“Shangri-La saved you, when it could have killed you,” Hakkai went on. “And the fact that it saved you – that it has the kind of people in it who could save you, who would want to… you love this world.” A breath. “And you were hoping they’d love it too.”
“I….” He didn’t know how to tell Hakkai he was wrong, but he had to be. There was no way he’d care enough about these SGC idiots to want-
“After all, they’re where you came from. And it’s hard to give up what you were.” A rueful, sad smile. “Believe me, I know.”
“Hakkai,” Sanzo said quietly.
“I am youkai. Just as you are Sanzo. But inside, we still carry our ghosts. And sometimes, they cry out.” A gentle shrug. “You wanted them to see this world was beautiful. That it was worth fighting for. And all they see is another planet, another mission. An insane planet. Not a refuge. Not home; not someplace that could ever be home. And it hurts.”
One breath. Two. Throttle back the anger; it was pain, not reason, driving him. Own it. Acknowledge it. “Sometimes, I really want to punch you,” Sanzo said bluntly. Looked away. “You’re right.” Hold the cup. Don’t break it. “I can’t do my job if I’m locked in my own head. I… appreciate that.”
“Sometimes I want to punch you, too, Sanzo,” came the healer’s frank admission. “But then I’d have to heal you, and what would be the use of that?”
“No,” Sanzo bit out. “If you ever have to give me a black eye, you can leave it.” He tilted his head, :listening.: “Heads up.” Not that Hakkai wouldn’t have caught the scent of a Jaffa with larva, but what the hell.
“Sanzo.” The Jaffa inclined his head politely. “Cho Hakkai.”
“A quiet watch?” the healer inquired.
“Indeed.” Teal’c frowned slightly. “I have considered our mutual difficulties.”
“Really?” Hakkai smiled.
“As have you,” the Jaffa said matter-of-factly. “The SGC plans to destroy the System Lords. It is fitting; they are false gods, and I have renounced my loyalty to them. Yet Kanzeon Bosatsu has always been spoken of as one who has held to her word, when she could easily have betrayed any number of her fellow Goa’uld and sheltered under the Asgard treaty. Her people here appear content. They fear the youkai, but not their gods. If Kanzeon has also provided her people with protectors such as yourselves, then she is honorable, and perhaps worthy of an alliance with the SGC.” He eyed Sanzo. “She is most certainly worthy of respect.”
“I’m surprised,” Sanzo said neutrally. Teal’c :felt: honest, but he could almost hear the other shoe waiting to drop.
“Had I thought on this difficulty in more detail, I would have asked General Hammond to consider assigning SG-8 to this mission instead,” Teal’c stated. “The general would likely still have sent O’Neill, but we might also have been assigned one of their members. A trained diplomat, rather than those who have been forcibly taken as hosts, or have ties to the Tok’ra, or have been… abused… by Goa’uld Queens.”
:Daniel Jackson,: was the clear flavor of that last. “Damn,” Sanzo swore.
“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed with heavy irony. “You have presented yourself as the servant of a just and noble goddess, beset by forces her vowed word prevents her from destroying utterly. They do not believe you.”
“But you do,” Hakkai said thoughtfully.
“Before I was First Prime of Apophis, I was a student of Master Bra’tac.” Brown met violet, level and unwavering. “His apprentice.”
“I doubt the SGC would say Master Bra’tac messed with your head,” Sanzo said dryly.
“He did not. Not as Koumyou did. But a master always shapes his student’s thoughts – though the best masters further teach one to think freely. The Tau’ri have a similar phenomenon. I believe it is called ‘boot camp’.”
“Er…” Hakkai looked lost.
“Introductory military training,” Sanzo filled in. “Ask Gojyo.”
“If Koumyou Sanzo was your master,” Teal’c went on, “it was his duty to instruct you in the skills needed to survive. In any fashion necessary. The master teaches; the student learns. And, if he is wise, survives.” The Jaffa bowed, equal to equal. “That you have succeeded thus far, is clear evidence that Koumyou Sanzo was, in truth, a master. I would have been honored to meet him. And I am certain he and Master Bra’tac would have had much to discuss.”
“I don’t know,” Sanzo shrugged. “Did Master Bra’tac make paper airplanes?”
Humor glinted in Teal’c’s gaze. “I will suggest the practice, when next we meet.”