Summary: Teal'c contemplates the Tau'ri, and learns a new skill.
Rating/Warnings: G-rated. Early first season; no spoilers.
Length: ~1,200 words.
Author's Notes: Written for beanpot, who requested "redefining faith, like riding a bike (could literally be riding a bike), Hammond." Many thanks to sallymn and aelfgyfu_mead for beta.
LIKE A BICYCLE
Among the Jaffa, some things are considered absolutes: faith, duty, obedience. The Goa'uld will not allow it to be otherwise. They are to be obeyed because they are gods, and those they appoint to positions of authority are to be obeyed because they are chosen by gods. To doubt or to question is to be shol'va, if only in the privacy of one's heart.
It is different among the Tau'ri. They hold no illusions about their leaders, who are only men like themselves. They show little reluctance to question or even to mock the ones who rule them from the place called "Washington." Their soldiers are sworn to obey, as soldiers must be, but their oath of obedience is one they have chosen freely. Many of them pay homage to their own abstract, invisible god, but when they fight, they fight for one another and for their home, and they do so with a faith in each other that owes nothing to the delusions of false gods. As it should be among warriors whose minds and hearts are free.
Teal'c is honored that he has been accepted so readily into the comradeship of the Tau'ri, and he attempts to return the honor by accommodating himself to Tau'ri ways. But often they have the capacity to surprise him, and there are aspects of their culture he has been slow to understand.
Indeed, it is frequently those areas where they are most similar to the Jaffa that cause him the most confusion. Their military structure is familiar enough in principle, but after his first meeting with General Hammond it is clear to Teal'c that the Tau'ri understand command very differently. Were he Jaffa, General Hammond would be unlikely to hold such a high position. Or, having been given it, he would have had to become a very different man in order to keep it. The affability with which he leads could too easily be mistaken for weakness by Jaffa trained to value only strength. More, as a warrior he is past his prime. Of course, one might say the same of Bra'tac -- and to underestimate Master Bra'tac is a mistake no one, enemy or ally, makes more than once. Bra'tac, however, trains more diligently with each passing year in order to offset the effects of age. His experience and wisdom are worthy of great respect, but that respect would be less were he not able to prove that he could still best younger men in battle. The Jaffa have no words for "desk job."
But Teal'c has learned that it is no more wise to underestimate General Hammond than to do so with Bra'tac. The battles he fights may not be physical, but they are battles nonetheless, and he fights them with courage and skill, and a concern for his people that does him credit. Teal'c can understand why any man would be glad to call him friend, but even so, he finds it surprising that soldiers will so readily follow a man who does not prove himself regularly in combat.
Teal'c has cause to speak of such matters with General Hammond in the course of an intelligence briefing he has prepared on Jaffa command structure. He draws no direct comparisons with Hammond's own command, having no desire to show disrespect, but the general is a perceptive man, and he has no difficulty seeing the possible implications.
"Does it bother you, Teal'c," he says in his mild, agreeable voice, "taking orders from someone who isn't joining you on missions?"
"It does not," he says, for it has ceased to do so quite some time ago.
"Well, good," says Hammond. "Although just between you and me, there are times when I wish I could join you folks in the action."
"Do you regard yourself as unfit to do so?" Teal'c dares to ask. Among the Jaffa, this would be a grievous insult, but he has developed enough confidence in his understanding of the Tau'ri to be reasonably certain that the general will not take it so.
"It's not my call to make, son. I go where the Air Force tells me, and somebody's got to mind the store while you're out exploring the universe. But I'll tell you what." He leans in closer to Teal'c, and his eyes twinkle slightly. "If Jack O'Neill can pull off heroics on a regular basis, bad knees and all, I like to think I could manage once in a while. I'll admit I'm not nearly as young as I used to be, but I at least try to keep fit. The Air Force may not be the Jaffa, but we do have standards. And knowing how to handle yourself in a combat situation, well, it's a little like riding a bicycle."
"A... bicycle?" Teal'c raises an eyebrow.
"You've never seen a bicycle? No, I don't suppose you would have. It's a vehicle, with two wheels..." He waves a hand and smiles. "Never mind. The important thing is, once you learn how to ride one, you never forget how."
Teal'c considers this. "General Hammond," he says finally, "It would be an honor to fight beside you, should the circumstances ever arise."
"Thank you, Teal'c," says Hammond. "That means a great deal."
Some weeks later, Jack O'Neill, too, makes a passing reference to this "bicycle." He appears surprised when Teal'c expresses curiosity about the topic, and more so when Teal'c accepts his offer of "riding lessons." Teal'c is not displeased by this. It amuses him to occasionally provoke such a reaction in his friends.
The bicycle proves to be a most unusual conveyance. Teal'c's first impression of it is disappointing. It strikes him as fragile, unstable, technologically primitive and vulnerable to attack. Colonel O'Neill's repeated insistence that the vehicle's operation "is supposed to be fun!" does little to change his opinion. But he has committed to acquiring the skill, and he does not find it acceptable to abandon a commitment.
Its principles of operation are extremely simple, but Teal'c quickly discovers that there is an art to maintaining one's balance, one that requires some time and effort to master. Once he has succeeded at this, he finds himself pleasantly surprised by the bicycle's maneuverability and responsiveness. It occurs to him, after some consideration, that such a transport does have several significant potential advantages: it is small and silent, and it has no electronics which can be interfered with. Not nearly so frivolous as it first appears, then, but deceptively easy to underestimate. It is also a remarkably agreeable mode of transport, once one has learned to handle it correctly.
Indeed, it reminds him a great deal of the Tau'ri.
It is, of course, difficult to know to what degree these new-found skills will be of use to him in the future. Nevertheless, it pleases him to know that from now on they will always be part of him, whatever may come.