Mathématique: Chapter 47

“Who’s going to volunteer?” Jackson’s voice cracked, his answer already written on his face.

Revised Author’s Notes: This is a piece of fan fiction. It’s a trope-twisting, epic-length, crossover AU that spans all three series of Stargate. There’s a lot of science. A lot of plot. A lot of emotions. Timelines have been slightly altered so that season 4 of Stargate Atlantis (without Carter in command) occurs contemporaneously to season 10 of SG-1, which occurs in the year prior to season 1 of SGU.

Disclaimer: I’m not making money from this; please don’t repost to other sites. 

Warnings: This is probably the worst chapter in all of maths—I’d still argue it doesn’t go beyond what’s depicted in the show, but there’s definitely descriptions of torture in here. 

Chapter 47

Day 1

They filed into his room, a silent trio, two of them in suits, one in fatigues. A dark-haired man. A light-haired man. And Teal’c. Teal’c held his hands behind his back. He nodded at Young when Young nodded at him.

“Sit,” the dark-haired man said.

Young sat.

The dark-haired man sat also, at the small table, directly across from him. The light-haired man did not sit.

“What’s your name?” Young asked.

“It doesn’t matter what my name is,” the dark-haired man said. “I work for the NID. That’s all you need to know.” He pulled a recording device out of his pocket and set it on the table.

“I’d kind of like to know your name,” Young said.

Teal’c, who had positioned himself against the far wall in Young’s direct line of sight, shook his head.

“If you resist any aspect of this,” the dark-haired man said, “know that you will be labeled a security risk and held in a military prison for the duration of all ongoing or future hostile or sensitive actions undertaken by the SGC. The only reason that you are currently in a medical rather than traditional holding cell is that your condition is protected under a subclause of Interstellar Treaty Seventeen, between the IOA and the Jaffa High Council, that stipulates any person or group under the influence of Goa’uld technology, symbiotes, or bioweapons is not to be held responsible for any acts of treason, war, war crimes, crimes of person, place, or property, or any minor infringement covered under planetary law on any world controlled by the Jaffa or the Tau’ri, provided that the victimized state of the affected party can be established beyond all possible doubt, and the afflicted individual does all within his or her power to discover the truth of their previous actions and assists in bringing true offending parties to justice. Pending such an outcome, the affected party is entitled to release from custody.”

“Great,” Young said. “Let’s get on with it.”

“Do you agree that I have explained to you the reasons for your current detainment and the conditions upon which you will be released?” the dark-haired man asked.

“Yes,” Young said.

The dark-haired man opened his briefcase to reveal a small computer with an attendant trail of wires curling away from it. They made a snarled nest in which electrodes were tangled, multiple and unmistakable. The light-haired man moved in, a looming shape in Young’s peripheral vision as he pulled the wreath of wires from the case, and began to untangle them.

“This is a modified version of a Za’tarc detector,” the dark-haired man said. “It will allow us to identify the portions of your narrative that produce a dual neural signature, indicating deceit, coercive persuasion, or significant omission.”

“Sure,” Young said, already feeling exposed in nothing but blue-white scrubs, flinching as the light-haired man began pressing electrodes into place.

When the electrodes had been positioned, nothing happened. The dark-haired man looked at his computer. The light-haired man stepped to the periphery of the room. No one spoke. Young looked at Teal’c. Teal’c said nothing.

“Describe your extraction of David Telford,” the dark-haired man said, “from the Sixth House of the Lucian Alliance.”

Young swallowed dry in a dry throat. “It was SG-11,” he began, “who got the word that he was in trouble. He had been embedded in the Sixth House of the LA, making regular reports, for something like half a year when we got the word that he had been seen on Rolan, meeting with someone in a field of that corn they grow—Kassa, I think the name is.”

He stopped, distracted by the angled view he had of the monitor to which he was connected. It displayed a hazy, shifting image of Rolan, where corn grew atop dusty soil beneath a gray sky that never seemed to yield up rain.

The dark-haired man shifted the monitor so that it was entirely out of Young’s view. “Continue,” he said.

Young hesitated, deeply unsettled at the prospect of some kind of visual record coming out of this. Out of his mind and straight into pixels. He hadn’t known it worked this way.

“Continue,” the dark-haired man said.

“Telford was seen on Rolan, meeting with someone, who, apparently, he shouldn’t have been meeting with, according to the LA. Both Telford and the guy were caught and dragged into the center of the shitty little settlement where SG-11 was embedded. Telford’s contact or source or—whomever—was shot. In public view, right after he ID’d Telford’s true affiliation and rank. Telford’s contact was executed, personally, by Kiva, daughter of Massim. She was considered at the time to be the most powerful lieutenant within the Sixth House. Telford was stunned with a zat blast, and Kiva’s people took him. We didn’t have to ask where. We knew where. A high ranking SGC colonel? That level of intel? They took him home, to the first world of the Sixth House, where he could be worked on directly by Kiva. And by Massim.”

Young swallowed.

“They sent me in to gather intel. I’d been training for weeks for placement in the Second House of the LA, and I was the closest thing to ready that the SGC had at that point. The assignment was to get in, locate Telford, assess feasibility of rescue, and get the hell out without blowing my cover.”

“Please describe your mission objectives in detail,” the dark-haired man said.

“The SGC arranged for me to use a tel’tak,” Young said. “I’m not sure where we got it, word on the grapevine said the Jaffa council had given it to us in return for something SG-1 had done regarding the Sodan, but the details were classified and I didn’t ask. I gated to the alpha site, where I picked up the damned thing. I piloted it, solo, to the first world of the Sixth House, and, using the Asgard stealth technology that the SGC had retrofitted to the tel’tak, I passed through their planetary defenses and set the thing down maybe thirty miles outside the limits of First City, on the slope of an active volcano, just outside the perimeter of the forcefield that prevented any debris or lava from heading in the direction of First City.”

He paused, hesitant to go on, hesitant to even speak the words, dreading the necessary reliving of his initial debriefing, but dreading even more the point at which those words might turn false. The point at which they would.

“I used a skimmer,” he continued, “one recovered from a crash on a world controlled by the Second House. It held up, my paperwork held up, my goddamned outfit held up, and I made it through the perimeter of the city using my fake credentials. I had an appointment with Kiva’s highest ranking tactical advisor, who was interested in purchasing a stolen shipment of Tau’ri assault rifles.”

“Do you remember his name?” the dark-haired man asked.

“Yes,” Young said, shutting his eyes to pull the man’s name out of a place he had tried to forget. “Varro. His name was Varro.”

“Continue,” the dark-haired man said.

“I demo’d the weapons. He inspected the cases of them that had been loaded into the back of the skimmer. We negotiated a price, he took me out for a drink.”

“He took you out for a drink?”

“Yeah,” Young continued. “We hit it off. He bitched about Kiva. I bitched about Varek, a lieutenant in Second House. He bitched about life next to an active volcano, I bitched about life in the swamp of the First World of the Second House. He bought me a drink, I bought him five more. Then we started talking about the Tau’ri. He told me the story of a Tau’ri double agent who had been part of Kiva’s inner circle, and who had recently been ID’d as a spy. He told me they’d tortured the bastard. That Kiva was the type who brought a literal artistry to that kind of thing, if I knew what he meant. I said I didn’t and he said that you hadn’t seen the seal of your own house until you’d seen it carved into the skin of an enemy.”

“It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” Telford says, his eyes dark, his expression agonized. He’s shaking as he shifts to look at the displays beneath Young’s hands. A slantwise glance reveals the bleeding, blurred insignia of the Sixth House, cut crudely into the other man’s chest before Telford shifts the remains of his jacket to shield it from Young’s view.

It will scar. It’s meant to.

Opposite him, the dark-haired man clicked a button. There was silence in the room. “Continue,” the dark-haired man said.

“Varro didn’t tell me where they were holding Telford,” Young said, “and I had more sense than to ask, but he’d as good as told me he was directly involved with the interrogation. And so? I followed him. I followed him home from the bar that night, and I followed him the next day after delivering my shipment. It didn’t take long to determine that Telford was being held in Kiva’s personal quarters. It didn’t take long for me to ascertain I had a reasonable chance of getting him out, on my own. It was a risky call. I was alone, and without backup. If I left to report back, there was no guarantee that Telford would be alive when a fully equipped rescue party was able to make it onto the planet. I saw a chance, and I took it. The LA wasn’t looking for any kind of rescue. They didn’t think we’d have the balls to pull it off. Not on their First World. Not from Kiva’s personal quarters. And so, I watched. I swapped my Second House insignia for Sixth House insignia. I waited for Kiva to leave. I slipped into her quarters at the shift change.”

“Everett,” David whispers, half-dead on the floor, covered with blood, none of it dry and all of it his own. “Fuck, I’m hallucinating.”

“I wish,” he whispers back, and slices through Telford’s bonds. “This isn’t my idea of a good time, you know.”

“Don’t—“ Telford says, strangled and belated, but it’s too late.

Young grimaces as he sees the sensors embedded in the bonds begin to flash.

“Oh what,” Young says, deciding he might as well slice through the cords around Telford’s ankles as well. “You expected something subtle?”

“Not really,” Telford says, his voice cracking, not quite sobbing with relief.

“Please describe what you saw,” the dark-haired man said.

“I saw Colonel Telford, bound hand and foot, covered with his own blood and in serious need of immediate extraction and medical attention,” Young said. “I freed him, and we escaped Kiva’s residence together, killing three of her house staff in the process. We fled the city in the skimmer. We were pursued by Alliance forces in skimmers of their own. We were shot down near the perimeter of the field that protected the First City from the volcano. In the skimmer crash I broke my back and my hip. Nevertheless, Colonel Telford and I were able to make it to the tel’tak and escape the planet.”

The dark-haired man stared at him.

Young stared back.

“That narrative is ludicrous,” the dark-haired man said. “I find it astonishing that more people didn’t question it at the time. Furthermore, your neural signature was doubled for the entire span of your description of events involving Colonel Telford.”

Young stared at him.

“That is not what happened,” Teal’c explained, quiet and solid where he stood against the opposite wall.

“Yeah,” Young said. “I’m getting that.”

“We will begin again,” the dark-haired man said.

Day 2

“There are pieces of it,” Young said, his voice hoarse, “just pieces of it, that exist outside this god damned story that I keep telling you.”

“What pieces?” Teal’c asked.

“I can remember him,” Young said, pulling in a ragged breath. “Telford. In a holding cell. Standing in front of a gold wall covered with black defacement. I remember him holding something in his hands.”

“What was he holding?” the dark-haired man asked.

“A pain stick,” Young said. “The kind we use to scare sense into the new recruits.”

“What does he do with it?” the dark-haired man asked.

“What do you think?” Young snarled.

“This is part of the second narrative,” the dark-haired man said. “The true narrative. Describe everything you remember.”

“I say,” Young said, “‘I came to get you out.’ He says, ‘I know. And you will. Just—not quite the way that you imagined.’ I say, ‘you can’t mean that.’ He apologizes. He says it’s his fault. I say I know it is. He tells me I won’t remember. Like that’s some kind of consolation. I call him on his bullshit. He tells me he’s going to do it.”

“Do what?” Teal’c asked.

“Whatever it is that Kiva wants,” Young said. 

“Then what happens,” the dark-haired man said.

“I don’t remember,” Young replied.

“Unacceptable,” the dark-haired man replied.

Day 3

He slips around the doorframe, silent, holding his zat close to his chest.

Telford is holding a glass of dark liquid in one hand, his zat in the other, as he sits in the chair at Kiva’s desk. When he sees Young, he stiffens. “Everett,” he whispers into the void between them. He sets his glass down on the desk with a quiet click. “God damn it.”

Varro steps out of a shadowed doorway on his left.

“Varro set me up,” Young said, his hands pressed to his head. “I think. I think he must have. Because he was there. When I entered Kiva’s room, he was there. He was there and Telford was waiting.”

“Describe the room. In detail.”

“Dark. A long table. A smaller desk, off to the side. A shelf with dark alcohol in a transparent decanter. Two doorways, one through which I had entered, another to my left. A window behind the table. Outside, only darkness.”

“And where was Colonel Telford?”

“I told you, he was at the desk.”

“And Varro?”

“In the doorway.”

“Repeat your narrative.  Again.  From the beginning.  Leave nothing out.”

Day 4

“What did Kiva want Colonel Telford to do?” the dark-haired man asked.

“I don’t remember.”

“Why was he holding an instrument of torture?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Did Colonel Telford torture you?”

“I don’t know. I think so. I think he must have, yes.”

“Are you sure?”


“Why not?”

“Because I don’t remember.”

“Did you pass information to the Lucian Alliance after you returned to Earth with Colonel Telford?”


“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I didn’t give them anything.”

“Did you aid them in the abduction of Dr. Nicholas Rush?”


“Are you sure?”


“Describe your dealings with Vala Mal Doran.”

Day 5

“What are you waiting for?” Young asked. “We all know what it takes to end this. We all know what it takes to break Goa’uld coercive persuasion. So do it. Try it already. I’m asking you to.”

“The International Oversight Advisory Committee does not sanction the use of the methods to which you refer,” the dark-haired man said, “until it becomes apparent that the combined methodology of the Tok’ra and the Tau’ri has been shown to be insufficient.”

“You know that this isn’t going to work,” Young replied. “So just do what you have to do. I’ve been ready for it. I’ve been ready since day one.”

“Please recommence your narrative at the point at which you entered Kiva’s personal quarters.”

“Telford was sitting at the desk,” Young snarled, “Varro was in the doorway. They both held zats.”

“When did Colonel Telford acquire the Goa’uld pain stick?”

“I don’t know,” Young said, agonized. “He picked it up off the floor, maybe. Or Varro gave it to him.”

“Which was it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Was he holding it in Kiva’s quarters, or in the holding cell?”

“I don’t know.”

“Colonel Young—“

“Do you think I wouldn’t tell you if I knew?”

Day 6

“How did you break your back?”

“In a skimmer crash.”

“Are you sure?”


“Is it possible that Colonel Telford was the one who caused your injuries?”

“I’m sure it’s possible.”

“You remember him telling you that Kiva had directed him to conduct your interrogation.”

“I’m not sure it was an interrogation.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, I don’t remember it,” Young said through clenched teeth, “so how can I know whether they asked me any questions?”

“In order to break your hip and your back, in a manner consistent with a crashed vehicle, they would have had to use an impressive amount of force.”

“An ‘impressive’ amount?”

“Does anything suggest itself to you?”

“The only thing that suggests itself to me is a skimmer crash.”

“You had injuries on your forearms, tiny fragments of alien glass were found in them. Do you think those injuries might have been artificially created?”

“Teal’c,” Young said. “Teal’c, you know what has to be done. So stop letting them dick around. Just do it.”

“Colonel Young, the course of action that you are requesting is prohibited under—“ the dark-haired man began.

“Yeah Treaty Seventeen. Oh I know. But it’s not prohibited on Chulak, is it? It’s not prohibited in the case of Jaffa who might happen to be located on soil controlled by Homeworld Command.”

“You are correct,” Teal’c confirmed. “But you are not Jaffa.”

Young sighed.

“Yet,” Teal’c said.


“Two individuals hold dual citizenship,” Teal’c said. “General O’Neill and myself. The petition to make you the third has already been set in motion.”

“How long until—”

“The purpose of these sessions is not to provide you with information,” the dark-haired man broke in. 

“Please discuss ongoing legal proceedings outside of hours allotted for NID interrogation.”

Are there any?” Young growled.  “Hours outside?”

Day 7

“You’ve just—got to hang in there,” Jackson said, from the other side of a two-way mirror. “Teal’c is working as fast as he can, but he’s being blocked by factions within the High Council who feel that the Tau’ri influence on the Jaffa is already too strong. They don’t particularly care to be used as a loophole to circumvent the idiosyncrasies of Tau’ri governance.”

“This has nothing to do with that,” Young said, pacing, driven by a frustration that had no outlet other than repetitive, anxious motion.

“They have a point,” Jackson said, and god, he sounded exhausted. “And you know—you really know what’s coming if Teal’c is successful, right?”

“I know, Jackson.”

“Someone will—ah. Someone will—”

“I know what they’ll do, Jackson,” Young said quietly, “you don’t have to say it.”

“I do,” Jackson said.

“No, you really don’t.”

“Someone will bring you to the point of death, until your heart stops and your brain begins to undergo anoxic injury. Under low oxygen conditions, the drug they use to achieve coercive persuasion dissociates from the synaptic receptors where it is bound and reenters your bloodstream, at which point it will be cleared by your kidneys over a period of several hours.”

“Yeah, okay. Thanks, Jackson.”

“I’m not sure if they’ll offer you a choice of method. Would you—god. Would you want a choice of method?”

“No,” Young said. “Who’s going to do it? Lam?”

“No,” Jackson said, looking away, his fingers pressing against red-rimmed eyes. “No. We don’t—we don’t ask this of our doctors. It’s not fair to them, it breaks the Hippocratic Oath, and it’s not consistent with the spirit of the Rite of M’al Sharran, which is supposed to be performed one bloodkin warrior to another. Classically, it involves removal of a symbiote, but in your case—well, I hate to say it’s going to be a little more ‘hands-on’, but—”


“Sorry. I’m rambling. I know that. Sorry. You, ah—you realize that Homeworld Command has actually never done this, right? I mean, this is a Jaffa thing. This is not a Tau’ri thing. We have, as a people, in the past, felt it more humane to put our affected personnel through an NID debriefing and then marginalize them to a place where they can’t do any damage. But in your case—”

“That’s not going to work,” Young said. “Not with Telford and Vala and Rush all missing.”

“No,” Jackson agreed. “From an informational security standpoint, the SGC has never had a more damaging leak.”

“So who’s it going to be then?” Young asked. “Who’s going to do it? Cause the, uh, hopefully limited, anoxic brain injury.”

“Who do you want it to be?” Jackson asked, his eyes clear, his gaze fixed on Young.

It was a terrible thing to ask.

If David had been there, if David had been the man that Young thought he had been—the choice would have been clear. He missed David. He missed not only the man but the idea of him. He missed the solid, too-intense, extremely type-A presence that had been Colonel Telford. He missed the guy who would beam into his apartment on a Friday night at twenty-three hundred hours, in uniform, in the middle of a particularly fucked-up piece of LA insurgency, holding an assault rifle, his pockets full of a collection of tech that would be exactly what was needed. David would have been able to do what Young needed done. David would have been able to do this and then look him in the eye afterward. Maybe take him out for a drink where they could put the whole thing behind them. And if Young didn’t make it—David would be able to move on.

Cam. He could ask Cam. Cam would do it—but the man wouldn’t be the same afterwards, whatever the outcome. Because Cam didn’t do things like choke his friends to death. That was not a thing that Cameron Mitchell had signed on for.

If Sheppard had been here—but he wasn’t. And even if he had been, Young wasn’t sure, had never been sure, about how close to the edge the guy operated. He had no idea what kind of psychological burden this might be for Sheppard, and he was sure he’d never find out, because, for better or worse, when it came to matters of the seminally fucked up, the man was locked down like a vault.

That left only one person who could handle this, who could handle anything and hold to all that he was.

“How am I supposed to ask this of anyone, Jackson?”

“Who’s going to volunteer?” Jackson’s voice cracked, his answer already written on his face.

“I’m sure some bleeding-heart altruist will step up,” Young said, barely audible.

“Yeah,” Jackson said, motionless in his chair, his eyes shutting in a blink that looked painful.

For a long moment, neither of them spoke.

“When Teal’c tells you that you have citizenship, then you can request it. The Rite of M’al Sharran.”

“M’al Sharran,” Young repeated.

“And name me, when you ask,” Jackson said. “That’s a part of it.”

Young nodded.

“Yeah,” Jackson whispered, one hand pressed against the one-way glass, looking about ready to be crushed under the weight of the goddamned planet. “It’s got about a thirty three percent survival rate, just so you know. And that’s among Jaffa.”

“Great,” Young said.

Jackson said nothing, pulled off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes.

“Any word on Rush?” Young asked.

“I can’t talk about that,” Jackson said.

“Any word on Vala?” Young asked.

“I can’t talk about that either,” Jackson said, replacing his glasses.

“Yeah.  I know.” 

Day 8

“Did you pass information to the Lucian Alliance after you returned to Earth with Colonel Telford?


“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Yes, I think so.”

“You don’t sound sure.”

“I’m—not sure.”

“Did you aid the Lucian Alliance in the abduction of Dr. Nicholas Rush?”


“Are you sure?”

“Would I know if I had?  What is the point of these questions when I don’t remember.”

“Describe your dealings with Vala Mal Doran.”

Day 9

“Did you pass information to the Lucian Alliance after you returned to Earth with Colonel Telford?


“Are you sure?”


“Did you aid the Lucian Alliance in the abduction of Dr. Nicholas Rush?”


“Are you sure?”


“Describe your dealings with Vala Mal Doran.”

Day 10

“Did you pass information to the Lucian Alliance after you returned to Earth with Colonel Telford?”

“It’s possible.”

“Did you aid the Lucian Alliance in the abduction of Dr. Nicholas Rush?”

“I—really don’t think so.”

“Are you sure?”

“How could I possibly be sure?”

“Describe your dealings with Vala Mal Doran.”

Day 11

“Did you pass information to the Lucian Alliance after you returned to Earth with Colonel Telford?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you aid the Lucian Alliance in the abduction of Dr. Nicholas Rush?”

“I don’t know.”

“We aren’t making any progress.”

“I know that.”

“If you had aided the Lucian Alliance in the abduction of Dr. Nicholas Rush, what would you have done?”

“I’m not answering that question.”

“You don’t have the luxury of refusing to answer questions.”

“I could have turned him over at any point. He was my neighbor. I was the one who kept yelling at him to hang on to his signal scrambler. I was the one who extracted him from the base when the LA gained a foothold here. I had every opportunity to turn him over to them. I was the head of the Icarus Project. I had access to his data, to his computer, to the security team in the basement of his building, to all the encryption codes that protected his signal transponder and its scrambler. I had a key to his apartment for god’s sake.”

“You had a key to his apartment?”



“Because he kept locking himself out.”

“Please describe the nature of your relationship with Dr. Rush.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Please describe the nature of your relationship with Dr. Rush.”

“We were friends. Damn it. We are friends. Colleagues. Neighbors.” 

“This is the extent of your relationship?”


“Would you describe yourself as particularly upset by his abduction or defection?”

“Yes. Obviously. I was, in part, responsible for his safety, as he was a civilian contractor recruited to work on the project I commanded. Also, as I’ve mentioned, I consider him a friend. Furthermore, he’s got some unexplained medical condition related to his genetic status and I think for that reason that he’ll pretty much fold like a bad hand when exposed to the interrogation techniques of the Lucian Alliance and only blind fucking luck or someone’s outside intervention will keep them from accidentally killing him.”

“And you believe that you never would have exposed a friend of yours to this kind of environment.”

No,” Young said. “What kind of question is that?”

“It’s been well documented that coercive persuasion can override even the strongest of emotional ties.”

“Well great. So what do you want from me, then?”

“Describe your dealings with Vala Mal Doran.”

Day 12

“Maybe I fucked up,” Telford whispers across the table that separates them, bleeding from the insignia cut into his chest. “Maybe that was all it was. Just me, being a fucking idiot, giving Rush that ride home because he was miserable. Because he couldn’t sleep. Maybe they took me too. Maybe they killed me this time. Maybe—maybe they gave me back to Kiva.”

Young swallows in a dry throat.

“Maybe you need to find us both. Or maybe,” Telford says, taking a sip of the beer in front of him and leaving bloody fingerprints on the glass, “maybe you were the one who sold us out. Have you considered that?”

“Yeah,” Young replies.

“Shit,” Telford says, sighing, looking at the glass and then at the table. “I’m getting blood everywhere, aren’t I?”

“Yeah,” Young replies.

“The bartender’s going to be pissed. Pass me a napkin?”

Young jolted awake with the sickening snap of adrenaline. He ran a hand through his hair, staring at the dim fluorescence of the lights that indicated early morning or late evening. Lam ran the lights on a circadian schedule, but he couldn’t remember when he had fallen asleep—in the light or in the dark.

The door to his isolation room opened, but, instead of the NID personnel, it revealed two young marines, who preceded Lam and Teal’c into the room.

Teal’c was dressed in the traditional robes of the Jaffa High Council.

“Are we finally going to do this thing?” Young asked.

Lam didn’t reply.  She swallowed, pale as her coat.

“Colonel Young,” Teal’c said. “By order of the Jaffa High Council, ruling body of the Free Jaffa Nation, we grant you your petition of citizenship, extending to you the rights of all free Jaffa.”

“Great,” Young said. “I request to undergo the Rite of M’al Sharran. I name Dr. Daniel Jackson. Immediately. As soon as possible.”

Teal’c inclined his head.

“We’re, ah, we’re actually ready for you now,” Lam whispered. “Please come with us.”

Young followed them around a corner and into the main floorspace of the empty infirmary.

Jackson stood alone in the center of the room, his hands shoved into his pockets, his shoulders hunched. He was staring at an unoccupied gurney, ornamented with leather restraints and flanked by an array of monitors.

Young felt his steps slow at the sight of the thing. But he kept walking.

Jackson turned as he approached, fixing Young with a gaze so tormented that Young wasn’t certain it was entirely sane. Maybe—maybe he should have picked Mitchell.

“Jackson,” Young said, as he drew level with the other man. “Thanks.”

Jackson nodded. “Yeah,” he said, but the word had no sound.

Young sat down on the bed, then lifted his good leg, dragging the bad one after it. Lam stepped up to help him, one small hand slipping beneath his ankle as he leaned back. She began buckling leather restraints, around his ankles, his wrists, his waist, his chest. “Sorry,” she said, very quietly, tightening his chest strap.

Young nodded at her.

From somewhere within his robes, Teal’c produced a candle and set it on the table next to Young’s bedside, behind his head, out of his field of view.

“Am I—supposed to be able to see the candle?” Young asked.

“The candle,” Teal’c said, “is for Daniel Jackson. It is the place where he will look when he can no longer see your mind behind your eyes.”

Young nodded.

Teal’c stepped away, vanishing from his field of view while Lam began affixing monitors to his chest, to his finger, to his head.

“TJ—ah, Lieutenant Johansen, isn’t going to be here for this,” Young asked her. “Right?”

“No,” Lam said, as she peeled the adhesive backing from defibrillator pads and threaded them beneath his scrubs, affixing them to the skin of his chest. “Dr. Brightman and a very small team are standing by in the event I need assistance in your resuscitation. No other medical staff will be involved in this—procedure.” Lam looked over her shoulder, at someone on the periphery of the room. From the pained tightening of her features, Young was sure she was looking at Jackson.

But he couldn’t move. And so he couldn’t see.

He could hear Teal’c speaking to someone, low and indistinct.

“Wait outside the door please,” Lam said to the marines.

Young heard them retreat.

Lam looked at him, sliding her hand into Young’s where it was pinned to the gurney. “I will do everything I possibly can to bring you back,” she said, her expression strained, her voice low.

“I know,” he said. “Just—don’t go injecting yourself with naquadah again, yeah?”

Lam smiled a tenuous smile. “They locked it up. You need a double key and a special code to access it now.”

Young nodded. “Good. I’m probably not worth another set of your organs.”

“Wow. Way to take a truly horrible moment and make it even more horrible,” Lam said, her smile solidifying and turning into something real. “You’re not supposed to be able to out-gallows-humor a doctor, you know.”

“It’s a gift,” Young replied.

Lam nodded at him.

“I thought you wouldn’t even be here,” Young said. “This is the exact opposite of your job description.”

“First, do no harm,” Lam whispered. “Well, colonel, check back with me in fifteen years, after I’ve written a textbook in medical xenoethics and we’ll talk about whether this was a good idea or not.  You ready?”

“Yeah,” Young said.

“Dr. Jackson,” Lam said quietly. “Teal’c.”

Slowly, together, Teal’c and Jackson reentered Young’s peripheral vision, advancing to stand opposite Lam.

Jackson looked appalling beneath the fluorescent lights, so bad that Young suspected the man hadn’t slept for days. Maybe—maybe not since Young had tacitly asked him to participate in the rite.

“Dr. Lam,” Teal’c said, “please step back.”

Lam did not step back. She turned her body, her face, her gaze away from Teal’c and Jackson, toward the center of her room. Her hand stayed right where it was, gripping Young’s own.

“The Rite of M’al Sharaan confers the gift of a free death,” Teal’c said. “And from that death, a free life may be come.” He looked at Jackson.

“Shai kek nem ron,” Jackson whispered, visibly shaking. He looked at Young and translated, “My brother dies free.”

Young nodded.

They locked eyes.

He felt Jackson’s fingers wrap around his throat, ice cold and trembling with tension. The other man leaned over Young, one knee braced against the bed, pressing in, pressing down, his expression set, his gaze blue and fixed and unwavering.

Young stared back at him, the heart monitor a green and panicked wave in his peripheral vision, his hand clamping shut around Lam’s fingers. He felt her bones shift beneath the strength of his grip.

“Shai kek nem ron,” Teal’c murmured, speaking to Young now. “Cast your mind toward the truth of what you seek.”

Jackson’s fingers tightened further.

Young tried not to struggle.

“Shai kek nem ron,” Jackson said, joining with Teal’c, sounding like he was the one being strangled.

Young’s lungs began to ache. His head buzzed, his thoughts dissolved into panic, subsumed by the need to breathe, by his resolution not to struggle. But he couldn’t hold to it, he couldn’t hold to anything. His back began to arch, his hip blazed in peripheral agony as he struggled to break Jackson’s hold.

“Do not let go!” He could hear Teal’c shouting at Jackson over the roaring in his ears, could hear Jackson, repeating the words, over and over in a breathless, agonized litany.

His vision was fading and he tried to think of Telford, of Telford—

“Shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron I’m sorry shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek—”

Young slips around the doorframe, silent, his zat close to his chest. He sees a familiar silhouette, backlit by the lights at the walls. Telford is holding a glass of dark liquid in one hand, his zat in the other as he sits in the chair at Kiva’s desk. Waiting. When he sees Young, he stiffens. “Everett,” he whispers into the void between them. He sets his glass down on the desk with a quiet click. “God damn it.”

Varro steps out of a shadowed doorway to his left, and Young feels a horrible, sinking feeling in his chest as he looks at them.

“Why did it have to be you,” Telford says from the other side of his zat, a question too buried in despair to be a question at all.

Varro steps forward, and Young feels the cool press of metal behind his ear. “Hand over your weapons, colonel.”

Young surrenders his zat. “It was always going to be someone,” he whispers, still struggling to comprehend the reality of what is happening to him, but already tables are turning in his mind. It’s not hard to think of Telford as the enemy, dressed as he is in dark leather, holding that fucking wine. “Or had that not occurred to you.”

“I knew,” Telford says. “Of course I knew.”

“Shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron—”

Young has been left in the dim darkness of the defaced cell for hours, without food, without water. While he waits, he has time to consider the chain of decisions that have brought him to this place, that have put him in the unbearable position of knowing the identity of the defector who has been providing the LA with their intelligence, of knowing how select pieces of top-level intel are making out of the SGC, and being able to do nothing about it. He spends most of his time thinking about his own stupidity because he can’t reconcile the man in Kiva’s quarters with the David Telford that he knows.

The David Telford whose couch he had slept on during fights with Emily, who was the only person Young ever told about what had happened with TJ, who liked Science Fridays on NPR, who worked on the weekends, who shined his shoes every Sunday night like a complete dork, and who professed a love of post World War I abstract art that J Shep thought he was faking and that Cam thought was hilarious and that Young had just never really understood.

And so, maybe it’s no wonder that when Telford returns, when he enters the cell holding a Goa’uld pain stick for fuck’s sake, Young speaks first. “I came to get you out,” he whispers, his last word cracking with accusation, with betrayal as he strains against repurposed bonds of Goa’uld manufacture.

“I know,” Telford says, his voice a ragged smear, as if any amount of guilt could atone for what he holds in his hands. Young has seen it before. There’s one at the SGC. They keep it for the orientation of new recruits. It’s shown to them as the nature of Goa’uld interrogation techniques are explained.

“And you will,” Telford continues. “Just—not quite the way that you imagined.”

“You can’t mean that,” Young says, trying not to show any sign of distress, suppressing the urge to pull against his bonds.

“I’m sorry,” Telford says, looking at what he holds. “Oh Christ. Oh shit. Oh fuck, I’m sorry. This is my fault.”

“Yes,” Young replies. “It is.”

There is no sound in the room but for the ragged syncopation of their breathing.

“If it’s any consolation,” Telford says, looking away, “you won’t remember this.”

“How could that,” Young replies, his voice finally breaking, “be consolation. For anyone. Except for you.”

Telford looks away.

Young does not.

Still looking away, his head angled down, Telford says, “Kiva is— Kiva has decided—that it’s going to be me. It’s going to be me who does it.” Even now, even holding the thing in his hands, he cannot say what it is that he means.

“Does what,” Young says, pitiless. “Does what, David?”

“You don’t understand,” Telford whispers.

“You,” Young snarls. “You’re the one who doesn’t understand. Not anymore.”

“You’ll be all right,” Telford says.

“How?” Young snarls. “How will I be ‘all right’ you lying son of a bitch?”

“You’ll live,” Telford says, unable to conceal the strain in his voice. “You’re my ticket back.”

“You don’t need a ticket back. You never did. We were looking for you, god damn it.”

“And if you’d found me,” Telford says, his voice cracking, “when I needed to be found—if you had found me then—maybe, maybe things would have been different. Maybe you could have saved me. Maybe you could have preserved me for a life of scrubbing floors at the Antarctic base, or reading the essays of new recruits from the comfort of a VA psych ward. But you didn’t find me then.”

Young looks away.

“Get up,” Telford says.

“No,” Young says, unmoving.

“Get up,” Telford says again, activating the pain stick with the press of a button and the audible buzz of a building charge.

“No,” Young replies. “You’re gonna have to drag me out of this room, David. You’ll have to—”

His words choke off in a scream as his back arches, outside his control, muscles clenching in response to a shock they can’t ignore, agony annihilating conscious thought.

“Get up,” he hears Telford say, when he can hear again.

His jaw hurts. His mouth is full of blood. He doesn’t speak. But neither does he get up.

“You think you can outlast this?” Telford says, on his knees next to Young. “You think that you can resist the Lucian Alliance? It’s impossible.”

“Why, because you couldn’t do it?” Young snaps.

“Who says I wanted to?” Telford replies, abruptly, savagely angry. He turns to the guards that flank him. “Bring him,” he says, as he leaves the room.

Young tries to walk, but his muscles, exhausted from sustained tetany beneath the pressure of electrical discharge, refuse to cooperate, and so they drag him through golden halls and past statues of dead, defaced gods. They dump him on the floor of what can only be a lab, equipped with stolen technology. Goa’uld, Tau’ri, even the odd example of Asgard or Ancient equipment lines the walls or lurks under tables.

He doesn’t move. He simply lies there, looking at the stolen tech. The obsidian floor.

A woman’s boot, crafted of black leather, steps straight into his field of view with a hard double-click.

“Begin,” she says.

He’s hauled onto a table, and a needle pierces the crook of his right elbow. He feels the cool press of an SGC-issued sidearm against his temple.

“I like your weaponry,” the woman says, her face inverted as she stands above him, holding her stolen gun. Young wonders if the weapon is Telford’s or if it comes from the stash he sold to Varro.  She must be Kiva. She wears her leather better than most. There is something ascetic in the height of her collar, in the crisp lines her jacket makes against the blazing gold of the walls that backlight her. 

“Me too,” Young replies, and Kiva smiles.

Young smiles back, and then rips the needle out of his arm and lunges away from her, throwing himself off the table, towards Telford, who, even now, after everything, still feels like the safest, sanest person in this lab.

They crash together to the floor.

Telford lets Young up. Only to bring him back down with another agonizing electrical discharge.  “Which way is it going to be?” the man asks, not looking at him, even as he grabs Young by the front of his jacket and drags him back to the table. “The hard way, or the hard way?”

“The hard way,” Young grinds out. “It’s always the hard way.”

“Good answer,” Telford says, half-amused, half-horrified.

And Young is getting to him, he’s sure of it; he’s just not sure that getting to him will make any difference. Any difference at all.

“I told you we should have begun with the orthopedic reset,” Kiva says coolly.

Telford says nothing, but he nods at Kiva’s black-clad entourage, and, suddenly, there are hands holding Young down.

“—shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron has it been long enough you have to tell me if it’s been long enough how do I know how do I know how am I supposed to know—”

“What the fuck is that thing,” Young says, feeling his left hip being clamped to the table, a fixed point more solid than any human grip, entirely inescapable.

“We need it for your cover story,” Telford says.

“What cover story?” Young shouts, hearing the desperation in his own voice and knowing that Telford will hear it too.

“You’re going to rescue me,” Telford whispers, and twists a lever on the device affixed to Young’s hip.

He can hear the sickening crack of splitting bone, and then— He has never been in this much agony. He is cold. He is hot. He cannot breathe. He cannot see. He cannot survive this. Surely he will die here in this gold room, far from home, under an ash-filled sky.

“Give him the drug,” Kiva says. “Give him the drug, fly him out beyond the force field, and complete it.”

“I will,” Telford says.

“—shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron—”

“Where did you leave the ship?” Kiva asks.

“Where did you leave the ship?” Telford asks.

“Where did you leave the ship?” Kiva asks.

“Where did you leave the ship?” Telford asks.

“Where did you leave the ship?” Kiva asks.

“You know, you’re a priceless son of a bitch at times.”

“—shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron shai kek nem ron—”

Young opens his eyes to the smell of sulfur, the flaking fall of ash. He cannot remember how he got here. There’s glass in his arm, glass in his face, in his hair.

Telford is beside him, his shirt off. “Which way is it going to be?” Telford asks, looking at the sky, a knife in his hand. “The hard way, or the hard way?”

“The hard way,” Young says, and the words feel heavy and slow, slurring together. “It’s always the hard way.”

Telford looks over, surprised, his eyes bloodshot, his skin pale. “Yeah,” Telford says, bracing his shoulder against the tel’tak at his back. “Good answer.”  He presses the knife he holds into own his chest, quick and deep, making one swiping cut and then another. “Fuck that hurts. You won’t remember this.” He coughs, choking on ash.

“I won’t remember this?” Young repeats, confused, gasping through the pain.

“No. You’ll remember finding me,” Telford says, his voice cracking as he begins another pattern, this time on his side. “You’ll remember that I already had these. It’s Kiva,” Telford says. “Kiva who’s doing this. Kiva who did this,” he cries out through clenched teeth as he cuts deep. “Kiva who did this to me.” He repeats it over and over as he works. When he’s done, Telford pulls out an alien first aid kit, but instead of using it to fix the cuts that Kiva gave him, he packs his own injuries with salt.

“What are you doing?” Young whispers.

“I’m getting out the first aid kit to help you,” Telford says. “Do you think it can help you?”

“No,” Young says.

No use, is what he doesn’t say.

“She did this,” Telford says, sweating, shaking, barely intelligible, gesturing with a shaking hand at the salt packed into the cuts, “so that it would scar. Remember that. So that it would scar.”

It is difficult to think.

“You found me,” Telford says. “You got Varro drunk, and you slipped in at the shift change, and you said, “I came to get you out,” and I said—”

“You said ‘I know’,” Young whispers.

“Yes,” Telford says, his eyes closed, his teeth gritted, shaking with pain. “I said I know.” 

“Oh god, David,” Young whispers. “What did they do to you?” 

“There are no gods here, Everett,” Telford rasps, and Young thinks that, maybe, he is crying. Maybe they both are. “There never have been. And there never will be. There was only ever us. You and me. I’ll never be able to thank you. To repay you.”

“Things aren’t like that between us,” Young says, barely able to think past his pain, past his rage, past the sight of what the Lucian Alliance has done to David. To David, who hated them more than anyone—

“This falls outside the bounds of debt,” Young says. “Outside repay.”

“It does,” Telford says, and his voice breaks. “I know it does.”

“Did they give you the drug?” Young asks.

“I don’t think they did,” Telford says, “but then, how would I know?”

“Yeah,” Young says, unable to think past the buzzing of his thoughts, past the agony in his back. “You saved me,” Telford whispered. “But our skimmer was shot down, close to your ship. Do you remember? I pulled you up, but you couldn’t stand. And I couldn’t stand either.”

Young remembered it, remembered standing, but the pain had been unbearable, untenable, unbelievable, and he couldn’t stand, he couldn’t speak, he could only dig his hands into Telford’s uniform. Telford, who was injured, who had been tortured, who had been pushed past human endurance, who could barely support himself.

“I remember,” Young says.

“And I said, ‘What was I thinking’,” Telford chokes, trying to breathe through ash. “We’re doing this the hard way.”

“The hard way,” Young repeats, tasting blood and sulfur. “What’s the hard way?”

“Clawing, crawling your way to an objective,” Telford rasps, his hand closing over Young’s hand as they sit there, outside their tel’tak, beneath the falling ash. “The struggle in the dirt.” Their entwined fingers dig into loose earth.

He can remember dragging himself through the darkening landscape, up the steep slope, hand over agonizing hand while his bad leg trails uselessly behind him.

“I wish you hadn’t come,” David whispers, choking on ash, a dark, dynamic force in turbid air. “I wish like hell you hadn’t.”

“It’s too late for that,” Young replies.

The atmosphere is searing.

Beside him, Telford coughs, his fists tightening uselessly into gray dust. “We are not going to die here,” Telford says.

Young coughs. “No?”

“No,” Telford replies. I will not allow us to die here.”

“It’s not looking good,” Young says.

“Yes it is,” Telford says. “Because you know—“ he breaks off, shielding his face from a blast of heated air. “I think Sanchez might have a crush on me,” Telford says, and for a moment Young is confused, are they sitting here, next to the tel’tak with their hands in loose, red dirt, or is Telford dragging him, shoving him up a barren, rocky slope. “What are your thoughts—“ he breaks off, coughing in the acrid air, destroying the cadence of his question, “—on this.”

“You wish,” Young says through blood, lost in the vividness of the remembered climb. He can almost feel his free hand sliding easily over stone as fingernails scrape for purchase on loose rock. The memory is unnaturally sharp, unusually vivid, as he sits here, choking, next to the ship.

“What do you mean I wish?” Telford asks.

“Everyone—“ Young breaks off as he seizes up with a wave of pain, “wants to date a combat engineer.”

“Yeah,” Telford says, barely audible, barely visible through obscure air. “Short though. I don’t know about the hair.”

Young inhales slowly, trying to breathe past blood. “You’re kind of a dick. Anyone ever tell you that?”

“I save your life—” Telford says, his voice breaking, “and this is the thanks I get?”

“Still a dick,” Young rasps.

Telford’s breathing is irregular and harsh.

“If you make it back,” Young says, “and I don’t—”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“Keep an eye on Emily, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Telford gasps, “but no. We’re both going back. That’s the deal.”

“That’s the deal, is it?”

“That’s the deal.”

Young nods.

“Then let’s leave this piece of shit world,” David Telford says, tortured, barely alive, covered with dust and ash and blood. When he stands, unsteadily, on the verge of losing consciousness, to activate the ring controls, Young knows it’s the bravest fuck off to death and fate that he’s ever seen. That he ever will see. And that he’ll remember it that way all the days of his life. They are surrounded by a rush of metal and a hollow tone.

Day 14

Young opened his eyes to a cement ceiling.

“Jackass,” Mitchell said, in a hoarse whisper. “Hi.”

Young shifted his gaze from the concrete overhead to find the other man staring at him, pale and drawn, his arms crossed over his chest. “Hi,” he replied, confused by the agony in his back, the ache in and around his throat, the pain in his head until everything that had happened came back to him in a dissonant rush of doubled memory.

“Hi,” Mitchell repeated.

“It worked,” Young said, aborting an attempt to sit as his back spasmed in violent protest.

“Did it?” Mitchell said, pressing him back. “Good. Maybe we can scrape what remains of Jackson back into something vaguely human shaped.”

“Where is he?” Young asked.

“He’s been lying on the floor of the level twenty VIP suite A, throwing up, for, oh, about the past seven hours,” Mitchell said, looking at his watch.

“I’ve been out for seven hours?” Young asked.

“You’ve been out for twenty-eight hours,” Mitchell said. “Lam resuscitated you and then kept you sedated while the drug was cleared from your bloodstream. There’s some reason to think that once it dissociates from your brain, or synapses, or whatever, it retains its bioactivity. So, you know, no reason to screw you up any more than you’ve already been screwed up, I guess. It’s out of your system by now.”

“Cam—“ Young said.

“You should have asked me,” Mitchell said, his voice ragged.

“Cam—“ Young said.

“I get why you didn’t ask me,” Mitchell said. “I get it. Honestly? You probably weren’t wrong. I don’t know if I could have done it. I don’t know what I’d have been like afterwards. But no matter how well he supposedly takes it, Jackson’s not the garbage can for the fucked up shit of the galaxy, okay? We can spread it around a little bit, you know?”

Young shut his eyes and swallowed. His throat felt raw and painful. “What happened?” he asked.

“To you or to Jackson?” Mitchell asked. “You want some water for that frog in your throat?” Without waiting for an answer he poured a cup from the pitcher sitting at Young’s bedside.

“To Jackson,” Young said, after taking a sip of water. “I remember what happened to me.”

Mitchell nodded, looking away. “Yeah, well, it took Carter, Teal’c, and an hour in a VIP room to talk him into taking a sedative. He slept for about twenty-one hours and then started throwing up. But as soon as Lam clears the NID to come in, I’ll go tell him that you’re not obviously brain damaged, and it seems like the rite worked. That should cheer him up.”

“Cam,” Young said. “It was worth it.”

“Do you know where they are?” Mitchell asked, still not looking at him. “Where Vala is? Or Rush? Or Telford?”

“No,” Young admitted, “but I remember what happened. I know that I didn’t help the LA. I know that Telford did. He was the leak. I’m sure of it.”

“Then it was worth it,” Mitchell said in a quiet monotone, staring at the far wall.

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