He had learned much in his time among the Tau'ri.
Teal'c looked down once more at the paper that lay before him, his eyes following the loops and whorls of his own creation, seeing inscribed there the victories and defeats he had suffered alongside the people he had come to call his friends.
Strange, to find friendship, when he had not looked for such a thing.
It had been the decision of a moment to walk away from all he had once known, though it had taken him a lifetime to reach the point where such a decision was possible, a lifetime of service to one he had long known to be false. Years spent speaking words that were like ashes in his mouth as he performed obeisance to an arrogant creature. But no more.
That moment had come and gone, balanced on a knife's edge for what seemed like an eternity as he and the man he would come to know as O'Neill assessed each other across a crowded dungeon. It was a scene he'd witnessed, had even participated in, a thousand times before, but this time.... This time he had broken free.
He had learned much about what was in the heart of a man in his time serving the false god, but little of that had prepared him for the people he was to come to know amongst the Tau'ri.
Teal'c had learned about vengeance first-hand. He had sworn he would avenge his father's death at the hands of Cronus, repeating that vow to himself silently every time he had heard his mother crying in the night. And so he had come to serve Apophis, Cronus' sworn enemy, and this service had led ultimately to his salvation when it might as easily destroyed him.
He had seen what power had done to Shak'l, the kind of monster it had turned him into, but if it had not been for Apophis, he might never have met Master Bra'tac. In those kind dark eyes he had discovered understanding, the bottomless well of patience Master Bra'tac had with the abruptness of an adolescent yearning for revenge. The patience to turn that potential darkness towards good rather than evil, towards the saving of life rather than its destruction.
As a result, his quest for vengeance had not consumed him, as well it might have. That fire should have burned him from the inside, charring all that he was, destroying all that he could be.
But he had also not been prepared for meeting one like DanielJackson.
He had been the one who had suggested that Teal'c keep a journal, patiently teaching him enough of the written language to begin such an endeavour. Daniel was a true teacher, as patient as Bra'tac in his own way, if not as stern. He was also someone who had not allowed revenge to overtake his true nature, as Teal'c had come so close to doing.
Daniel had looked at him with eyes full of understanding, pushing back what must have been instinctive revulsion at associating with the man responsible for choosing his wife as the future host for Apophis' Queen. The man who had also become the one who took the life of the one he knew both as Sha're and Ammonet.
Teal'c looked down at the paper once more, the account he had written of that day. Simple words hiding a legacy of pain and forgiveness. Daniel had told him of his experiences at the hands of Ammonet, this idea that Sha're had somehow communicated with him, telling him that her death at his hands should be forgiven. Still, Teal'c found it hard to believe.
And then there was Major Carter.
Teal'c had never been one to believe that women were weak. His experience in the service of Apohis had allowed him to see things that the other Jaffa did not, experiences he wanted desperately to forget. But he had learned that a fair face could easily hide a dark heart, that there were many different kinds of strength, and that anyone could be weak at some time.
Thus, in some ways, he was more ready for Major Carter, as she had been when they had first met, than might have been expected. Teal'c thought that she probably expected he would resent her position, cavil at her orders, but he had never had anything but respect for her. She had proved herself as a warrior, a loyal comrade in the most difficult of circumstances, and that was all he required of anyone.
And, in many ways, this place in which he found himself was familiar, its hierarchies a comforting thing to one who had so long lived in service to a higher authority.
In O'Neill he had found a companion, someone who had suffered much in the pursuit of the things he had been ordered to do, someone with whom he shared much in common. Someone who would, he hoped, understand the way he had always lived, the things he had shared with those he toiled alongside. Someone who understood the need to relieve the tension and adrenaline of a strenuous mission.
But still his mind kept returning to Daniel, even though his brain told him that O'Neill was the logical choice. He should go to O'Neill, find the words somehow to ask for what he needed. He had learned early on in his time amongst the Tau'ri that such things were not spoken of, or at least not within the military. But Teal'c was sure O'Neill would understand, would not condemn another for his need.
So what was it that held him back?
It had always been his way, the way of those he had served with, the search for mutual pleasure with others of his kind. He had been faithful to his wife, not one who went in search of pleasure with other women anyway, loyal to her even when others would try to gain his favour. He had seen through those enticements for what they were - they held no interest for him.
Strength meeting strength was what captivated him. Not the warmth of flesh covering fullness, all curves. It was not the yielding softness he had always associated with his wife alone that attracted him when the need was upon him, but muscle like his own. The kind of muscle he had lately begun to see on Daniel, his long months of training paying off at last.
He knew Daniel had worried about his own fitness to be part of SG-1, working hard in the gym to raise his stamina, but Teal'c had never really taken much notice of the other man's body. Until recently, at least. Recently it was all he could do to take his eyes off Daniel.
At first Teal'c had wondered if it was deliberate, some clumsy attempt at a form of courtship on Daniel's part. Observation over time had ruled that out, proving that Daniel's actions were guileless, innocent of any base motives that Teal'c could see. It could be as simple as Daniel not taking into account the way his body was changing, still attempting to wear the same sized clothes and forgetting the way they accentuated each curve of newly-toned muscle. After all, Daniel had no way of knowing what he did.
They had spoken of it once, a casual conversation becoming more intense, Daniel's hesitant words making the discussion more awkward as he spoke of what was not allowed within the SGC.
At first Teal'c had not understood, wondering how such a thing could be against the ways of a place where so many lived in such close proximity. What relief could be found if traditional methods were against what was allowed? His puzzlement had clearly been a source of some embarrassment to Daniel, who had blushed and stammered his way through an explanation of sorts.
At the time, Teal'c had assumed that he breached some taboo, mentioning a subject not spoken of. Though he was careful with his words, and spoke only when he had long considered what he was to say, there were still times that he knew he erred, touching on subjects best left unspoken. That was only to be expected.
Daniel had been his teacher in many things, O'Neill in others. Teal'c had found it easy to speak with them, certain of their willingness to teach him the ways of this new strange world he now called home. Sometimes O'Neill had shrugged when asked a question, and suggested he ask Daniel for an explanation, but there was no pattern to those suggestions that Teal'c could discern. Some days O'Neill would happily discuss anything, it seemed, while on others he seemed more guarded.
Daniel, on the other hand, seemed to have a little knowledge on most subjects and as time had passed Teal'c found himself going to Daniel first for explanations. It became more and more natural, each mystery filed away for further consideration and quiet conversation in Daniel's living room.
Time and the choice he had made had sundered his relationship with Dry'ac. Even when he had returned, wondering whether she still waited for him, the more pragmatic side of his nature told Teal'c that was impossible. In the society of Chulak, she needed a husband if his own stigma, the name of shol'va, was not to stick to her as well. For her sake, for the sake of their son, he could not blame her choice.
And then his past had come back to haunt him once more, bringing with it a face he thought never to see again, the promise of a relationship that offered all Teal'c wanted. Someone who shared his belief in change, someone with ample curves, a sweet nature and the face of a long-lost friend. He should have known it was too good to last.
After Sho'nac's death, Teal'c had sworn revenge, only for that revenge to almost destroy him. That he was forced to choose whether to exact that vengeance at once, or delay it and assist the Tok'ra with their plans, was torment to him. And if that were not bad enough, his relentless pursuit of Tanith had threatened the life of those he called friends. Revenge had consumed him, his every thought while awake, tainting his dreams while asleep.
Except for the ones about Daniel, the ones that grew more detailed and frequent as the weeks passed.
Teal'c was puzzled by this. The more he tried to focus on Tanith, his long experience of serving the Goa'uld allowing him to dream up a thousand ways to watch Tanith die in a painful and lingering manner, the more his subconscious ambushed him. As if Daniel were somehow a lifeline, his last link with sanity, binding him to a world after revenge.
If his overwhelming desire to kill did not repulse Daniel completely, driving a wedge between them.
In the end, he was almost glad Daniel was off-world when the message from Harlan came through. The chance to take his revenge on Cronus, one step along the path of vengeance he had sworn himself to so long ago without Daniel's silent observation of his actions. Not that Daniel would criticise him, not openly anyway; the expression on his face would be enough.
It was worth the wound to see Cronus die, even if the sight of his own face in death was a harrowing one.
More harrowing had been the discovery of what remained of the robot Daniel, the body charred and twisted by the explosion that had freed the robot Carter, the head lying discarded in Cronus' private chamber. As if the Goa'uld had gazed on it in solitude, wondering what mysteries it held, what knowledge, only for death to overtake him.
It looked just like Daniel. Naturally. So much so that Teal'c was forced to remind himself that he had watched the real Daniel Jackson walk up the ramp and through the wormhole just hours before the message from Harlan arrived. That he had been studying Daniel's ass, the way his fatigues hugged every curve, as if burning the sight into his memory. As if he would never see Daniel again and needed to remember just what it was he found so enticing.
They gave the head back to Harlan, along with what remained of the other bodies. Maybe he could restore them all, bring that oddly passive looking face back to life once more.
The time spent in the infirmary was one of reflection, his prim'ta hard at work repairing the damage done by Cronus even as his mind turned the subject of Daniel round and round, examining it from all angles. He desired Daniel. Was his desire for revenge on Tanith stronger? Perhaps. And which of these seemingly conflicting desires was likely to be satisfied first?
He waited for Daniel's return, a quiet presence in the bustle of the control room as the time approached. As usual, no-one spoke to him, allowing him to stare out at the 'Gate undisturbed as he waited for the distinctive sound of an off-world activation. As he waited for Daniel, an unfamiliar feeling in his stomach, almost nervousness at the thought of his return.
When it came, the iris sliding back when the IDC signal was received, Teal'c found himself studying the surface of the event horizon, waiting with growing impatience for Daniel to step through.
The surface broke as the first couple of travellers stepped through and Teal'c found himself eyeing them, dismissively once he realised that neither of them were the one he sought. The next one to step through, however, was a familiar figure. He was out of the control room and on his way down the stairs to the 'Gate room before Daniel had reached the bottom of the ramp.
"Welcome back, DanielJackson," Teal'c found himself saying, suddenly more conscious of the mass of people in the 'Gate room. People he had never really noticed before, airmen with guns ensuring that the incoming travellers were who they were meant to be, technicians clearing up after the SG teams, unnecessary observers of their reunion.
Lost for words he reached out and took Daniel's pack from his hand, discovering that it was heavier than it looked.
"I brought a few samples back," Daniel said, his eyes still on the pack. His tone was apologetic, even though he'd had to make his own way to the 'Gate unaided under that load.
"It is fine," Teal'c replied, as he followed Daniel out into the hallway.
Was he as transparent as he feared? Part of his uncertainty in the 'Gate room was the concern that his desire for Daniel was written on his face for all to see. For Daniel to see.
Daniel who was currently keeping up a running commentary of what he had discovered on the planet, so used to Teal'c's presence that he did not bother to look round to see if he was listening. Trusting that he would. Teal'c felt that uncertainty in his stomach settle a little, the comfortable relationship that already existed between them a reassuring one.
They had reached Daniel's office by now and Daniel took the pack from him with a small smile.
"Pizza later?" he asked, the other hand resting on the door handle.
"I would be pleased to accompany you outside the SGC," Teal'c replied. He turned to walk away, secretly pleased at the success of his plan. He would be visiting Daniel's apartment, away from the prying eyes of the SGC. What better opportunity could he ask for?
"And you can tell me all about the mission you've just been on," Daniel continued. Teal'c paused, turning back to where Daniel still stood. "And how you were injured."
That made him stop, the words unexpected even though he probably should have known better.
"The tale is long," he said, still unsure whether it was even something he wanted to share with Daniel. How could he explain the way seeing what remained of his robot counterpart had made him feel?
Daniel shrugged as he opened the door to his office.
"I don't have anywhere else to be."
Teal'c watched as Daniel closed the door between them, leaving him standing silent in the hallway. That had been unexpectedly perceptive, even for Daniel. He would have sworn there was no evidence of his injury and there was no way Daniel could have been told, but even so he had known.
A few hours later and the mystery still remained. Daniel had been unable or unwilling to explain how he had known, but had listened intently to Teal'c's recital of events, chipping in with the occasional question but otherwise mostly silent. Even when Teal'c had hesitantly begun to talk of finding the robot Daniel's head, he had said nothing.
"You're okay?" Daniel asked. He was not only referring to the injury Teal'c had received, that much was obvious.
"It was..." He paused, searching for the right word, suddenly lost in the sea of once unfamiliar language. Daniel's eyes were intent on him, making him look away. He feared discovery, making the appropriate adjective more vital than ever. "Distressing."
Daniel nodded. "I'm sure it was." He paused for a moment, as if considering something. "You got your revenge on Cronus."
Teal'c nodded. "My robot counterpart was the one who killed him."
"So that just leaves Tanith?"
Teal'c knew from Daniel's expression that he had reacted to the name, feeling the way the anger rose inside himself like a coiled snake, ready to strike. It was a cold anger, it burnt brightly.
"He must die." Teal'c heard his voice, the way the words rumbled, the things he did not say as loud as the syllables he spoke. The thin edge of obsession as loud as if he had shouted.
"No matter what?" Teal'c did not reply. "Regardless of what it does to you?" Daniel asked.
"This is not your concern." His desire had ebbed, replaced by what felt like the beginning of anger towards Daniel. How dare Daniel question his right to revenge? He of all people should understand it, even if he did not share the feeling.
"It's my concern if it destroys you, Teal'c," Daniel replied. He was growing angry too, it seemed. "If you let it destroy you."
There was a knock on the door, startling them both, breaking the tension that hung between them, almost tangible.
"That's your ride," Daniel said, glancing quickly across at the clock, his voice quieter now.
"I must leave," Teal'c said, crossing to the door.
He did not look back but he could feel Daniel watching him as he left the apartment. It seemed as though the words they had said still echoed in his mind as Teal'c shut the door behind him, following the airman down the hallway. And as for the things they had not said, those lingered too, waiting for their chance to come to life.
Peace was elusive, even as Teal'c settled down later into the familiar routine of kel no reem. His mind wandered, turning over the events of the evening relentlessly.
The truth about the possibilities of what lay between them had been written there in Daniel's eyes - even as Teal'c turned away from him he knew. He was not alone in his desire. Such protectiveness, such passion, both stemmed from Daniel wanting more.
Did that realisation comfort him? Teal'c considered the idea, then wondered just what it was he really wanted from Daniel and what Daniel could want from him. He was uncertain about both. He had not considered the possibility this desire was mutual, reciprocal, that it could be.
They were due to embark on a mission the next morning, one as dangerous as any they had faced as a team. Now was not the time to embark on something, to dig beneath the surface of his relationship with Daniel to see what lurked there. There would be time enough for that when they returned.