by sugargroupie

PG, 2000 words

Summary: maybe this is what death really feels like.

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to Stargate SG-1 or its characters.

Notes: Vague spoilers for Demons (S3), general S9. Written for Jalabert in the Teal'c Ficathon, who requested Cameron and alpha-Teal'c off-base. Unending thanks to Rydra Wong for pulling beta duty, and acting as a sounding board. Mistakes remain mine, and feedback is very much appreciated.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

It is not his choice to freefall in a rush to meet death, to plunge through waters of endless black. No time and no energy to stop the forward momentum, so he curves his body and waits to be claimed. Waits for impact.

This is not the legacy Cameron Mitchell wanted to leave behind. All tied up and nothing to do but drown. He knows the taste of helplessness, the crush of ice and metal as his bird crashes and burns. Broken bones and limbs, the heat of fire, the heaviness of bile in his throat; these are the things he's come to associate with falling. Yet here he is, not steering but flying low, finally breaking atmosphere, and it's an odd relief. Water filling his lungs, stealing his breath. He sinks --




And then nothing.

* * *

Once he deems it safe for passage, Teal'c steps from behind the pillar and moves quickly through the maze of intricate Numai architecture. He flattens his back against the wall, melding his body into the stable structure to wait for passersby. Many Priors have taken this exact path, usually accompanied by armed Ori soldiers. Their weapons are always aimed at Numaians too steadfast in their religious conversion to present a threat. The Ori has spread its message, its control, so thoroughly as to immobilize worlds such as Numai, who lack the strength in numbers to defend themselves.

That the Numai were unable to physically resist the Ori was not surprising. Their unquestioning loyalty, however, to unknown entities assuming responsibility over what was once under Numaian control prompted Teal'c's curiosity, and no small amount of suspicion. The moment he and Colonel Mitchell were arrested for failing to comply with Numaian religious tenets merely confirmed that he was justified in trusting his instincts.

Teal'c has studied their activity long enough to recognize a pattern -- those captured do not return from where the Priors lead. He thinks of his own experience thus far, and of Colonel Mitchell's parting glance before they were led away in opposite directions. Stripped of their weapons, but not of the means for escape. Time shortens, and he hopes that Mitchell's resiliency withstands the demands that will undoubtedly be made before they can free themselves.

Teal'c forces himself to relax tired muscles and calm a volatile mind. He hears the echo of footsteps coming toward him, and ducks behind a wall. The stone barrier slants at a sharp angle, providing just enough cover at his back, but leaving him exposed to the more open corridor facing north. Just enough of a breeze chills his skin, and he glances around, flexes his fingers as if he could shake loose the tension pervading his body. The dimly lit halls are not unlike those of the Jaffa Council, leaving Teal'c ill-comforted at the comparison. He stares up at the high ceiling and recognizes the markings of the Ori. Not understanding the language does not mean Teal'c is unfamiliar with their intent. He is Jaffa; he recognizes the myriad of ways in which to enslave a people.

The group passes behind him, less traffic than those previous, and Teal'c peers over the wall just in time to view the bound arms of a male pulled securely to his back, a different position from the others he'd seen. He moves in to follow, keeping at a safe enough distance to go unnoticed. Only when the male turns his head does Teal'c recognize the profile.

Colonel Mitchell is still alive, unharmed for the time being. And therefore he can be rescued.


Teal'c continues to follow Mitchell until they come to a juncture that splits into three corridors. The Prior turns to his left, and descends into a steep stairwell, circling around a stone column that extends much of the edifice. He listens to their footsteps signaling they have reached the bottom, and then carefully moves down the stairs as well. He comes to a ledge that stretches out into three perpendicular walls. Beyond the walls is a three feet drop into an oval shaped structure, granite texture that seems to stand at least five feet tall. Teal'c settles against the far wall where he has a decent vantage point.

"This is your last chance, non-believer. Will you join the path of the enlightened, or will you remain faithless? Choose life or choose death," the Prior's voice projects through the cavernous room.

Mitchell's posture is at once stiff with tension, apprehensive and ready for battle as he would be if he were standing by Teal'c's side, gun in hand and flippant remark on his tongue. But the circumstances are beyond their control, and Teal'c can only rely on himself and not a single weapon. Taking out the Ori soldiers is a simple task, but he's seen what small effort it takes for Priors to incapacitate the most heavily armed warriors. He will act soon, yes, but for now patience is required.

The Prior raises his staff and orders slowly, deliberately, "Cleanse his mind of all resistance that will lead a direct path to Origin."

The two soldiers drag Mitchell to the end of the pathway, his panicked attempts to resist by digging his heels into the floor and struggling with the restraints wholly unproductive. When they shove him over the edge, Teal'c can only stare; can do nothing to bring unwanted attention. He can only sit idly by as old waters descend over his head; the snap of a heavy weight pulling him under. Haunting pain squeezing his chest, him struggling for calm, for release until he submerges slowly and without hesitation...

Teal'c remembers burrowing deep, fading away. He remembers being neither alive nor dead, just simply being.

Blinking hard, he takes a deep breath, shakes loose the gripping memories.

Mitchell's body makes a splashing sound, and Teal'c crouches lower to the floor. The Prior finally turns, slowly walking back toward the stairs, his robes swinging with his movements. Teal'c anticipates having to fight the Ori soldiers, but they fall into step behind the Prior.

Mitchell lacks a symbiote, he will not survive.

Retreating steps continue until complete silence greets him. Even the water is still, leaving no sign that the Tau'ri is fighting for his life.

Finally, when he is certain he is alone, Teal'c coils into action.


The pool is shallow.

A fortuitous detail that Teal'c does not hesitate to exploit. He bends deeply at the waist and leans over, sticking his arm into the water. His lips curl back in distaste as the warm viscous liquid covers his arm. He scans the pool for movement, swishes his hand around until he touches on a solid presence. Teal'c immediately grabs on and begins to pull, the syrupy substance proving more difficult with each forceful tug.

He first sees Mitchell's matted hair before his bent head breaks through the sludge. With another heave of strength, Teal'c drags his team mate further out, then hooks his arms around Mitchell's chest like bands and lifts him out of the pool, his momentum carrying them both back until he collapses on the floor under their combined weight.

Working quickly, Teal'c rolls Mitchell over onto his back and wipes the thick liquid from his mouth, eyes and nose. A gentle exhalation of breath suggests that Mitchell still lives, and Teal'c releases his own explosive breath in relief. Beneath the thick fluid, the Tau'ri's skin is pale and easily bruised. Teal'c says the other man's name, the first words he's said aloud since their initial capture. He wonders about the purpose of this particular pool, why the substance differs from other bodies of water on Numai.


The Prior's words come back to him: cleanse his mind. Teal'c regards the motionless body of the Colonel, and hopes for Mitchell's sake that the process can be reversed; that he may walk away of his own free will.

* * *

He filters in and out, a floating head, he thinks for a hysterical moment. Maybe this is what death really feels like.

But then there's the burning sensation with each breath, spreading through the nasal cavity and up, forming a contained ache in the center of his head. This has to be the result of one colossal fuck-up, and why the hell can't he remember it?

"Colonel Mitchell..." Disembodied voice barely punctures the haze, and he blinks rapidly, as if that will help clear up the confusion at a faster rate.

He tries to speak, opens his mouth and gets water instead. Something pulls at him, squeezing tight and prodding forward. Crisp cool air on his wet skin, no longer weighed down by expectations and pressures not of his own making. His mind... his mind, is full to bursting. He drifts --




And then everything.

* * *

Teal'c maintains a quiet vigil, though his patience grows thin. They are running out of time, and Cameron Mitchell is slow to awaken.

Teal'c had hoped that rinsing off the thick substance in the pool of clear heated water would aid Mitchell's recovery, but he has yet to regain consciousness.

"Hallowed are the--" Mitchell says as he abruptly shifts to consciousness. Sitting up, he reaches out and clamors for balance.

Teal'c rests his hand on Mitchell's chest, measuring his well-being and the risk a likely compromise has to their escape. The Colonel's skin has been washed clean of the dark substance in which he'd been submersed. For now their surroundings are secure, but that could change at any moment.

"Teal'c?" Mitchell asks tentatively. Teal'c nods and their eyes meet -- sharp blue tinged with red. Present. "Man, you are a sight for sore eyes!"

Bowing his head in acknowledgement, Teal'c asks, "Colonel Mitchell, how do you feel?"

Shaking hands come up to cover his face and run through his hair, leaving the wet strands in wild disarray. "Like I took a damn good kick to the head. What the hell happened?"

"I believe the Prior attempted to make you more amenable to Ori conversion. They did not succeed, but I do not doubt that they will try again." What Teal'c does not share is his belief that much of the food and water supply inside the city walls of Numai have been tainted by the Ori. There will be time to share information later.

Mitchell eyes his hand and frowns at the traces of dark liquid decorating his fingers. "Euuch. They dunked me in molasses?"

"That is a most appropriate comparison," Teal'c states drily, lips curving in a slight smile.

"Did they get you too?"

"They did not." Teal'c rises from the water. "Are you able to stand?"

"Yeah, yeah, I think so." Mitchell braces his hands flat on the stoned edge, and hoists himself up until his upper body makes contact with the flat surface.

Mitchell is breathing hard from the exertion, but he has now managed to sit upright and pivots his body away from the spring. "Where's the rest of the band? The SGC needs to be notified."

"Indeed. I do not believe that Colonel Carter and Daniel Jackson are aware of our location."

"But they know we're missing?" Teal'c nods, and Mitchell purses his lips. "So, plan A is to find a Stargate, then. Get back-up, and add Numai to the list of Ori conquests."

Teal'c offers a hand to help Mitchell to his feet, and the other man stumbles, clutching Teal'c's shoulder as he falls backward. Teal'c tightens his grip on Mitchell's hand and lightly shoves him until his back rests against a wall. "Perhaps you require more rest before our journey."

"Teal'c," he says easily, smile softening his mouth, "I'm good."

The nearness of him, Teal'c thinks, is a comfort, but that is a detail that should be considered at a later time.

"Will you be ready to run, Colonel Mitchell?"

"Yeah." Mitchell's reply is almost silent, and he clears his throat to try again. "I'm always ready."



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