Peace of Mind

by regann

He learned a great many things in those dark, hazy days of captivity.

His name was Petbeh, and he hailed from the same lineage of Setesh, born of the queen Amentet.

He remembered the lives of those so many generations before him, and he showed them to his captive, through visions, through dreams, through a bond so complete and consuming that there was no resistance.

Caldwell tasted the joy of his ancestors as they murdered, subjugated, tortured, the bloody images splashed before eyes he could not shut; he felt their smug arrogance as the masses bowed to their whims, as the Jaffa kneeled and asked to be led. He knew how it felt to be on fire with a kind of rage he doubted humans could ever feel because it involved a complete revolt against sanity and humanity into a single emotion that clawed and demanded and hurt everything it touched.

He could feel it twist in his gut, as if it were him that felt it, a physical blow that felt like something gnawing at his intestines; he could feel its echo even in the presence of his captor's humor, his captor's satisfaction of a job well done.

He learned what it felt like to have power surge through him like an electrical current, a flow of power that he could control and direct and use. He remembered the weight of the cold metal ribbons around his hands, the relief in the release of that naquadah-generated power through the crystal that lay heavy at his palm. The mineral burned in his blood like fire, like fine wine or smooth scotch; an addicting, dangerous thing that was wild and seductive and willing, begging for its power to be used. A power that could be heal or kill or burn or freeze at his whim, a whim that invariably chose destruction over creation, pain over pleasure.

He could recall all this even though it had never happened, when his captor had done none of it, nor he himself. But it had happened long ago and the memory lingered in symbiote's core, as real and as visceral as if he had done it himself. And so it lingered in Caldwell's mind, the stuff of nightmares and dark dreams and terrors, the shadow of a shadow that haunted him still.

Caldwell learned the true meaning of betrayal, a lesson he was taught well, inside and out.

He knew was it was like to be betrayed by his own body, to watch it do things that he begged for it not, to scream at it to not do things that it did. He knew what it was to be betrayed by his own mind, a fragile encyclopedia of knowledge that laid everything he knew bare to his captor, every thought, every fragment of wisdom gained from age and experience -- all of it lay open as if he were a book to be read and utilized, a unwilling spy against his own, a tool to be wielded. Caldwell also knew how it felt to have his secret desires used against him, to be taunted by his own hopes and dreams, a fact made more painful by the fact that he had long since believed himself immune to foolish, impossible wishes, to fantasies of what-might-have-been and what-could-be. He learned the subtle manipulation that came with hearing a silky, whispering voice mock him with them when he could not subjugate him entirely, to threaten him with images of dead, dark eyes -- dear Angela, gone, gone, gone -- or angry, green eyes -- a name he would not speak, even in this place, not in this way -- a jumbled, melted morass of wishes, dreams and memories all tangled and left to dangle before him, to remind him of who was powerful and who was not.

As if he needed reminding.

He learned what it was like for his colleagues -- his allies, his own people -- to doubt his very nature, his loyalty, his allegiance. It came as a bittersweet, doubled-edge sword, that moment; to know that they all could believe it of him was something he almost couldn't bear but at least they had caught him -- not him, but his silent, coiled captor -- and they had succeeded in saving the city, the wondrous Ancient place whose beauty Caldwell secretly dreamed of when he slept in the drab, gray bowels of his ship, another wish, another foolish desire that he been used to taunt and torture him.

He also learned how it felt to have the high voltage low amperage charge of a taser tear through him, to look out of his own eyes as one of his own men -- even Sheppard counted as that, despite the arguments, the disagreements, despite everything -- turned a weapon on him, even as he struggled for control, fighting and clawing to the surface of his synapses against the impenetrable paralysis that held him still.

But Caldwell also knew the relief and triumph of winning that fight; the shaky victory in a whisper that saved his men, his city and his world, the one that ended the match between him and his captor. He learned the blessed rest that came with darkness, utter and still, and calm of his own mind, alone, unencumbered.

He re-learned the joy of waking -- pale and weak but free -- with no voice in his mind, no fight to fight, no captor to rage against.

And it was there that he knew one final, important thing -- just as a human could never understand a Goa'uld's rage, a Goa'uld could never understand a human's peace.

And Caldwell might have once thought that he had no peace left in him but he learned differently that day because it was there in his memories, in his resistance, in his struggle against that silent, consuming enemy.

And it might have been a strange kind of peace but it was his and his alone.

There was a beauty and peace in that in and of itself.

the end.

Author's notes:

Petbe(h) is the Egyptian god of revenge; Amentet the goddess of the west. They were names chosen randomly, hopefully ones not used in the show.

"Angela" is a hold-over from another Caldwell piece I wrote that never left my computer. I like the idea of Caldwell being a widower; I named this make-believe wife Angela. Unfortunately, the fic about her is almost as dead as she is but I snuck her into this one. XD

Any other question? Please ask.