No matter how I turn things over in my brain, I still can't quite get
everything figured out. I've tried writing it all down, looking for the
logical thread that ties all the events I've experienced, or that I
think I've experienced, together and all I do is confuse myself more.
So, in time-honoured tradition, I try to determine what I know.
Sha're is dead.
That's irrefutable, though at times my memories protest that truth, the memories of waking up and finding her at my bedside, or walking straight from my apartment into the sands of Abydos, all of them turning my certainty into disbelief.
All I can know to be true is that Sha're is dead.
Anything else, anything that happened in the moments between Amonet trying to kill me and her death at the hands of Teal'c, those moments that became days and weeks for me, anything else is imagination.
So why can't I turn away from any of it? Why can't I forget the side of myself that I saw and hated?
Teal'c saved my life.
That's another certainty. If it weren't for him, I would have been the first one to fall, my brain destroyed by yet another exposure to the Goa'uld hand device.
And Sha're... Amonet? Captured or killed, and if captured, turned over to the folks at Area 51 for interrogation, her living hell prolonged by people who cared nothing for the host, only wanting what the Goa'uld it carried could give them.
Better she were dead than that.
I hated him, though. I looked into myself and saw the darkness there, the darkness that the Goa'uld feed on in their hosts, and it frightened me. The words stay with me, their venom cold as I spat them at Teal'c, frozen in a moment that never truly existed.
"You should have waited longer."
In that moment, I am all the things I despise about the Goa'uld. I am Machello, prizing his life above all others, I am myself back on Shyla's planet, caring more for my own ability to possibly turn things around than the life of my friends.
Haven't I learned anything about that darkness and its power?
And how many people have a chance to do what I did? To experience all of that, its aftermath, and to prevent it happening, all in one moment?
But my first instinct was to lash out, blaming Teal'c for every time we had come so close to rescuing Sha're, and for all the chances that would never now come to pass. All the future we both should have had, together or apart, the options that were stolen from us by Sha're's death.
That it should be Teal'c is the ultimate irony, I suppose. It was his choice that she became Apophis' queen, taken from me then, and now his is the hand that takes her from me forever.
Then, I could not see the pain this realisation caused him, buried in my own anger and despair. I could not see what this did to him, the blow it dealt covered by that stoic exterior that I chose to believe in, needed to believe in. If Teal'c was cold, as cold as my heart was then, he couldn't feel the pain I was inflicting, could he?
No wonder Sha're was so insistent that I forgive him.
Now, looking back, I know it was all imagination on my part, none of it real, not even the pain I thought I felt. I had bitten back tears as I packed up my office, trying hard not to show my weakness in front of Jack, torn between needing to go and having nowhere to go to.
What did I have left to run to? All that I had, all the family, all the meaning of my life, was bound up in the SGC.
"I joined this program so I could find my wife. I found her, end of story."
Simple words, hiding the truth beneath them. I saw Hammond nod, even though he knew them to be the mere shadow of my time with the SGC - I managed to distill it all down and almost convince myself. Forget that I had joined the SGC in the first place because I had nowhere else to go and no reason to go anywhere anyway.
No, I could use my grief as a shield, holding it between myself and anyone else who wanted a piece of me.
Packing up my office was hard. Every book, every artifact, was bound up with history, memories of place and time that stood apart from my search for Sha're. They tied me to this place, these people, in ways that I didn't want, in ways that I was desperately pushing against.
"Jack, up until now, every time I've set foot through that 'Gate I was thinking about my wife."
It was a truth. But not the truth. Not all of it. No-one can be that single-minded without going a little crazy and, despite evidence to the contrary, I'm still pretty sane.
Another loss, another in the succession of things ripped away from me. At least while Sha're was alive there was a chance, but now, now she was just another statistic.
And there are only so many losses you can take.
Who would be next? We'd already come close to losing Sam last year, that thing with Jolinar and the Ashrak had been closer than I liked to dwell on. Jack had almost become a host, courtesy of our good friend Hathor. Teal'c we'd almost lost three times, twice because of different planets ideas of 'justice' and once from a nasty case of insect bite.
My emotions were starting to feel like the universe's personal punching bag, one way or another. Time to retrench, time to pull up the drawbridge, time to go back to being self-reliant.
I'd almost said everything, somehow hoping Jack would want me to stay, but the words had died unsaid in my mouth, tasting like ashes. I couldn't do it, as much as I wanted to turn away from all that could hold me to the SGC, I couldn't tell Jack how much I needed not to go. How much I needed...
I don't know what it is I need, haven't done for the longest time.
Like I told Hammond, I'd had tunnel vision, fixed on the thought of rescuing Sha're, not even allowing myself to think about what could happen next. But I'd needed to do something, brace myself against the possibility I might go out there and not come back one time, so I'd written Jack a letter, telling him everything.
In hindsight, I regret it. What could that do but increase his pain if something did happen to me? And I know I left it round here somewhere...
~ fin ~
To be continued in 'Parting Shot'...