Mathématique: Tradition

“If it does not contain Doritos,” Teal’c says, “then it is not chel’mek.”

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: Stressors of all kinds. Injuries.


Teal’c stands in the center of Dr. Lam’s sunlit kitchen, occupying the entire surface area of the perfectly square counter space that Colonel Carter referred to as an "island." He examines the nutrition information on the containers arrayed in front of him.

Dr. Lam can eat only a limited amount of salt. That restriction makes chel’mek preparation difficult. Teal’c imagines it also makes Dr. Lam’s life difficult. Difficult by Tau’ri standards. On Chulak, she would not have survived such an injury.

Every available surface in Dr. Lam’s kitchen is covered with the uncontained and expanding spread of salad, fruit in various stages of peeling and dicing, and the ingredients required for Colonel Carter’s famed, or perhaps notorious, cookies.

SG-1 creates and navigates this sprawling culinary chaos in a way that reminds Teal’c of battles he formerly orchestrated on behalf of Apophis.

Apophis the false god.

Apophis the dead false god.

He finds the analogy between meal preparation and combat to be both ludicrous and satisfying. The Tau’ri are a strange people. They bring violence into their domesticity and domesticity into their violence.

Daniel Jackson is not in the kitchen. He is in the next room, talking with Dr. Lam. This too, is a thing Teal’c recognizes.

“Muscles,” Vala says, stepping into his personal space with a bright familiarity that even his lovers have never adopted, “I’ve allotted you one hundred milligrams of sodium for the chel’mek.”

Teal’c looks at her, his eyebrows raised. Vala is holding black clipboard that reads ‘classified’ on the back in white block letters. Teal’c hasn’t seen a clipboard matching that description at the SGC since late 1999. He peers at the paper she is consulting and finds small tables of neatly scripted columns of numbers, written in accordance with Tau’ri conventions.

“If it does not contain Doritos,” Teal’c says, “then it is not chel’mek.”

“I still feel so betrayed by this whole chel’mek thing,” Mitchell comments, eyeing the slowly assembling salad with evident uncertainty.

Teal’c misses O’Neill.

“Will you get out there?” Carter whispers, in the midst of stirring cookies that Teal’c does not think will meet an auspicious end, if past experience is a reliable indicator, “before we all come down with some kind of memory-obliterating virus and Daniel and Lam decide that they’re married, and then you’re inexplicably cut out of Dr. Lam’s dating pool forever because of awkwardness?”

“That’s terribly specific,” Vala says, tilting her head.

“Oh,” Mitchell says, closing his eyes, “wait—don’t tell me, I know this one.”

Teal’c raises an eyebrow.

“P2Q-463,” Mitchell says, eyes still shut. “Um, Vyus. Ke’ra. Destroyer of Worlds, mashed up with—”

“Mashed up with nothing. Remixed with my life,” Carter finishes. “Now go.”

“That actually happened?” Vala asks.

“Yes,” Teal’c says.

“No,” Carter says.

“Well you can’t just leave it there, muscles.”

“I believe I can,” Teal’c replies.

He does not wish to think of Linea, Destroyer of Worlds, but even less does he want to think of Ke’ra. Ke’ra, whose hair was long and curled and golden, whose mind had been drape of clean linen over the evil of her past. Ke’ra, whom Daniel Jackson had saved from the destruction she deserved because he could not save his wife.

Even now, six years later, worlds away, in the sun-filled kitchen of a Tau’ri woman of uncommon honor, Teal’c cannot banish the face of Sha’re from his mind.

He begins, with careful precision, to slice through cilantro, allowing the fresh smell of the herb to remind him of ro’tal, and the way the vine would curl around the roots of the great trees on Chulak.

“Go,” Carter says to Mitchell, with only a hint of the irritation that Teal’c can see in the set of her shoulders. “Tell Daniel that I need him, and don’t come back to this kitchen until we call you.”

“Touchy,” Vala whispers, almost inaudibly to Teal’c.

“But—“ Mitchell begins, “as I think I explained—”

“Colonel Carter becomes stressed when required to bake, especially in an unfamiliar environment,” Teal’c murmurs to Vala. He says this not because it is true, but because he guards Colonel Carter’s heart like he would guard his own. Her distress comes from memories of Dr. Janet Frasier, and the meals cooked in her home, not so very long ago.

“Man up already,” Carter says, “and go offer Lam the strawberries.”

“Beautiful,” Vala begins, “I can take over the dessert preparation if—”

Teal’c reaches out, placing a hand on Vala’s shoulder as Carter shoves a bowl of strawberries at Mitchell. Vala stops speaking. Teal’c watches Vala watching Colonel Carter, who stands with her hands clutching a mixing bowl, stirring in a way that must be painful, given her recent injuries. Her face is, briefly, turned away from them.

“Sam?” Mitchell says.

Carter looks back and smiles at him, but she can’t hold the expression. Teal’c knows that she’s always been able to lock down every part of herself, except for her grief.

“Sam,” Mitchell says, again.

Mitchell is not unintelligent.

Neither is Vala Mal Doran.

None of them are.

That is part of what makes this so difficult.

What has always made it difficult.

“What you need,” Vala says, abandoning her clipboard to take Mitchell’s strawberries, “is a wing-woman.”

“No,” Mitchell replies, “no, I don’t think I need that.”

But Vala’s arm has already threaded its way through Mitchell’s and they are halfway to the door.

The kitchen is silent.

“Vala’s great,” Colonel Carter whispers, when they are alone. She’s looks down at the bowl in her hands, her voice thick. “Don’t you think? She’s really great. Not sure how effective a wing-woman she’s going to make, but—” she trails off.

Teal’c inclines his head.

Carter looks at him with red-rimmed eyes, then down at her unmade cookies.

“You are thinking of Janet Frasier,” Teal’c says.

“Oh,” Carter whispers, smiling and lifting her shoulders as if she is not crying, “I’m thinking of everyone.”

Their gazes shift in synchrony.

Daniel Jackson stands in front of the closed kitchen door as though he has walked through solid wood.

He is watching them, his eyes the color of long frozen ice, deep in the glacial crevasses of Chulak. There is awareness in his gaze, in his stance, in the lines of his shoulders and his arms, which are wrapped around his chest. Carter cannot bear to look at him, and she turns away from both of them.

“We shouldn’t have let Mitchell talk us into this,” Daniel Jackson says into the quiet air.

As Teal’c looks at Colonel Carter, he agrees.

“But he didn’t know,” Carter whispers. “He didn’t know that we did it for Janet.”

Daniel Jackson says nothing. His silence pulls on the space between the three of them, like a thing formidable, like the Hook and the Staff, like the Glacier of Whispers, where Jaffa speak to themselves or risk madness in the quiet, endless air.

Carter bows her head, one hand pressed to her mouth.

“We honor her memory in doing this,” Teal’c says. They both look at him.

“Yes,” Daniel Jackson agrees, his gaze shifting back to Carter, “but that doesn’t make it easier.”

“Since when is any of this easy?” the colonel whispers, with an uncertain flash of teeth.

Daniel Jackson cocks his head sideways and smiles back at her, rueful and small.

Teal’c watches him use nothing more than silent acknowledgement to soothe the raw edges of her grief.

He wishes that he could learn this skill.

But that is not his role.

That is not his place.

He is bloodkin to all Jaffa. He is a warrior leader of a warrior people. He is a destroyer of false gods.

But life is full of grief, and he is not certain that Daniel Jackson will always be present to level the ridges of their sorrow. Teal’c remembers a time when he was not, when O’Neill had sat behind the copilot’s seat in a stolen tel’tak and had said, his voice raw and his eyes empty, “I don’t think Carter’s taking this well,” and Teal’c had not been able to force even a syllable of agreement from his sealed throat.

Teal’c steps forward and gently pulls the bowl out of Carter’s hands. She lets him take it. She nods at Daniel Jackson when he gently touches her shoulder. Teal’c thinks he would embrace her if her chest were not held together by steel wire and slow-healing bone.

“Now that we’ve dispatched the newbies to the living room where they belong,” Daniel Jackson says, banishing his own silence, “it’s time to make this thing come together.”

“There is, indeed, ish to be accomplished,” Teal’c says.

“Did you just say ‘ish’?” Carter asks, her voice still unsteady as she pulls two sheet metal pans out of a bag on the floor.

“Is this not an appropriate term to refer to articles or tasks of indeterminate kind?” Teal’c asks, putting most of his strength behind his attempt to stir the thick, glue-like batter that will eventually become cookies.

That may eventually become cookies.

“Um, kind of,” Jackson says, adding various items to the half assembled salad before beginning to slice carrots. “Mitchell has some verbal quirks.”

Teal’c gives the cookie batter a particularly forceful turn and snaps the handle of the wooden spoon he is using.

“Oh gosh,” Colonel Carter says, looking at him.

Daniel Jackson looks away, most assuredly trying not to smile and most assuredly failing.

“This spoon is defective,” Teal’c says.

“Well yeah, now it is,” Carter says, looking in dismay at the batter. “These are going to be terrible.”

“You have many skills,” Teal’c says. He does not add that baking is not one of those skills.

“Thanks, Teal’c,” Carter says, looking despondently at the glue-like batter.

“Hang on,” Daniel Jackson says. “I can fix this.”

“Can you?” Carter asks. “Since when?”

“Well, okay, I can’t fix it, but I can facilitate the fixing.” Daniel Jackson pulls out his phone, managing to navigate a shattered touchscreen with remarkable speed and surety.

“Seriously, you’re calling someone about cookies?” Carter asks. “Who are you?”

“A peaceful explorer,” Jackson replies, his phone pressed to his ear.

Teal’c attempts to use the broken handle of the spoon to extricate the lower portion of it, which is mired in the batter.

“I think it needs water?” Carter suggests.

Jackson sighs and then speaks into what is apparently, someone’s voicemail. “Hey Nick, it’s Daniel. I’m calling with a somewhat urgent culinary question, specifically about cookies that are headed down a dangerous path. Your neighbor says you’re good with this kind of thing. Call me back.”

“You did not just call a Fields medalist about my cookies, did you?” Carter asks, as Jackson ends the call. 

“Please tell me you didn’t just do that. Tell me it’s some other ‘Nick’, and definitely not Nicholas Rush.”

“What?” Jackson says. “You’d have won about five Nobel prizes at this point if they’d ever let you publish anything. He should be honored to help out with your cookies.”

“Having met him,” Teal’c offers, “I’m not certain that this will be the case.”

“Yeah. I said he should be honored. He’ll probably just be annoyed.”

“Daniel!” Colonel Carter snaps. “I want to meet this guy. I want to meet him and talk about computational complexity theory. Not cookies. Am I a baker? No. I’m a physicist. I don’t want him to make assumptions about my—”

Daniel Jackson’s phone rings. “Oh perfect,” he says, with evident satisfaction.

“Daniel,” Carter hisses.

“Hey,” Daniel Jackson says. “Hey Nick, how’s it going?”

Teal’c looks at Carter, who looks anxious and hopeful and mortified all at the same time. Teal’c looks at Daniel Jackson, who looks amused.

“Yeah,” the archeologist says. “Teal’c and I are ruining some cookies and we need your advice.”

The relief on Colonel Carter’s face is both endearing and perplexing, given her intergalactic status as the most preeminent Tau’ri scientist-warrior. Teal’c finds it strange that she might, in any way, care what a consultant thinks of her, even if the man does have an intellectual medal, a set of Ancient genes, a bladed intellect, and eight solved cyphers.

“Yeah, well, the batter is really thick,” Daniel Jackson says, watching Teal’c continue his attempt to extricate the remains of the wooden spoon from the unyielding block of dough it is encased in. “Less like ‘batter,' more like cement.”

Carter begins to toss the completed salad as she watches Teal’c’s progress.

“No, when I say ‘cement,’ I mean cement. We snapped a wooden spoon trying to stir it.”

Finally Teal’c emerges, victorious, with the lost portion of the spoon.

“You want evidence?” Daniel Jackson asks. “I’ll send you a picture.”

Vala reenters the kitchen in a satisfied sweep of door and hair.

“How’s it going?” Carter whispers, looking in the direction of the dining room.

Vala winks at her, and flashes an ‘okay’ sign.

“He says ‘add liquid and maybe add oil?’” Daniel Jackson says. “And maybe also don’t stir with a spoon?”

Teal’c looks dubiously between the bowl he is holding and the kitchen sink.

“I already said that,” the colonel says, mildly offended. “Well, part of it. But you can’t just add water indiscriminately, you have to—”

“I’m getting some pushback here. How much water?” Daniel Jackson asks into the phone.

Vala walks past Teal’c, managing to divest him of the bowl on her way to the sink. He makes no particular effort to hang onto it. The only reason he was in possession of it at all is that he did not wish to see Colonel Carter further injure herself so soon after her surgery. Daniel Jackson is, perhaps, too distracted by Vala’s appropriation of the batter to prevent her from pulling his phone straight out of his hand.

“Hello, gorgeous,” Vala says, turning on the water with an elbow as she pins Daniel Jackson’s phone between her ear and shoulder. “How are you today?”

“What just happened there?” Daniel Jackson asks. “I was—did she—how did she know—“

Vala Mal Doran. Teal’c thinks she will be an excellent addition to SG-1.

“Why thank you, gorgeous, I think so too,” Vala says, setting the bowl aside as she washes her hands. “I wanted to buy ramps—those are extremely popular with conscientious hipster foodies these days, but unfortunately this is not the season for locally grown ramps. I’m not even sure if ramps grow in Colorado Springs. Do you know?”

“I don’t understand my life,” the archeologist says, looking at Vala, who is now digging both hands into the cookie batter, seamlessly incorporating a spalsh of water and neutral cooking oil as her gaze casts over the disarrayed contents of the kitchen.

“I don’t understand your life either,” Colonel Carter whispers. “I’ve never understood your life.”

“You should make more of an effort to blend in with the locals,” Vala says, adding slightly more oil to the batter. “You know what I mean. Less math, more drinking. Less sarcasm, more do-gooding. Fewer dress shirts, more firearms.”

“Less math?” Colonel Carter says in an affronted whisper.

“More firearms?” Daniel Jackson echoes soundlessly.

Teal’c decides that rather than stay here, watching Vala rescue Colonel Carter’s cookies, rescues the cookies, he will transfer the completed salad to the dining room. 

He exits the kitchen carrying the salad bowl and finds Dr. Lam and Colonel Mitchell seated at the table.

“—the mutation rate of the Origin virus was unbelievably high,” Lam is saying, “and we tracked that down to a high degree of promiscuity in the viral reverse polymerase.”

“Oh,” Mitchell says, impressed and confused.

“That property turned out to be temperature dependent,” Lam continues, “and so I’m wondering if we could significantly slow down the rate of mutation by keeping victims in a cold environment. That creates its own problems though, and it’s clearly not a population-level solution. Bottom line, colonel, if the Ori turn their viral plague in our direction again, I’m not sure that the outcome would be any better than last time.”

“Do you think that there might be any connection between the plague engineered by the Ori and the plague that wiped out the Ancients?” Mitchell asks.

Teal’c, half turned in the direction of kitchen, stops. He turns back.

Mitchell meets Teal’c’s eyes and shrugs.

“Maybe,” Dr. Lam says. “What makes you ask?”

“They were one people,” Mitchell replies looking back at her, “before they went their separate ways.”

“I’ll run a phylogenetic analysis on every sequence we have of both viruses,” Lam says. “There’s no point in speculating until then. But—it’s a good thought.”

Privately, Teal’c agrees. Mitchell nods shortly and looks up at Teal’c. “Where’s this chel’mek business? You need help?”

“No,” Teal’c says. “You have been barred from the kitchen.”

“Harsh,” Dr. Lam says, smiling at both of them. “You guys don’t mess around.”

“Some would say that’s all we do,” Mitchell says ruefully, his eyes moving involuntarily to the closed kitchen door, behind which the rest of the team are finishing the meal preparations.

“They’d be wrong,” Dr. Lam says, short and final.

Teal’c has liked nearly every Tau’ri physician he has ever encountered. Dr. Lam is no exception.

On Chulak, there were few healers, unless one counted the symbiote that every Jaffa was forced to carry. Those with healing instincts primarily served as lesser priests, praying or pleading for intercession to whatever false god had branded them and claimed them as its own.

He has posed the question often to himself—if he were born of the Tau’ri and not the Jaffa, if he had never heard of Apophis or Ra or Amaunet—what would he have chosen for himself, before time and training had made him into a warrior?

Perhaps he would have been a physicist, like Colonel Carter, or a scholar, like Daniel Jackson. Perhaps he would have designed structures that dwarfed the primitive blockishness of Goa’uld temples, not in size, but in intricacy, that soared through space with minimal bounding and limited ties to the earth. Or, perhaps, he would have walked the path that Dr. Lam and Dr. Frasier chose—to fight and oppose death in a literal way. Moment by moment. Action by action. But this is not his road. He acts as physician to the fractured and besieged Jaffa nation. He fights for its life on an abstracted scale.

“The chel’mek is ready,” Carter says, bursting through the kitchen door, a bowl in her hands.

Teal’c frowns, looking at it critically. He can see that someone has done a passable job piling the cilantro into a depressed region in the center of the dip. A dusting of pulverized Doritos around the margins of the bowl creates a pattern that seems to be reminiscent of flames. He finds this acceptable.

“Daniel finished it,” Colonel Carter says, in a way that is either apologetic or trying to shift blame. “One hundred milligram sodium chel’mek,” she says, placing it in front of Lam.

“Wow,” Lam says, looking suitably impressed. “This is a Jaffa—dip?”

“It is somewhat similar in flavor to a cream-based dish common on Chulak, usually eaten with seed bread around harvest time,” Teal’c replies. “I have found it to be a good accompaniment to chips or vegetables.”

“Yeah,” Mitchell says, swiping a carrot through the artistically arranged pattern. “It’s freaking delicious fake Jaffa dip is what it is.”

Teal’c raises an unimpressed eyebrow before returning to the kitchen to retrieve plates. Upon swinging the door open, he stops.

Vala is standing at the counter in front of the window, a dark profile against the light of the afternoon. One hand holds her phone, the other a spoon that she is using to portion now cooperative batter onto a baking sheet. She is looking through the glass at green lawn and blue sky, speaking about something that seems to be related to mathematics—letters and numbers defining curves in three dimensional space.

Daniel Jackson is looking at her.

Daniel Jackson is looking at her with an expression that Teal’c recognizes. His eyes are afire and unmasked, burning with the savage compassion that has been at his core always and that has come to prominence since his death and his ascension. 

Teal’c imagines it to be a difficult thing—to be the beloved of a man who has spent his life challenging every god he meets. Perhaps Vala will not choose that road. Perhaps if she choses it, she will survive it.


Daniel Jackson looks over at him and smiles, diminishing again to a human of the Tau’ri—to Teal’c’s friend who talks too much and who has an inappropriate love for coffee, who is there for Colonel Carter when she needs him, who speaks in support of offworlders who wish to join the ranks of the SGC, and who unceasingly baits Colonel Mitchell because he misses O’Neill just as much as Teal’c does.

Teal’c smiles back and inclines his head.

But he does not forget.

Not any of it.

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