A Lasting Gift (by Nzie)

Summary: Inspired by the series finale. Also, in my world, the Prime would be the personal guard/elite soldiers of the Goa’uld. First Prime would mean the head of that unit. Otherwise, I just can’t stand the redundancy of the term.
Category:  Stargate SG-1
Genre:  Sci-fi
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  1770


“Teal’c,” she began after a long pause, “I don’t…know what to say.”

Samantha Carter gazed at what he held. Without taking it from him, she tentatively reached her hand towards it, hesitating, hovering just away from its smooth body. The sensation was mesmerizing. Gently, wary of harming it, her fingertips finally stretched the last millimeters with the softest touch. She coursed her fingers over it tenderly, finding every curve, every embellishment.

“It is my hope that you will accept it, Colonel Carter.”

“This must’ve cost you a fortune, Teal’c…”

“Please do not concern yourself with that,” he broke in firmly. “It is said among the Jaffa that when the goal is beyond price, all expenses necessary to achieve it are… a bargain.”

She could not help but smile. “Roughly translated.”

“Indeed,” he intoned with a bow of his head.

She pulled her hand away. “I don’t play, Teal’c.”

“I am aware.”

“So why are you giv…”

“Do you not wish to play?”

Her upper teeth found her lower lip, and she inhaled in a soft hiss over them. She had always thought Mark would tease her. She had never thought her parents had the time to take her to lessons. She had almost forgotten about it in the sleepless student days of lab work and studying. And as an active duty officer, she spent most of her time at work, thinking about work, or trying not to think so she’d be refreshed when it came time to go back to work. It was only the occasional song on classical radio that would remind her. Someday, she had told herself since the age of seven and three quarters, I’ll do that.

But she had never told a soul.

“How did you know?”

In his inimitable way, he tilted his head, the corners of his mouth upturned only slightly. He said nothing.

“O-kay.”

He held the cello and bow out to her.

“Do you play, Teal’c?”

“I do not. However, I have now had the pleasure of hearing the music of this instrument for several years. I find it to be quite… soothing.” Her eyebrows furrowed skeptically. “It would bring me great pleasure to hear you play.”

“So, this is purely for your benefit,” she said through a smirk. “I’d have to learn how before I could play anything.”

“It is worth the wait.”

There was something in his tone. She had never known him to sound uncertain. Even when expressing uncertainty, he was always sure of exactly what he was unsure of. Yet, he spoke as if it were a foregone conclusion, with just a twinge of jovial irony, like someone who had bet correctly on the score of a game before it was scheduled, let alone played.

But she didn’t know what to make of that. “Why does this…I appreciate it, Teal’c, but I guess I’m wondering why you want me to play the cello. What makes it so important?”

Standing the instrument on its end pin, he answered in his earthy, rumbling tone. “I do not believe I have ever told you of my education as a child.”

“No,” she replied, puzzled.

“As the son of Chronos’ First Prime, I enjoyed every privilege the Goa’uld provided the Jaffa in the Prime Guard. I was better educated than most. While yet a child, I felled a boar on my own. I could read, and learned by heart the entire history of Chronos’ rule. As a youth, I had already mastered lok’nel when I was assigned to the Prime by Apophis.”

“Lok’nel?”

“It is an ancient form of martial arts.”

“Ah… Sounds like you were a pretty smart kid.”

“Indeed.”

She stared at him for a moment. “I’m not sure I understand where this is going, Teal’c.”

“Daniel Jackson has recommended to me a number of books of Tau’ri history. One which I found most fascinating recounts the Peloponnesian War.”

“Between the Spartans and the Athenians?”

“That is correct. I felt very much when I first read it that the Spartans were a vastly superior race, and was little surprised that they eventually prevailed. There are a great many similarities between their culture and my own. They were formidable warriors. I was startled when I learned that there was little left of their people and ways. The Jaffa have long revered and preserved the ways of our predecessors, particularly in the arts of war.

“During my years with the Tau’ri, I have learned, however, that that way of life is not the only way to live. The Athenians, though vanquished, left a much greater legacy, through pursuits that my ancestors would have considered unseemly and unimportant. My education was considered complete, but it was lacking in much the same way as that of the children of Orban. I was as a tool, with little legacy beyond what technical skills I could pass on to others.”

“But look at what you’ve accomplished. The Jaffa nation exists because of you.”

“It is my hope for our nation that we may now turn to pursuits of intrinsic value — such as music and art and science — so that we may, in turn, give our descendants that much richer a heritage.”

“You will, Teal’c,” she said.

After a moment, he began again. “Colonel Carter, I have observed you as you have listened to the music of this instrument. It appears to have a most comforting effect. Would you tell me what it is that you enjoy when hearing it?”

She cocked her head, her lips pursed slightly in thought, her eyes intent on his face. Closing her eyes, she took a short breath. “There was always something… I’m not sure how to describe it, really. Music could be called mathematical equations—no, well, that doesn’t seem… enough… Patterns have always fascinated me, in math, in science, in nature. Music takes those pattern principles and makes something… rich, and whole, something unquantifiable… When I make something — a reactor, or a bomb, or anything, I love making it — solving whatever problem it is that I need to solve, it’s just a tool. It has its function, and that’s it. I’m proud of it, sure…” She trailed off, her eyes open and squinting, her hand finding itself off to the side, fingers spread at angles, clutching the air.

Her eyes, slanted to the up-left corner, focused inwards. “When I hear the cello… I can’t put together a naquada reactor and reach anyone’s soul with it. But…I hear those notes, the deep sound, the low, reaching sounds, like a thread that stretches between the musician and me. It’s just tones made from vibrating strings, but it… touches me. It’s something—something that lasts. I could build the energizer bunny of naquada reactors and it couldn’t come close to two and a half minutes on the radio.” She drifted into silence.

“A communion of the soul, between the musician and the listener.”

“Yeah,” she said, looking up at him once more.

“Music as such is a magnificent gift. To be able to make such music is also a priceless gift.”

“I don’t know if I could. I’ve never had any musical training, and people who play instruments are gifted at music. And most start when they’re kids—it’s a lot of work.”

“I have found in my years that hard work is necessary to any task of value, with or without the natural faculty.”

“You know, it’s almost impossible to argue with you.”

“It is especially difficult when I am correct, as in this instance.”

She laughed. “I just wish I could feel so certain. I know it’ll take work—where I’d find the time is a whole other problem—but I’ve never been what you’d call artistic. I doubt I have any gift for music.”

“I believe you have it within you.” She screwed up her face. “Please accept this. It is in many ways a selfish gift. The cello has brought me much comfort in trying times. I would greatly enjoy hearing you play it. It would be a gift of great value to me.”

“Teal’c—does this have anything to do with the Odyssey?”

Being of a much longer-lived race long accustomed to accepting undesirable circumstances, he had much less sympathy for his companions’ restlessness than his steadfast demeanor revealed. It was only after many years of combat that his sparring partner had begun to grow tired with age, and that he had grown tired of Mitchell’s dependence on him to while away the many hours. In the proud traditions of his people, he faced every foe head on — first those within himself, and finally those within the field of battle. When facing a friend, however — as O’Neill might have said — avoidance, rather, stealth could be the better path. Several years of having only the Odyssey to explore left no undiscovered place. He had guessed that Mitchell would not look for him in her lab, and so had gone there. He was about to walk in when the faint strains began.

It was not a flawless performance. Perhaps it was the torment of years of trying without success. Perhaps it was the anguish of years lived so differently from any hope or dream or wish. Perhaps it was the lament of the stranded. Perhaps it was all and none and more. Whatever it was, though, it was powerful. Even the missed notes, the going back over problem areas, measure for measure it was imbued with her very soul. Until that point, only kel’no’reem could bring him such peace. That day became the first of many that he sat, cross-legged and perfectly still outside her door, simply listening.

“The ability to play such an instrument would indeed be a lasting gift, much as the performance is a gift to the listener.”

Teal’c once again held out the beautiful cello and bow towards Sam, and, with a nod, she accepted them. He bowed his head regally before leaving her lab. Holding it carefully aloft, she sat on her stool and drew the cello close to her, running her fingers along its fine strings and smooth body.

***The End***

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