Author: Green Eyed Monster
Category: angst / whumping
Spoilers: Show and Tell, Heroes, Season 8
Sequel/Series Info: None
Content Level: 13+
Content Warnings: Whumping, character death
Summary: What happened to Reetou-Charlie after Jack sent him off with the Tok'Ra?
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1, its characters and all related entities are property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc / The SciFi Channel. No copyright infringement is intended.
File Size (kb):
Archive: None. Please ask if you want to use it somewhere
Author’s Note: BIG THANKS to Renwah and Anny for the emergency beta!
The hunter crouched over his prey, eyes half-closed, savoring this long awaited kill.
Satisfying, oh, so satisfying.
And there was more to come. He shivered with the anticipation. Only a few short kilometers away, three more lay slumbering in their little camp…
Weapons fire blazed through the gate as a figure stumbled through, dragging another, a thick bloody trail marking their path. Brown eyes, already wide with shock and effort, ignore the heavy weapons ranged on this side of the gate, darting instead over his shoulder to the Gate.
"Close the iris!" The command came from above, the voice familiar and strong.
The metal lens closed with an implacable finality. He sagged to his knees with the proof that he and his companion would be the only ones coming through. Dull thuds sounded on the barrier for another moment, evidence of pursuit or more weapon fire.
The man slowly looked up in the sudden silence, sweat streaking through the dirt and blood on his face. He held still, waiting for the armed men facing him to make the first move.
The tableau was broken by General O'Neill, unarmed, striding past the others. With a wave of his hand, all the weapons were lowered. He knelt before the pair on the ramp.
"Charlie," he whispered.
The brown eyes flickered with emotion as they met Jack's, then Charlie dropped his gaze to his injured Tok'Ra companion. The other was taken from him, gently, and laid on a gurney. The gaping hole in his chest still smoked at the edges, though the river of blood that had left the crimson trail had nearly stopped. They turned to the young man next, but he shrugged off their assistance, telling them his injuries were minor and would be healed by his symbiote.
The ensuing two days were difficult for Jack. Charlie, the Reetou-spawned human who had wanted to be his son, was back. The unexpected joy at his presence mingled with the heartbreak of his sad story.
He hadn't seen they boy – young man, now – since his last visit almost a year ago. That time, Charlie had showed him the Tok'Ra training ground and chattered away about being given a real mission soon. Novices worked in teams with the more experienced, and Charlie had been smugly sure he'd become an independent operative quickly.
But not like this.
He and his team had been ambushed by Reetou. The rebel-faction of the giant-spider-like creatures made no distinction between Goa'uld, Tok'Ra, or human. Two of his team died on the spot, never even making it out of their besieged camp. Charlie had made a desperate call to Earth for help; the Tok'Ra were on the move again and did not have anti-Reetou safeguards operating yet at their new base. His last remaining teammate had been struck down on the verge of safety, and the young man was alone.
Jack ached to see the young man so bereft. As a dutiful soldier, Charlie had sent a message to the Tok'Ra about the massacre, and given instructions on how to return his friend's body to the host's home planet. As a man in mourning, he felt some need to attend every SG team's departure, including SG-1's, standing solemnly behind the General in the control room until each wormhole closed. Silently wishing them well, perhaps, or punishing himself by watching intact teams go into action. As a person barely out of childhood and shocked by this new dose of bitter reality, he had otherwise remained alone in his borrowed quarters. He didn't want to speak to anyone, and had a new aversion to being touched.
Jack wanted very badly to help. Beyond sharing some too-short periods of silent misery, all he had been able to do so far was to waive the required physical exam for him. The fact that the new doctor let him do it – Janet Fraiser never would have allowed any such thing – only underscored the poignancy of unwelcome change.
He resolved to do something more.
Jack arrived at Charlie's quarters at 0500 hours the next morning. He knocked quietly, half-convinced the still-desolate survivor had changed his mind about going fishing with him.
The door opened, and a somewhat uncertain Charlie stood before him, looking more the boy than the soldier.
Jack smiled, not widely, it was too soon after the young man's ordeal for humor, but enough to show his pleasure. Charlie followed him out to the car, barely even glancing at the to-him-alien planet's exterior. Jack installed him in the passenger seat, the action bringing up memories of strapping his young son into the car.
"No," he cautioned himself. "This is not your son, and not a child. He's a grown man now, a soldier facing his first loss."
They drove in near silence, uplifting classical music quietly playing. Jack had chosen the piece specially; it had helped soothe his own aching soul in dark times past and he hoped it would do the same for his young friend. Whether it helped or not, he couldn't be sure.
They found a comfortable spot under a tree. Jack prepared the fishing poles as Charlie watched with forced interest. They were, after all, finally going fishing after talking about it sporadically for years. Jack demonstrated baiting the hook and casting, pushing back another wave of fatherly emotion. Even if he was teaching another Charlie how to fish, this was not his Charlie. The lure of family ties, even ones as nebulous as these, was nonetheless hard to resist.
They settled down to fish. Charlie had several false bites before he got the feel for what was a weed dragging on his line and what might be a fish. They leaned against the wide, rough tree trunk, shoulders just touching, thinking their own thoughts as the sun rose above the mountain.
"This is nice," Charlie said finally.
"Fishing. The quiet, the beauty here, the warmth of this sun, the smell of the grass. Even your insects are pretty." He flicked a finger toward a sapphire dragonfly and it flitted away on long gossamer wings. After a moment, he went on. "It's more than that, really. The whole thing together. Fishing. It soothes the soul."
"I've always thought so." He was careful not to grin at his still-grieving companion, but inwardly he exulted that Charlie innately understood what no one else ever seemed to. Finally, someone who understood about fishing!
They talked for a while, about fishing. Jack told him about his childhood fishing trips, and about his cabin in Minnesota. Charlie asked questions about both, and Jack was pleased to see him opening up.
In the midst of telling an old tale – well, a new one to Charlie – Jack coughed. The sound startled a nearby rabbit, who bounded noisily away through the undergrowth.
Charlie sprang up at the sound, crouching defensively, fishing pole in both hands as a weapon.
Jack stayed carefully still. "It's ok, Charlie. It was a rabbit. A harmless plant-eater. I scared him when I coughed."
Charlie closed his eyes, facing away as he took deep breaths to calm himself. "It sounded like…"
After a moment of silence, Jack encouraged him gently. "Go ahead. You can tell me."
Charlie shook his head, still facing away, and Jack wondered if he was crying. With a final breath, the young man turned back and fiddled clumsily with his fishing pole. When he untangled the line and re-cast it, he sat back down.
They fished in silence for a while.
"Have you ever been afraid?"
"Everyone's been afraid," Jack pointed out. A first time soldier facing his first loss of life needed to hear that, to know it was normal.
"You never seem to be."
Was that resentment in his voice? Or failure that he wasn't matching up to the old man – an old man, Jack reminded himself yet again. He was not Charlie's father. "I've had more practice hiding it than most people have."
Charlie glanced at him speculatively. "What are you most afraid of?"
Jack hesitated. One side of him warned against the danger of admitting any weakness to any person. Another pressed him to give a meaningful answer to the distressed youngster beside him. No harm in the truth this time, he decided. "Being captured by Ba'al again." This time it was he who looked out at the water to avoid meeting the other's gaze.
"What did he do to you?"
Crap. No harm in the truth, eh? Well, no way out now. "He tortured me. Again and again, asking for intel I didn't have." He picked up a stone and threw it angrily into the water. "I used to think it would be easier if –" He didn't finish the sentence.
Jack sighed. He was digging himself a bigger and bigger hole. He glanced at Charlie, saw those eyes, so like the real Charlie's, looking up at him so much like his beloved son used to, and his heart melted. How could he refuse to answer? There was a need in the young man's eyes that was impossible to deny. "I used to think it would be easier if you were asked for something you didn't know, because then you couldn't tell, no matter what they did to you."
"No. If you have the information, then it's your choice. You have a reason; you're protecting something. Every time you hold out, you win. And… if," Jack looked away, resolved to tell a possibly life-altering truth but fearful of seeing disappointment in those eyes, "if it gets to be too much, then you have a way out." There. He had never told anyone that. Daniel was the only other person in the universe that knew that Jack had been ready to do anything, anything at all, to earn himself one final and permanent death.
"You were desperate but there was no way to give him what he wanted." The words were soft, tinged with an unidentifiable emotion, and Jack was glad he wasn't looking at Charlie.
After a moment, Charlie spoke again. "How did you get away?"
"Yu attacked Ba'al's base. When he brought down the power grid, I just walked out." Simple words to summarize a frantic flight out of the base and near-hysterical attacks on every guard they happened upon. He'd been determined – still was, actually – that he would never, ever go back there.
Jack glanced sharply at him.
"The escape, I mean," Charlie clarified. He paused, then continued. "You always seem to be lucky; you and your team have survived for years. I lost mine the first time out."
Jack put a comforting hand on the other man's shoulder. "You did your best."
"It wasn't good enough!" Charlie's voice was rough and bitter. He pulled away from Jack's touch, sitting sideways against the tree, fishing pole dangling, forgotten, in his hand. "I was the only one who could see the Reetou rebels. I was our only chance. My team needed me, and I failed them."
"Charlie," Jack said softly. "Sometimes you just can't win. It was five-to-one, and they had the element of surprise on their side. No one could have saved the whole team."
Charlie slowly turned back. "You really think it was ok that I didn't save them?"
Jack nodded somberly. "It was an impossible situation. You didn't really have a chance. Try not to blame yourself."
Charlie's eyes almost sparkled. "Thank you. I –" his eyes widened suddenly. "I have a bite!" He pulled his pole so hard that the fish flew out of the water, flashing silver in the morning sun before splashing back down. He jerked the pole again, laughing as the fish repeated its performance.
Jack laughed, too. "You've got him hooked! Just reel him in. Reel him – turn the handle! Just turn the handle!"
Charlie alternately turned the handle and pulled the pole, over and over until he flung the fish into the tree branch overhead. Jack doubled up with laughter at the sight. Charlie enthusiastically worked at it until he stood triumphantly before Jack with catch in hand, man and fish drenched and covered with bits of leaves.
Jack looked up at the young man, seeing both excited child and fledgling soldier, wounded soul and healing heart. He felt a flush of pride, happiness, and a nervous hope for the future of his sometimes-son.
"Are you sure? You could stay." Jack put his hand on Charlie's arm. The emotional events of the past days had drawn them closer than before, and he knew he would miss having 'family' of his own around.
"I'm sure. I know what I need to do now."
There was a renewed confidence in his voice that was good to hear, but the vague wording was worrisome. "What?"
"I promise I'll show you, when I'm ready."
Good enough. If there would be results to be shown off, then he wasn't off on a suicidal revenge mission. Jack smiled. "Ok, but you know I don't like surprises."
"I know." Charlie smiled, the first one Jack had seen since the loss of his team. It didn't last long. "Jack…thanks."
"For telling me what I needed to know." He was all seriousness now.
"I meant it." Jack looked him in the eye, willing him to understand the emotion behind the gaze.
"I sure hope so!"
Charlie laughed, and Jack chalked the odd joke up to a stressed young man needing to know his reassurance was for real. For all his new bravado, the Tok'Ra still seemed a little shaky. He clapped him on the shoulder and sent him on his way through the Stargate.
Jack smiled as he attacked the mountain of paperwork on his desk with a new zest. Charlie was coming back soon, and if he had enough of this done, they were going to Minnesota!
His newfound enthusiasm for paperwork lasted three whole days. Until SG-1 failed to report in. They did not respond to radio contact. A heavily-armed search-and-rescue team found evidence of a fight, staff weapon blast marks and empty P-90 magazines. But no SG-1.
They found little to tell who might have captured them. The UAV still showed no signs of life anywhere nearby on the planet. Which left the awful conclusion that they had been taken through the gate by Goa'uld or persons unknown. They contacted the Tok'Ra, who did little beyond promising to keep an eye out for them. The Asgard weren't much help, either; even they were unlikely to find three specific humans among the billions in the universe.
After three days, Jack ended the fruitless search of SG-1's last known location.
After seven, he reluctantly declared them missing-in-action.
After nine, his wish for information was granted, but not by his diligently working staff.
"Unauthorized off-world activation!"
Jack strode out of his office and into the control room. "Anything?" He couldn't keep the note of hope out of his voice. Could this be SG-1 coming home?
The attendant shook his head. "No, sir."
Images began to form in front of the metal disk of the closed iris. Three distinct images arranged in an arc; Carter, Teal'c, and Daniel, each laid out on web-like metal platforms. Jack shuddered as he recognized Ba'al's handiwork; the metal grid held his prisoners firmly and uncomfortably, while the gaps between conveniently allowed blood and guts to drain neatly away.
"What do you want, Ba'al?" Jack hoped his voice sounded angry and not plaintive.
An image of the system lord appeared, smiling, in the midst of the others. Carter's image was above him, Teal'c's to the right, and Daniel's to the left. Ba'al chuckled, that evil little half-laugh of his. "I want to grant your wish. You want to know how these three met their end. You can see for yourself." As he finished speaking, all three arched in pain, their cries heartbreaking.
Jack couldn't help himself. He yelled 'No!'
Ba'al stopped, with a smirk. "You wish to offer me something of value in return for their lives?"
"We don't deal with terrorists."
"As you wish." he waved a casual hand, and the torture resumed.
God! What was he supposed to do? He knew perfectly well that Ba'al was pressuring him. And that it was working. But it was one thing to say you don't deal with terrorists and another to watch your own former team die before your eyes.
"Stop!" Jack intervened.
The system lord paused, crossing his arms and smirking expectantly.
Jack ignored the urge to run down there and try to punch that smirk off the evil holographic face. "What did you have in mind?" he asked cautiously.
"I will spare the lives of these two," Carter and Daniel arched in pain again, "in exchange for," he paused dramatically. "You."
Jack was glad his hands were on the back of a chair. He wasn't sure he could keep standing without it. Why couldn't Ba'al ask for something easy? The Statue of Liberty, for instance. Or one high-ranking former official; Kinsey would do nicely. "You know I wouldn't tell you anything."
Ba'al didn't bother to challenge the assertion. "No need. These," another casual wave and all three cried out, "have already given me all that I asked. Your deaths," he emphasized the plural, "would simply be more amusing to me than theirs."
Jack blanched. Hand himself over to Ba'al? He couldn't. He just couldn't. Not that. Anything but that. Endless deaths, each more horrific than the last. He looked past the system lord to the horrendous backdrop of pain. He couldn't leave anyone else there. With a shivery breath, he offered, "Me for all three."
Ba'al laughed. "No."
"All three or nothing."
"As you wish." He turned away, raising that deadly right hand to restart the torture.
Chuckling again, Ba'al turned back to watch Jack squirm.
"There must be something…" Jack trailed off. The only thing Earth had that any Goa'uld did not was the weapon of the Ancients, and that was not a choice. Not even for SG-1.
Ba'al considered. "The Shol'va has repented, and acknowledged me as his true god." He smiled, that evil, amused half-smile that still sent shivers down Jack's spine. "You may take his place. Come to me on your knees before your people. Crawl to me, call me your god, and admit that a Tau'Ri's rightful position is as a slave to the Goa'uld. Beg me to permit you penance and redemption." He waited with triumphant expectation.
"Done." Jack was surprised, actually. Not that he liked the idea or anything, but if a little humiliation would save Teal'c as well as the others, then crawl he would. No one would believe that Jack actually believed a word of it; he would not really be considered a traitor to Earth or humanity. "I'll need time to gather the troops. What's your address?"
Ba'al gave it to him, pointing out that it, like the Tau'Ri gate, was protected by an iris. If he should dare to send 'the troops' through the gate, they would die instantly.
Jack made the announcement over the loudspeaker to gather in the Gate room. While people assembled below, he ordered his staff to change every password, every security item, any and everything they could think of. His last act was to have the gate dialed to given coordinates.
Jack entered the gate room just as the wormhole established.
A hologram of Ba'al promptly appeared, larger than life, a few feet above the ramp. Great. The whole SGC would have a super-sized view of the humiliation part.
Jack got down on all fours and crawled through the gate, trying not to hear the rumble of confusion and dismay as his people watched. He shrugged off the hands that tried to hold him back, ignored random pleas to stop.
His enlarged image appeared next to Ba'al's as he arrived. "My God," he said, prostrating himself before the system lord. He proceeded to disown Earth and humanity in favor of the god incarnate. He begged for penance to show his true faith and to redeem his lowly slave-self.
Ba'al instructed Jack to hand him a pain stick lying nearby.
He silently obeyed. For the team, for the team, for the team, he chanted to himself. He knelt before the 'god,' arms wide, waiting.
Ba'al held the stick to him until he collapsed, then berated him for his weakness. He had not done as required and truly given himself over; if he had, he would not attempt to deflect the righteous wrath of his god by falling away from the pain stick. He raised his hand, moving to disengage communications. Deal broken.
Jack tried one last tack. He begged for mercy, in earnest this time, apologizing for his weakness, and saying that the mind was willing but the flesh was weak.
Ba'al considered his plea, then instructed him to manacle himself, as an aid to his weak flesh.
Jack accepted the heavy bracelets, gaudy as all things Goa'uld, and set the chain linking them over a low hanging tree branch. He slowly put one wrist in each, so that the branch would hold him up when his body failed. The flesh now reinforced, Ba'al stepped up.
"Please, God." His voice sounded almost plaintive, but whether it was a plea to the God he believed in or the would-be god before him, only Jack knew.
Ba'al activated the pain stick again.
After a seeming eternity, Jack realized that the pain was ebbing. He was hanging by his wrists from the tree. It hadn't been as long as it felt; the wormhole was still open.
Ba'al casually raised his left hand and blasted the branch off the tree. It, and O'Neill, fell to the ground. The human, dazed and on all fours, looked up at him.
"The lives of the other three will be spared," the Goa'uld declared. He took a step closer, menacing his prey. "You belong to me now."
Ba'al disengaged the wormhole, and Jack dimly wondered how he did it as his enemy dialed a new address. His new 'god' waved him through the gate. The General started to rise, but took warning from the other's expectant smirk. He dropped back to his knees and wearily crawled through.
They emerged on a desert planet. Jack's knees and hands burned in the hot sands as he crawled along at Ba'al's heels, but he did not dare to stand yet. Not until he saw his team go home.
His nemesis stopped him with the simple expedient of standing on his new slave's hand. Rings appeared around them and suddenly the landscape changed. Cold now, instead of hot. Damp instead of dry. Dark instead of bright. Ba'al thoughtfully waited, still standing on Jack's hand, until his slave's eyes adjusted to the dank dimness.
Three metal spider webs, on three walls. One bigger one on the floor in the middle. Jack stared at the empty one, mesmerized with horror. No, please, not again. The old feelings resurfaced; of helplessness and of being totally exposed to his enemy's mercy. He thought he might vomit.
His team called out to him and his resolve was strengthened. For the team, for the team, for the team.
"Offer yourself to your god." Ba'al waved Jack to the big spider web on the floor.
He crawled forward, then stopped, unable to face it again. Even his 'for the team' mantra was not enough anymore. The memories of the past, the certainty of the type of future that awaited, were simply too much. It wasn't a theoretical offer anymore; the terrifying reality was right in front of him.
"You may choose to sacrifice their lives for your freedom," Ba'al taunted. "Simply rise and walk out. You will not be stopped."
His teammates exhorted him to do just that; get up and walk away. Ba'al was not to be trusted.
Jack wavered, then looked at his former teammates, each one bleeding and broken, all offering themselves for him. He couldn't let them do it. He crawled all the way to the web before stopping again.
Maybe he couldn't do it after all. He knelt there, shaking, breathing hard, unable to so much as touch the web, knowing that the moment Ba'al turned on the gravity he would be effectively welded to it, helpless once again. He couldn't do this. He couldn't.
He couldn't not do it.
His silent little war went on for a few moments, while his not-so-silent teammates argued with him to leave while he could. He wanted to yell at them to shut up and be saved; this was hard enough already! He tentatively touched the cold surface of the web. Rough this time instead of smooth, he noticed inanely. He slid his hand along, focusing on basic observations instead of the action as a way avoid thinking about what he was doing as he climbed upon it. He felt something, different than last time, but equally good at holding him fast against the web. One thing hadn't changed; the web still seemed to be designed to ensure that some part was always digging into the occupant's back, not that he'd notice that small discomfort once Ba'al started administering his 'penance.'
Ba'al stepped up, looking down at him.
"I gave myself to you, now let them go." Just let him see that, and he could surrender himself to death, insanity, and more deaths with – well, he could do it anyway.
Ba'al's lips twisted in a leering grin. "I offered you their lives, not their freedom."
Jack's eyes widened in horror. How could he not have realized? He struggled now, vainly. "No!"
The Goa'uld continued to leer down at him. "They will live for a very long time, whether they wish to or not."
Ba'al stepped away for a moment.
He returned, sporting several sharp daggers in his belt and carrying an ominous vial of fluid.
Jack almost screamed at the very sight. Not the acid. Not that. The very first time, he hadn't understood what was happening. Now he knew exactly what was coming.
Ba'al followed his victim's fixated gaze to the vial. He raised it over his powerless victim.
Jack squirmed, trying vainly to get out of the way of the acid. That innocuous looking drop clinging delicately to the vial would bring incredible pain. He was breathing hard with panic and effort, but still helplessly spread eagled before his soon-to-be murderer.
"Beg me," Ba'al ordered.
O'Neill was happy enough to comply with that. "Please, don't. I beg of you, don't use that. I –"
Ba'al tipped the vial and Jack gasped. "You asked for penance. Beg me to give it to you. With this."
The human was frantic now. If he asked, his torturer was sure to oblige. If he didn't, would it be better or worse?
"Beg for it!"
"No!" The answer was out before he could stop it.
The vial moved.
Jack squeezed his eyes shut and twisted up his face in preparation for the agony.
After a brief eternity, he opened his eyes to find out what was happening. As soon as he looked, Ba'al squeezed the vial, sending not a drop but a whole stream of fluid spurting.
Jack screamed. He struggled frantically but uselessly until suddenly he realized.
There was no pain.
How could that be? Was he dead already? He looked to Ba'al for an explanation; the Goa'uld loved his explanations. Gave lots of details.
Ba'al's image wavered, and suddenly Charlie stood there instead.
His mind must be playing tricks on him. "Charlie?"
"I promised I'd show you what I was doing, when I was ready," the young man taunted.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Just returning a favor, Jack. I sent you off to face what you feared most, only it's actually worse than you even imagined, isn't it? Just like you did to me."
Charlie flew into a rage at the question. He stalked back and forth, hands fidgeting with the daggers in his belt. "Mother never intended to keep me; she wanted me to stay with you. I wanted to stay with you. You sent me off with the people I feared the most in all the universe."
"It's ok, Charlie, they're Tok'Ra," his voice was mocking. "They used me!" He flung one of the daggers at Teal'c and it lodged in his thigh. The big man limited himself to a grunt of pain. "They tricked me into telling them about the Reetou, and when I realized, my beloved symbiote raped my mind and took the information against my will. For the common good of the Tok'Ra."
"They used me to make a new weapon. The Reetou know it had to come from me. Doesn't even matter that I was forced; it happened before, it can happen again. They want me dead!" He hurled another dagger, at Carter this time. Jack heard it scrape bone as it hit her ribs. She cried out, the sound ebbing to a series of soft moans.
"The Goa'uld want me for my ability to see the Reetou. They want to use me, too, or dissect me to find out how I do it. Strike three!" O'Neill winced at the reference to the ball game they had watched together even as the next dagger whistled through the air. It pierced Daniel's shoulder and the linguist put his skills to good use with what had to be a string of profanity in one or more languages.
"You," Charlie growled, standing over Jack. "You did this to me. All my life, I've been hunted by the entire galaxy. I'm alone. There's nowhere in the universe that I fit in. No one I can trust." His voice was a low, pained hiss. "I should have died after I gave my message. You should have let me!" He kicked Jack viciously.
"You coward! Sending a child off to face his worst fear to save yourself from watching him die. You didn't even come with me, you didn't make sure that the repugnant reptile even pretended to have my best interest at heart." He stood on Jack's knee, the bad right one, grinding his weight down onto it. The General grimaced, biting his lip in an attempt to keep silent.
"I had just saved a whole race, your race, and this is what I get for it?" He stomped down on Jack's left hand, earning a pained cry for his efforts.
"Well, it's *my* turn now. *I* will be the hunter. *I* will take what I want." He planted his foot on Jack's chest. "Like revenge."
Charlie watched as the object of his hate stared up at him in fear and despair, waiting for the moment when he would realize that the sand on his boots would activate the acid he'd poured onto Jack. The eyes widened, and the bane of his existence gasped. He smiled as once-mighty General trembled, then groaned with the pain of it.
"Enjoy," he mocked, strolling casually away.
Jack woke to the metal web digging into his back. He lay still, thinking. Charlie must have healed him after he passed out, or died. He found himself half-hoping that there was a sarcophagus here somewhere instead of just a hand-device; the insanity the sarcophagus engendered sounded pretty good compared to the reality of being tortured by someone you cared about.
O'Neill stretched as best he could to see his team. "Everybody ok?"
Teal'c inclined his head. Carter nodded gamely. Daniel gave him that 'are you serious?' stare.
Jack stared back at him defiantly. "Look, I thought –"
"No, you didn't." The voice came from the other side of the room. Charlie was back. He soon appeared, looming over his prey once again. He held a small golden object in his hand, bluntly square and only about two inches across, it fit easily into his palm.
Not sure he was ready to find out what that was for, Jack tried to talk to him instead. "You're right, Charlie," he said agreeably. "I didn't think. But I want to understand. Tell me what happened."
"I killed you," he retorted, his tone making it clear that he thought that should be obvious.
"I mean before that. Was it the Reetou attack?" Risky question, it could get him to open up or send him into another rage.
Charlie smirked, reminiscent of Ba'al's expression. "There was no Reetou attack."
"I killed them, all of them."
"Would you like to hear the story?"
Jack nodded dumbly, stunned at the news, but certain that words, any words, were better than any action that might follow.
"I started with my beloved symbiote." He smiled at the memory. "I told him I didn't want to be a host anymore and if he kept me against my will, he'd be no better than a Goa'uld. We convinced a local man to become a host." Charlie leaned forward, warming to his topic. "I waited. Until their blending was complete, and both were awake. Then I killed them. Slowly." He elongated the word, savoring it.
The deranged young man sighed with satisfaction. "The rest were easy. I just went back to camp. Walked right up to Han'ak, who was on guard duty, and shot him. It woke Ta'reem and Du'lan, of course, but I was already up and armed." He shrugged, the 'good part' of the story over. "Then I set up the 'battle' scene and called you. 'Please, Jack, help me!'" he mimicked the distressed cry that had led Jack to open the SGC's iris.
"I already told you why!"
Jack backpedaled quickly in the face of Charlie's fury. "You told me why you hate me. But why kill your team?"
The re-direction seemed to mollify him somewhat. "It gave you a good reason to talk to me, to share your fears with me. If I just showed up on your doorstep, you wouldn't have said any of that."
It was all part of the setup? Four more dead – eight if you count man and snake separately – just to get him to talk? Jack closed his eyes in despair.
"Does that mean you're done talking and ready for action?"
Jack's eyes snapped open. Nope. No way. Not ready for action. Sticks and stones could break his bones but words would never hurt him. Physically, anyway. Speaking of which… "How can you survive without a symbiote?"
"A sarcophagus, of course. The Tok'Ra database had the location of one, just as a notation since they are too high and mighty to actually use it."
"But you were fine when you were on Earth." Jack didn't want to believe that Charlie was a 'sarc-junkie,' as Daniel had once called it. He had been at the SGC for days; surely someone would have noticed him deteriorating. If only Janet had been there to insist on a physical examination...
"A holographic costume, like this one." He briefly became Ba'al again, sneering at the involuntary reaction of his victim.
"That's why you didn't want to be touched."
Charlie seemed annoyed at the obvious comment. "Any more stupid questions?"
Oh, yeah. Got a million of them if it kept them talking instead of hurting. "How did you capture SG-1?"
It was Charlie's turn to give the 'are you kidding' look. "Oh, please. I just walked up to them and zatted them."
"All three of them?" No one was that fast, not even Teal'c.
"They all came right up to me so they could hear what I had to say. Stupid, even for humans. I was more concerned about hitting one of them twice than missing."
With Jack's encouragement, he cheerfully went on to detail how he'd first taken the opportunity to capture SG-1, conveniently knowing their location from his 'vigils' in the SGC control room. He held them captive while he researched the Tok'Ra database for Ba'al's preferred methods and Kanan's reports, there learning about the web frames, knives, and acid. After that, it was a simple matter of preparing location, props, and the holographic costumes he'd used. All to cater to a former-friend's worst fear coming true.
Finally, Jack could think of nothing else to ask.
Charlie smiled at him. "I hope you enjoyed our little chat because as a stalling technique it didn't work." On cue, Carter, Daniel, and Teal'c all started gasping and moaning.
"Stop it! Leave them alone!"
"I am leaving them alone, Jack. Their webs were active while you were trying to distract me. It was only polite to use the sound shield so their screams wouldn't drown out your words."
"No." It was a whisper.
"Now, Jack, you shouldn't feel guilty for not saving them. After all, you don't have a chance against me."
No! Not that, too! Everything he'd said as comfort was being used against him.
I'm sure they don't mind you taking time out for a little chat." He smiled at one and all. "Now then. Enough talk."
The young man tortured them all, singly and in groups, over the next days. Or maybe weeks; it was hard to tell without windows or clocks. And when you're in pain, minutes seem like hours.
Charlie was clearly insane, possibly due to the sarcophagus which he needed frequently to maintain his imperfect body. He grew more and more violent as he failed to get the release he seemed to expect from torturing them. Still, there seemed to be some kind of method to his madness, as if he were working toward something. And always, he held and fondled the little golden square.
Jack despaired as time went by and they all deteriorated. Carter, game at first, then grimly determined, had suddenly freaked out a few 'adventures' back, and every time since. Daniel had gone from cursing in multiple languages to gibbering in terror. Teal'c was worst off. He slumped on the floor, unbound, awake but not moving.
O'Neill woke to the now-frightening spectre of Charlie hovering over him. He fought to control his breathing, to focus on anything to keep his mind from what might be about to happen.
"It's almost ready, Jack," Charlie whispered eagerly.
Oh, no. Did he even want to know what "it" might possibly be?
"I want you to try it out."
He suppressed – barely – a whimper at the idea.
The young man held the golden square before Jack's eyes, gazing at it fondly. "It's not perfect yet," he warned, "so you can only try a little bit right now."
Fine with him! The littler the better!
Charlie slowly lowered the square, sliding his fingers through the silver hair almost lovingly as he moved the object to the base of Jack's skull.
Jack gasped as it bit into him.
Charlie waited until his prey's anxious gaze returned to him. "Ready?"
Jack just stared. He could not bring himself to say 'yes' to that. Each encounter had been worse than the last, and given his tormentor's excitement, this was likely to be a big non-improvement.
Charlie leaned forward eagerly…
Terror. Pain. Intolerable. It was intolerable. She couldn't stand it. No, no, no! She thrashed, the pain in her flopping limbs increasing with the motion. No-o-o-o! Hysteria mingled with the pain, each increasing the other.
Jack gasped, breathing hard as Charlie's face swam into view.
"Was it good?" He didn't wait for an answer. "I think hers is the best so far. I think I've captured the ultimate sensation she can give."
"Carter." O'Neill trembled with the full knowledge, the total understanding, of what had freaked Carter out. The sadistic, insane bastard had chopped off her limbs, then placed them carefully in the sarcophagus with her. Like a broken doll repaired by a silly child, her limbs were all wrong. Her right hand, her trigger hand, was switched with her left foot. The other two extremities were twisted around backward, so that her left elbow bent forward and her right knee back. They were all clumsy and half-limp. She'd never be able to really do anything with any of them again; none of the exploring or science she was used to. Her life as she saw it was over. Just to top it all off, Charlie had let her heal improperly so that there was searing pain where each limb was joined to its new home.
"Ready for another?" Again, he didn't wait for an answer.
Darkness. Silence. Nothingness. Nothing but the pain. The beauty, the elegance, the excitement, the wonder of the world, of all the worlds, was gone. Replaced by pain, pain that worsened with every vain attempt to use the senses torn from him. He still tried, less and less often…
The horror faded, changing into Charlie.
"More esoteric, don't you think?" he asked conversationally. "I'll keep recording until he gives up entirely, though. He'll probably despair beautifully when he surrenders totally."
"Oh, Daniel." Jack understood now the depth of the man's passion for language and art and history; just that moment had instilled in the General a new respect for the wonder of it all and how the millions of different things fit together in one complex whole. He knew, too, how much it hurt – literally and figuratively – Daniel to lose his ability to connect to the elegant universe through sight and sound. And he knew how terrified the man was that he would never get sight, hearing, or speech back. His fear would drive him to keep testing his senses for as long as he could stand the pain that increased with each attempt. After that…
Weakness. Futile anger. Failure. Humiliation. Weakness was death, and his weakness would soon be the death of not only him but all four of them. Guilt. Guilt drove the anger and the attempts that led to the failure and humiliation.
This burst was the shortest. Jack was trembling with rage from and for Teal'c. Charlie had done something to the man, leaving him too weak to move. His seeming freedom was just to build on his frustration and humiliation. His captor taunted him all the more by walking within inches of once-powerful hands.
"How do I make him believe that you think he's weak?" Charlie asked. "It'll be more intense when he is sure that you despise him for being too weak or afraid to save you."
It was only a moment before O'Neill realized that the madman was recording him, looking for ideas on breaking Teal'c. He quickly visualized a brick wall, building it in his mind, one identical stone after another. He hoped that one moment hadn't betrayed Teal'c to the enemy.
Charlie smiled, sure he'd find what he was looking for on the little square. He removed it with a snap that elicited a yelp from his victim. "I'll be back soon. You're next."
As if he hadn't already manufactured a hell specially for Jack.
O'Neill woke in the sarcophagus. Again. It had been days, or maybe weeks, since their torturer started concentrating on him. The General's experience in the Air Force had given him some tools to fight mind control. The only problem was that Charlie's handy recording device showed him what Jack was doing, and also proved that it grew harder as his pain level rose. So he had quickly combined direct physical pain with more playbacks of what his team was enduring.
He had lost count of how many times Charlie visited, and how many times he woke up whole again. He knew where the sarcophagus was now; part of the game was forcing him to return to the web voluntarily under threats to his teammates. He waited for his former protégé to come and give him the choice again.
He didn't come.
And he didn't come.
As torture went, lying painlessly in a box didn’t compare with the other experiences, so he doubted that this was a new test. He began to believe that Charlie has simply discarded him, or put him away for future use. The thought scared him, and he scrabbled at the smooth interior of the sarcophagus.
His questing fingers found a ridge at the top of the case, above his head. He'd never been awake in one long enough to notice before. He pried and pulled at it, to no avail. If only he had a tool.
The golden square.
It was still installed in the back of his head, presumably so Charlie could record all Jack's experiences.
He pried it off his head, grunting at the pain. When it receded, he pressed the edge of the box into the ridge. He pressed and wiggled and slid.
Suddenly the sarcophagus opened.
His joy at escape died instantly as Charlie laughed at him and what looked like his pitiful attempt to protect his face with his arms.
Jack was given his choice, return or let one of his friends die, and he made it, as usual. He obediently crawled back at the heels of his new god.
"What did you do?!?"
Jack woke from an exhausted sleep to pain and Charlie's raving.
"You broke it!"
The young man pounded him angrily with his bare hands. The hysterical beating went on until Charlie inexplicably left.
The General soon found out what he had broken.
The tiny golden square hadn't opened the door, but it had gummed up the works enough that it broke when Charlie tried it next.
He became even more terrifying than before, withdrawal from the sarcophagus and his physical breakdown turning him into a madman. He babbled, he attacked, he cried, he shrieked. Eventually, the withdrawal seemed to ease, but there was nothing to be done about the physical deterioration.
Charlie was dying.
Impending doom didn't trigger a deathbed repentance; it seemed to spur him to new heights of cruelty. He tortured them with renewed intensity, pushing each toward their own ultimate fear and pain with the clarity of his sarcophagus-free mind. He repeated the same things, with small changes designed to intensify some aspect, over and over.
And he shared it all with Jack.
He 'played' the recordings into the helpless human's senses and used his reactions to fine tune the next encounter. The repetition began to dull the effects, a fact which frustrated and angered Charlie.
"You have to feel it more!" he half-screamed.
"Why?" Jack asked dully. "Haven't you done enough?"
"I have to finish it! I have to!" He waved his arms in frustration.
It took a moment before his victim could form the thought to answer. "Just kill us and get it over with."
"Not that," Charlie dismissed the idea of their deaths as trivial. "The book."
"What?" His captive blinked slowly, not understanding.
"I'm creating a book," he said it almost tiredly, no longer sure his masterpiece would be completed. He held up a blunted square, twin to the one destroyed with the sarcophagus. "A full-sensory book, the kind the rest of the galaxy uses. You don't just read it, you see, hear, and feel it."
"All this has been for a book?" His voice broke on the last word, and Charlie wondered if he should have told him sooner, to increase his angst. Imagine his futility, knowing that he was re-experiencing things just to get the perfect agony on record.
"Not at first. The recorder was just part of your punishment. I wanted you to really understand what you did to everyone. I wanted you to know that you delivered them to their utmost pain and fear, just like you did to me." He paused. "Then you broke the sarcophagus. You killed me when you did that, Jack. You know that, right?"
"I didn't mean to—"
"Don't lie to me!" Charlie grabbed the acid bottle and held it menacingly.
"I did it on purpose," Jack recanted urgently, eyes riveted to the vial of liquid fire above him.
The bottle tipped downward, earning a satisfying whine and cringe from its target before passing over and returning to its home within easy sight and reach. A clear warning that better responses were expected.
"I stopped real torture when the sarcophagus broke. I didn't want any of you to die before I did. You had to suffer at least as long as me." He paused, the light of insanity rekindling in his eyes. "Aren't you going to thank me for keeping you alive?"
"Thank you." His voice was tired, defeated.
"Wish I had that recorded," Charlie lamented.
"Why a book?"
"Trying to distract me?"
His victim's eyes widened; he was well-versed now in the results of attempted subterfuge.
"No! I just want to know."
He chuckled, granting a reprieve more from his own illness than true mercy. "Seemed like a good idea at the time. Might have been the sarcophagus talking. Now I just want to get it done." Once he'd begun, it nagged constantly at him to be finished.
The feeling was familiar. He'd written books for years, some containing his real thoughts and others just for fun. Disguise like that was the only way to have private thoughts when you shared your brain with someone else. His symbiote had considered it merely a form of stress-relief. Until the host-kills-symbiote one came true.
He saw the human wilt at the 'just get it done' comment.
He deliberately misread the reaction. "Don't worry, there's still time to get the perfect responses recorded," he patronized, as if that were his lead-character's concern. "We can start again right now."
He reached down to switch the golden square back to 'record' and the fic-a-thon resumed.
It was a soft sound, hushed and almost inaudible.
Followed by a dual thump as Carter and Daniel fell to the ground. Jack tried his own body and found himself able to move as well.
He checked on Charlie first, to make sure it wasn't a trick. He was slumped in his chair, as he had been more and more often. Alive, but just barely. Too weak now to control the devices in the room.
Jack checked on the others. They were very much alive. And intact. Carter was testing her hands and feet, all back in their customary places. Daniel was staring at everyone and everything and talking constantly to hear his own voice. Thankfully, the pair must have been recently healed when the sarcophagus had broken. Teal'c was still the worst off. He still lay on the floor, watching motionlessly.
Daniel and Carter went to Teal'c and Jack returned to Charlie. He knelt next to the evil creature. His enemy. His nemesis. His sometimes-son.
"Carter, Daniel, can you carry Teal'c?" They nodded, moving to do it. Jack started to lift Charlie.
Charlie cried out, waking from the pain of the motion.
Jack slid back down, half-cradling him, uncertain now whether to take him or just leave him to die. There wasn't much point in moving him, really; not even a Tok'Ra would take him now. Charlie's hand slid up Jack's arm to his neck, as if in a last embrace. Before he could react, the golden square bit into him and he was lost in another world.
Carter pulled it off quickly, but not before Jack had a glimpse of the contents. It was Charlie's own experiences. The full onslaught of his feelings about being betrayed or hunted by human, Tok'Ra, Goa'uld, and Reetou. One theme ran through it all: he'd loved his sometimes-father more than Jack had known. And correspondingly hated him more for sending him out into the cruel universe instead of allowing him to die happy.
He realized that Charlie was watching him, once more gauging his reaction.
A tear slid from the dying man's eye, and he looked away.
"It's ok, Charlie." He tightened his embrace slightly. "It's ok to cry, remember?"
His sometimes-son returned his gaze, whispering. "Is dying number three on the list of approved reasons to cry?"
"It's number two." Eclipsed only by number one, having your child die before you.
His heart broke as another Charlie died in his arms, as much a victim as the first.
The Plot Bunny That Started It All:
What happened to young Charlie the Tokra. Write a fic where Charlie
comes back to the SGC. Is he angry? Does he want to stay? He is being pursued
by an enemy? What are his feelings about Jack after all these years? What
kind of man has he become six years later?
Notes: This fic must use elements of angst and whump but anything else is for you to decide. Based on Episode Show and Tell