Three things you WANT in your story: friendship, humor, action/adventure
Three things you DO NOT WANT in your story: PWP, fluff, Deus ex Machinae
Title: Jaffa and Son
Author: Mish, hsapiens
Category: Vignette, Team, Gen, Action/Adventure
Rating: G, Appropriate for All Ages
Betas: jalabert and majorsamfan. I can't thank them enough. They did a fabulous job. Any remaining errors are mine alone because I'm stubborn.
Summary: The challenges of fatherhood aren't limited to Earth dads, as Teal'c learns when Rya'c goes astray in the Land of Light.
Teal'c's voice echoed off the surrounding canyon walls. He watched in horror as his only son scrabbled to reestablish a tenuous hold on a boulder when one of the logs of his makeshift raft slipped its bounds and disappeared into the white water around the rocks. Disturbingly small splinters reemerged downstream.
"Hold on. I am coming."
"Whoa there, Teal'c!" Jack shouted. "You can't just wade in and rescue him. Wait for us to string a couple of lifelines first."
"I will not stand idly by while Rya'c is in danger."
"No one is suggesting that, Big Guy, but we need to do this right or we'll have to rescue two people. Carter, what do we have?"
"Not much, sir. Standard packs and the climbing gear."
Jack sized up the meager trees lining the narrow shore and the distance out to Rya'c, visibly shivering but clinging to the boulder in the middle of the icy river.
"Carter, we need two ropes, each secured so that it can take the combined weight of two people in that river if necessary."
"I'm on it, sir. This end is no problem; the difficulty will be in securing one to Rya'c. We don't have a child-sized harness."
"One problem at a time." Jack replied, his eyes focused on the child huddled and shivering in the middle of the river. "You can head out, Teal'c, once we've rigged you up."
Sam and Daniel quickly secured the lines to the sturdiest-looking trees. Sam dug out two harnesses and handed one to Daniel, who attached it to one of the lines. She was fitting the other harness to Teal'c's frame when Rya'c spoke up, throwing a wrench into the works.
"Father!" Rya'c shouted to be heard over the noise of the river. "You cannot swim!"
"That is the purpose of the harness!" Teal'c shouted back.
"Whoa there, Teal'c." Jack placed a restraining hand on Teal'c's shoulder. "You can't swim?"
"Jaffa do not swim. The rope will be sufficient, O'Neill."
"Negative, Teal'c. The person who goes out to Rya'c has to be able to swim." Jack began stripping off his vest. "It's just as well you stay on land," Jack teased as he eyed Teal'c's bulging arms. "With muscles like that you'd probably sink like a rock."
"You propose to take my place."
"I can swim." Jack preened; it wasn't often he could top Teal'c in a physical challenge.
"Rya'c is my son."
"Yeah, but if I go, we only have to rescue Rya'c. If you go, we might have to end up rescuing both of you."
"Rya'c is my responsibility."
"And I get that. But the rescuer has to swim out there and back. The lifeline is just a backup. All that heavy muscle of yours can be put to better use for Rya'c by staying here and helping pull us to safety if need be." Jack looked Teal'c in the eye, dropping all pretense.
"I won't let anything happen to your son, Teal'c. I understand."
Teal'c signaled his acquiescence with a single nod of his head. Silently and efficiently, Sam fit the harness to Jack and Daniel secured it to the remaining rope.
Moving upstream from Rya'c's position, Jack waded into the cold river and began a calculated float to Rya'c's position. As soon as he arrived, he began fitting the extra harness onto Rya'c. As he fiddled with the fit, further adjusting the fit to the boy's frame, the fragile raft on which Rya'c was huddled shifted and threw them both off balance. Rya'c's attention had been on Jack and he lost his footing. He fell into the water and only Jack's strong grip on the harness kept his head above water. Jack held on tightly but couldn't prevent the boy's head from hitting the boulder. Jack strapped the dazed boy to himself and started for shore with smooth, practiced strokes.
Teal'c, whose infinite patience in pursuit of his goals was a point of personal pride, could not stand calmly as he watched his son ferried to shore. He yanked the rope towards shore, speeding them along. As they neared, he could see that Rya'c's lips were blue. Putting all his strength into it, he pulled completely out of the water and up onto shore using nothing more than the ropes.
Exhausted, Jack feebly quipped, "Remind me to take you fishing some day, Teal'c."
Teal'c freed Rya'c from the harness and carried him to a position close to the fire. He wrapped himself around the shivering frame of his son, willing his warmth into his son. Sam and Daniel supported Jack on each side and helped him to the fire.
"You'll want to watch him," Jack advised, "I think he swallowed half the river on our way in." Teal'c shifted to give Rya'c an unobstructed path. As if on cue, Rya'c began vomiting. Teal'c's large hand dwarfed his son's back as he rubbed and supported him as heaved.
"I am fine," Rya'c said, his words slurred, before collapsing into a soggy, pitiable heap. Sam moved towards him, wrapping a blanket around the boy's thin shoulders, and carefully examined him. After a few minutes she nodded, satisfied with what she observed.
"I don't see any obvious signs of concussion, colonel, but that slur to his speech is troubling. What do I ask a boy on another planet to assess his cognitive function? Teal'c have you got any ideas? 'Who's the president,' and 'What year is it,' only work on Earth. They'd have a different sort of calendar here."
"April, May, and June," Rya'c murmured. Sam eyed the bedraggled form with concern. Rya'c was limp and still shivering under his blanket, his eyes closed.
"Sir, I think he's hallucinating," Sam said worriedly. But Teal'c smiled.
"No, Major Carter. Rya'c is answering a riddle. I have taught him riddles common among the Tau'ri. Allow me to demonstrate."
"This I have to see," Jack said as the team gathered around the father and son.
"What did the hockey player do when the thief demanded money?" Teal'c asked. Rya'c muttered unintelligibly. "Rya'c, you must answer as clearly as you can, even if it is difficult. We are attempting to determine whether your brain has been injured." A single eye opened slowly.
"He gave him a check," Rya'c repeated more clearly.
"And where do books sleep?" Rya'c smiled tentatively at his father and pushed himself into a seated position.
"Under their covers."
Teal'c turned to face his team, his pleasure evident in the one upturned corner of his mouth.
"My son is undamaged."
Silence greeted this pronouncement, each member struggling to assimilate the scene they'd just witnessed. Sam recovered first.
"Uh, okay. 'April, May, and June'?" she asked.
"You mentioned the Earth calendar. That is Father's favorite Earth joke," Rya'c answered.
Jack, still feeling the chill from his own trip in the river, watched the boy with a bit of envy. There was Rya'c sitting up, cracking jokes when minutes earlier he'd been half-drowned, hypothermic, and possibly concussed. Was that a Jaffa's quick healing or was that just his youth?
"Joke?" Sam asked.
"I have been teaching Rya'c the humor of Tau'ri children," Teal'c said proudly.
"What does this have to do with, 'April, May, and...'?" Jack asked.
"June," Teal'c said. "The question you seek is, 'What did the calendar maker name his daughters?'"
"I'm beginning to think it isn't Jaffa humor that's the problem," Jack stage-whispered to Sam, staring at the smug smile on Teal'c's face.
Sam swallowed her laugh. "Well, Rya'c, I'm not a medical doctor, but you appear to have survived without serious injury."
Jack studied Rya'c's thin frame. The boy looked much better but he was not yet himself.
"Have you eaten recently?" he asked. "How about some soup or hot chocolate?" Rya'c perked up at the suggestion.
"Do you have the kind with the marshmallows?"
"Would I come to the Land of Light without your favorite hot chocolate?"
Quiet descended on their party. His teammates gave Teal'c some privacy with his son as they made themselves busy. Sam volunteered to heat the water while Daniel dug some extra pants and a shirt out of his pack, and silently offered them to Rya'c. Jack ducked away into the sparse trees to change into dry clothes.
The team settled in with their warming cups of hot chocolate. Now that it was obvious that his son was no longer in danger, Teal'c's panic turned to anger. Why had the boy run away? How had Rya'c, who could not swim, come to be on a raft in the middle of a river? Had the boy no sense? He could not yet speak with a clear mind. Teal'c walked to the edge of the river and stared out at the water battering against the remains of the raft still caught in the boulders.
Rya'c deflated as he stared at his father's stiff back. Sam moved closer, resettling her jacket on his shoulders. Jack wanted to shake the boy, demand answers, but he was acutely aware that this was Teal'c's prerogative. Finally, Teal'c turned to look at his son.
"What were you thinking, Rya'c?" he barked.
"Tupelo contacted us yesterday to report that you had disappeared three days ago."
"I- I-...I wanted to make you proud of me, Father." Rya'c fidgeted under his father's disapproval.
"How does running away make me proud? A Jaffa does not run--!"
"No! I wanted to complete the rite of akira'tel. I want to become a chal'til!"
"But you cannot have akira'tel here; there are no Jaffa to--"
Teal'c turned to face Daniel, who was looking apologetic.
"Um, Teal'c, Rya'c and I discussed the akira'tel a few months ago," Daniel confessed. "He was concerned about being away from Chulak."
"What does that have to do with going rafting?" Jack asked.
"A boy must pass the akira'tel," Teal'c explained, "to become a chal'til."
"And chattel has what to do with rafting?" Jack asked again. Daniel smiled tolerantly and rolled his eyes.
"A chal'til is an apprentice who is training to be a Jaffa warrior. They must first pass a test of their skills in the forest. That test is the akira'tel."
"The akira'tel is to be undertaken only under the direction of an elder because it is dangerous," Teal'c added.
"Again, I fail to see how this connects to rafting. Alone." Jack turned to the boy. "Rya'c, that was very dangerous."
"It was foolish," Teal'c said sternly.
"The villagers know all about the forest, Father. It would not have been the same as the forests of Chulak." Rya'c offered as an explanation. "There was no challenge to it."
"You chose instead to endanger your life in a river?" Teal'c roared. Rya'c's back stiffened in response to his father's tone.
"It was an appropriate challenge for a proper rite of passage," he answered defiantly.
The entire team turned towards Daniel, who was now looking distinctly uncomfortable. "Rya'c and I discussed how the Jaffa's akira'tel was like what anthropologists call a rite of passage. "
"You did not speak of this to me, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
"No and I'm sorry for that, Teal'c. I thought I had set his mind at ease." Daniel shot a look of concern at Rya'c. "We had a long discussion about how there are many cultures on Earth that require their youths to pass tests as a means of attaining adult status and every one of them has a different method..." Daniel paused to take a breath. "Anthropologists have identified underlying principles of isolation and contact with the natural environment, a test of endurance--."
Jack chuckled. "Daniel, you told Rya'c to take a rafting trip to become a man?"
"No!" Daniel declared, indignant. "Not at all. We were discussing the various ways in which societies test their boys so that they may become men. Rafting never came up in our discussion. At least, I don't think that it did."
"It did not--." Rya'c started.
"Why did you choose this river, Rya'c?" Teal'c asked.
"Tupelo and his people do not know the secrets of the river. Sam said that a wide river moved slowly and was navigable..."
Teal'c turned a raised eyebrow in her direction.
"Rya'c and I discussed why wide rivers move slowly," Sam said, pausing to eye the steep canyon walls around them and the roiling river water. "Of course, here the river is much narrower. I didn't realize when you asked me-"
"You did not--." Rya'c tried again.
"Rya'c! You will not interrupt," Teal'c reprimanded.
"I wish you'd told me you wanted to learn about river rafting because I'd have told you not go alone. Those maps I gave you aren't enough; you always take a buddy when you go out on the water. I would have also taught you about river safety and how to build a secure raft," Sam said.
"Thank you, Sam, but Uncle Jack to taught me about rafts."
"Me?" Jack sputtered. "I don't recall teaching you anything about river rafting, Rya'c," Jack replied, frowning in confusion.
"You didn't," Ry'ac conceded. "Not directly. But we read about Huckleberry Finn and Jim and Tom--."
"Oh," Jack said sheepishly.
"O'Neill?" Teal'c said, turning to his commanding officer.
"Rya'c was having trouble falling asleep when he first got here so I read him a bedtime story." His expression grew wistful. "I used to read to Charlie at bedtime; he loved the story of the boys rafting down the Mississippi. Actually, I thought Rya'c had slept through most of the book."
Teal'c looked at his apologetic teammates.
"The three of you have been filling my son's mind with tales of human boys and their fictional adventures. The life of a young Jaffa is unlike that of your Tau'ri children. We do not encourage our young to venture out into the world alone in a foolish attempt to emulate a work of fiction."
Teal'c turned a steely gaze on his son.
"I know: do not interrupt. I apologize. But it is not right to blame your friends for my choices." Rya'c said firmly. "They freely shared their knowledge and friendship. I am the one who chose this task for myself. I know now that I was wrong and that I have much to learn before I can be a chal'til. I am the only one who should be punished for my foolishness!"
Teal'c's anger melted as he looked at the proud way in which his son stood, awaiting his punishment. He stooped to embrace his son; massive arms engulfed Rya'c.
"My son, you have taken the first step to becoming a true Jaffa. You have taken responsibility for your actions when I was ready to blame others. You have the heart of a Jaffa.. I am proud of you."
"You're going to be a fine warrior someday, Rya'c," Jack said, clasping the boy's shoulder. "Just like your old man."
"Agreed," Teal'c said. "However, you are not yet that warrior and you must never go off again by yourself without telling someone. I will arrange for you to train as a chal'til."
"Perhaps Master Bra'tac will have use for such a fine young man some day," Sam said with a warm smile.
"Does the Jaffa rebellion have an amphibious unit?" Daniel quipped and everyone laughed.
"Sir, we should begin our trek back to the city," Sam suggested.
"That's right. Carter, you and Teal'c pack the gear while Daniel puts out the fire. Abe and I here will rest up for the trip back--."
"Abe?" Rya'c asked.
"Honest Abe, the sixteenth and some think the greatest president that the United States has ever had."