rescue. He had walked away from all that he had known, followed them blindly to another planet and now they had betrayed him.
Apophis' voice whispered in Teal'c's ears, telling him that he had always been his trusted servant, that his time among the Tau'ri had been an opportunity to serve his god elsewhere and he held to that idea with desperation.
If he had been there under false pretenses, seeking information to aid the cause of Apophis, then the betrayal he had felt meant nothing.
If the friendship was not real, then there could be no betrayal.
Gradually the anger was replaced by scorn, contempt for those weak and foolish enough to believe that he could possibly betray his god in that way. Strong emotions, worthy of one who was First Prime.
He would show them, show the Tau'ri the truth and then watch them die.
Now that he knew the truth, things seemed much clearer. He had been following orders, feigning a comradeship he could never truly feel, pretending to follow the orders of someone he despised. As if a former First Prime could obey the leadership of one who could not even control the actions of those who followed him.
Teal'c thought back on his time with the Tau'ri.
He had been able to convince them all of his loyalty so easily. All it had taken was to stand with them when Kawalsky had been taken over by a Goa'uld and they had been willing to believe in him implicitly. They had wanted to believe a Jaffa could betray the Goa'uld and Teal'c had been more than happy to accommodate that belief.
He had been expected to take orders from Major Carter too, even though the thought of that had burned at him. It went against all Teal'c's experience, his every instinct had rebelled at the idea of being told what to do by a woman.
And as for the third member of their team... Perhaps when Apophis conquered their planet, he would reward his loyal First Prime by gifting him with this one, should he survive?
He would say nothing of this till the time was right, for fear that Apophis might misunderstand his motives, think him weak and foolish. Not that it was likely that the one called DanielJackson would survive - Apophis would seek to wreak a terrible revenge on the one he held responsible for the loss of his son and future host.
In the end it was even more simple than Teal'c had expected.
All he had to do in order to gain access to the hat'ak was to announce himself to the Tau'ri and they had allowed him aboard. Once there, it was childs play to disarm the one known as O'Neill in the pretense of embracing him and hold them all at gunpoint while Apophis boarded.
"Well done Teal'c, finally you have regained your rightful position as my First Prime."
He saw the looks of disbelief cross the faces of those who considered him a friend, expressions that did not waver even as the Jaffa he commanded herded them into a storage room.
Even then, when all evidence pointed to the fact that Teal'c had know returned to the service of Apophis, they still tried to convince him of his mistake. Tried to appeal to a better side he did not possess. And that effort, whispered words to Teal'c to the effect that he would play along with whatever plan Teal'c had, earned O'Neill a blow to the face and a bloody nose.
"I have never ceased to be in the service of my god."
The looks were there, still mystified. The one known as O'Neill was the most persistent, the most vocal - the one known as DanielJackson the most puzzled.
"I remember everything. It makes me ill to think I was forced to pretend to be your friend. So many times I saved your life when I wished I could watch you die."
When DanielJackson began to speak, talking to him of his son, Teal'c turned away. He would not listen, would not expose himself to the lies of those who still considered themselves his friends, even though he had betrayed them now.
Capturing the Tok'ra known as Selmac had been easier than he expected - as he had thought, he could be found trying to help the others to escape and was easily added to their number.
Still, even with this evidence, the Tau'ri continued to push, assuring Teal'c that he knew the truth, that Apophis was no god.
"The truth is when the symbiote I carry matures, you will be its host."
He had seen O'Neill's face pale a little at that statement, even though it was unlikely to ever happen. O'Neill would be dead long before the symbiote he carried was mature - the honour of carrying it as a host would go to another. Still, the fact that the idea of it unsettled the Tau'ri a little was a pleasure in itself.
Teal'c smiled to himself at that thought as the door closed on their captives.
He had failed his god, allowing himself to be captured rather than killed.
"You may torture me all you like, I will tell you nothing."
Teal'c had not expected to regain consciousness, thought that the Tau'ri had killed him when, even then, he should have known they would try to 'save' him. To rescue him from what they considered a falsehood, to return him to what they believed to be true about his mission on leaving the service of Apophis back on Chulak.
He spat his defiance at them, at the one called O'Neill and smiled to himself as the Tau'ri left him alone once again. Now, knowing he would serve Apophis till death, now they would believe him loyal to his god and act accordingly.
Even as a prisoner, they treated him kindly.
That was a source of confusion as the hours passed; all his experience told Teal'c that he would be tortured for information, if not slaughtered out of hand. He expected it every moment and though he sought for calm, that frisson of fear remained with him, lurking at the back of his mind as he stretched out his consciousness towards stillness.
He should not be afraid, not of them. When had the Tau'ri been anything to fear? They had shown themselves to be weak, choosing friendship over duty, and that weakness would be their downfall. He would use it against them, play them at their own game.
If they believed him no longer loyal to Apophis, though such a thing could never be, they would allow him more freedom. Teal'c smiled to himself, considering the vengeance he would wreak upon them on that day.
Teal'c did not respond, reaching deeper into himself as he heard the sound of booted feet moving a little on the metal plates of the ship near where he sat. It was the Tau'ri known as O'Neill once more, the one who had spoken to him most since his capture.
The others were there too, nearby, though he would not have seen them if he had opened his eyes. The woman, Carter, intent on some detail of the ship's functioning. And the other one, DanielJackson, his eyes bright with intelligence yet unknowable, taking everything in. He would be difficult to fool.
O'Neill was their leader, Teal'c knew that from his long association with them, though he seemed to see it through smoke and shadow. But his leadership did not stop the others speaking with a freedom Teal'c had never allowed his own subordinates.
Now was not the time.
He would need to choose his moment, the moment when they would believe him, when they had tried long enough that a seeming change of heart would be convincing.
Not long, for they wanted it to be so. Would be willing to believe it to be so. And that would be their downfall.
- fin -
To be concluded in 'After the Storm', coming soon...