Cast upon Foreign Soil
“You have my thanks, Daniel Jackson.”
Daniel glanced over at his passenger. “For what?”
“For interceding on my behalf. For persuading General Hammond to allow me to attend.”
“Jack wants you to be there.”
Taking his cue from Daniel, Teal’c remained silent as they traveled through rapidly departing daylight, using the time to search for the serenity he believed was required to assist his friends through the coming ordeal.
“Teal’c, glad you could make it!” O’Neill ushered them into his home.
“Daniel Jackson assured General Hammond that I would cause no trouble nor come to any harm for the duration of the evening.”
Jack eyed the knitted cap pulled closely over Teal’c’s head. “Well, just keep that on and you should be fine. Daniel, quit lurking and get in here. Are you drinking?” He pointed to a bowl jumbled with several sets of keys.
“No, I promised General Hammond I’d have Teal’c home before curfew.”
“Okay, you can keep your keys then. Food and drink in the kitchen.”
“So I was just about to fire the arrow and Kawalsky just lays on the horn. I mean, he just blasts the damn thing.” Jack gestured with his beer.
“And you shot the instructor?” Colonel Dixon sounded hopeful.
“No, but I came this close,” Jack held his thumb and forefinger a scant inch apart. He paused. “The guy had to change his uniform and I had to pull sentry duty for a month.” Laughter filled the living room as bottles clinked and glasses were raised.
Teal’c felt a cool breeze on his face; someone, somewhere had opened an outside door. Grateful for the excuse to escape, he made his way to the kitchen, exchanging several greetings as he passed acquaintances.
He was not surprised to find Daniel Jackson seated on the deck railing. “Daniel Jackson.”
Teal’s stood silently at parade rest, finally offering, “It is a temperate evening.”
Daniel frowned at him. “What?”
“I have observed that many of your people begin a conversation with meaningless exchanges concerning climate.”
The silence stretched out again. “Did O’Neill’s oratory disturb you, Daniel Jackson?”
“No. Why would you say that?”
“Because you departed the room when he began speaking of his memories of Major Kawalsky. And you are holding an alcoholic beverage even though you assured Colonel O’Neill that you would not.”
“Oh, the beer’s not for drinking. I’ve found that if you carry one around, people don’t hound you to ‘have another’.”
“You seem to be evading the point, Daniel Jackson.”
He sighed heavily. “I’m not good at these kinds of gatherings. People getting drunk and talking about the deceased like they’re in another room or something. I don’t find it helpful.”
“It seems to help O’Neill.”
“Good for him.” Daniel replied shortly.
“Will you explain this honor guard of which O’Neill spoke?”
“Um…it’s a military thing. When a soldier is killed in battle, his body is returned to his family. Always accompanied by other soldiers, usually members of his squad or particular friends. They stay with the body day and night until the interment.”
“All soldiers are afforded this honor?”
“Yeah, whenever it is possible to retrieve the body. We try not to leave anyone on foreign soil.” Daniel studied him for a minute. “There are no Jaffa burial rituals?”
“The only rituals allowed are those that honor the Goa’uld. There are no life celebrations?”
“Oh, yeah, there are plenty. People also practice them for celebration, for joy, for gratitude, for forgiveness. Many of our rituals are two-fold, especially those associated with death. They ease the hearts of those left behind and lead the dead to the place beyond this life. I mean, if you believe there is something further.”
Teal’c thought he detected a note of cynicism in his voice. “Do you not believe this, Daniel Jackson?”
“Yeah, well, I did at one time.” He abruptly changed the subject. “Anyway, Jack took Kawalsky’s body to Texas where his grandparents had a family cemetery.”
“Then his family must have great wealth and power.”
Daniel looked confused. “I don’t know.”
“In order for them to devote precious land solely for the purpose of burial.” This concept was unimaginable to Teal’c.
“Some families live on land that is passed from generation to generation. And most have designated part of that land as a cemetery for family. So, not necessarily wealthy but certainly cognizant of tradition. Some cultures believe that if the body isn’t returned to tribal ground, to consecrated ground then the spirit can’t get to heaven or wherever it’s supposed to be going.” He looked up at the hard brightness of the stars “Although I don’t suppose in the long run it much matters where you’re buried.”
“I disagree, Daniel Jackson. I believe it matters a great deal. Do you not believe that it affords Major Kawalsky’s family a measure of comfort to have his remains with the ancestors?” Daniel just shrugged. “Furthermore, I have seen photographs of your Arlington cemetery. Millions of your people journey there to see the resting place of people to whom they are unrelated. And is it not referred to as ‘hallowed ground’ because of those who rest there?”
“Technically, hallowed means it has been blessed by a priest or a shaman or a medicine man. But, yes, it is sacred to many Americans. It’s a beautiful place, really. And it should feel….weighted down by misery and sorrow.”
“But you do not feel so?”
“I guess I’ve just stood on too many such places, Teal’c. But there is an aura there, a peace, something…unexplainable. I’d like to take you there.” Daniel said impulsively.
“I would very much like to visit this place, Daniel Jackson.”
“Thank you, Teal’c.”
“I have done nothing for which I should be thanked.”
“You reminded me of why we have rituals. They…temper the grief. Ritual is like a rudder, steering our ship through the river of grief. We may not like them, we may not understand them but they are necessary for the process.”
“Then I look forward to the day when we may gather to discuss the rituals developed by a free Jaffa nation.”
Inexplicably, Daniel Jackson smiled as O’Neill shouted at them from the doorway. “I look forward to that day as well.”