One of the things we are taught as Tok'ra is to take advantage of a situation. I am aware that this seems contrary to our normal careful and contemplative strategies. Yet, sometimes serendipity is often one's greatest ally.
I believed that I was making a good choice when I left O'Neill in the forest that night.
I had hoped that the Jaffa would not realize just who he was. I believed they would deem him as nothing but a worthless human ; something beneath their notice and not worthy of attention.
I had made a grave miscalculation, for I underestimated O'Neill's reputation. To use his words, they were famous. And that fame – along with Ba'al's surprise return – led to him being held prisoner and – as I learned later – repeatedly tortured to death.
One thing many do not realize about my kind is that we can return to our aquatic past. When I jumped from O'Neill I made my way – quite difficultly I may add – to a small stream. I hid there – trapped – for several weeks until I was able to gain my freedom.
I must confess that I was not very Tok'ra in my escape. My egress from the stream was gained in the form of a young slave, Oketo.
I believe the Tau'ri have a phrase, it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I did not seek Oketo's permission to blend with him. In fact, such an act was impossible. As such, when I saw Oketo, I merely took him.
I behaved just like the goa'uld I have fought against for so long. It is a fact that I do not share with pride. Yet it is a fact that I cannot deny.
He was frightened when we first blended. So terrified that he nearly tore out his throat with his bare hands. His panic forced me to take and keep control. Using his memories, I pretended to be him, slipping unnoticed into his village.
It was in chaos and it was then that I discovered all that had transpired during my sojourn in the stream.
Ba'al had fled.
Attacked by Yu, he abandoned this planet and ran for his life. This was also when I learned of O'Neill's capture. The few survivors left behind spoke of his abuse and torture and that was when I discovered the enormity of my mistake.
My action did not save him, it condemned him. I abandoned my host to torture, to pain, to death.
He, albeit reluctantly, saved my life and I repaid him by leaving him behind. My shame knew no bounds.
That is a mistake that will always remain a stain upon my soul.
I do not know which action upset Oketo more, my intrusion into him or learning of O'Neill's torture. I do know that O'Neill's fate did help Oketo to accept me. He realized that Ba'al was not a god, he was an enemy. Ba'al had enslaved him and his family. And, the Tok'ra and Tau'ri were the best chance the galaxy had to rid itself of the goa'uld.
It was then that he accepted me. He forgave me my intrusion and told me that he would release me from my promise.
When I intruded upon him, I promised Oketo that I would move on as quickly as I could. It was a promise that he did not believe but it was a promise that was sincere.
Now it was a promise that he no longer wanted me to honor.
His decision marked the end of my intrusion and the beginning of our partnership. And that partnership culminated in a decision that – even months before – I would not have even considered.
Since my mistake resulted in O'Neill's death, I should attempt to take his place.
I began to make plans to forsake the Tok'ar.
I would join the Tau'ri.
It was astonishingly simple to travel to the planet of the Tau'ri. Even without O'Neill's memories, the Tok'ra knew of the first world. The origin of the human race.
Well aware of the Tau'ri iris, we traveled by a teltac I removed from Ba'al's planet.
It took us many days to arrive at the Tau'ri world and, in that time, Oketo and I were able to get to know each other.
Exploiting the few memories of O'Neill's that I possessed, I engaged the ship's cloak and landed the teltac in a corner of the facility they called Peterson Air Force Base. It was then that I used the radio and contacted Stargate Command, informing them of our presence.
They were predictably surprised and moderately annoyed as they informed us that – under no circumstances – were we to leave the ship.
So we waited, relatively patiently, while Oketo took me to task for my latest act of cowardice.
It was a short time later when a military vehicle bounced over the rough grass and stopped a short distance away. Impressed that they did not collide with my ship, I opened the outer door, well aware that there was no one around to witness the act as my ship's sensors were functioning well within normal parameters.
I stepped outside, indulging myself in my host's wonder before turning my attention to the new arrivals.
It was then that I got the shock of a lifetime – a Tok'ra lifetime.
"You are not dead," I blurted, staring at the two figures walking towards me.
The man looked at the woman. "This some super secret Tok'ra greeting that you never filled me in on?" he asked.
"Not that I am aware of, sir," the blond answered. Carter. The name drifted free of O'Neill's memories. Major Samantha Carter. Daughter of Jacob, host to Selmac. Once host to Jolinar, who was the mate of Martouf and Lantash.
I expected to see her. Her ties often placed her in the role of liaison, whether she wanted it or not.
Her companion however –
"Since you seem to have some idea who I am, care to introduce yourself?" the man said, his tone making it more of an order than a suggestion.
"Colonel O'Neill, it is I, Kanan."
I had no preconception of meeting my former host. I believed him to be dead, lost in Yu's attack. I did, however, imagine how I would meet his friends.
I prepared myself for General Hammond's distrust, Teal'c's constrained dislike, Jonas Quinn's curiosity and Carter's skepticism.
I prepared myself for their anger and disappointment. I readied myself to explain my actions and even tried to think of acts of atonement.
Never did it occur to me that O'Neill might have survived.
"Oh my god," Carter said, looking over at O'Neill.
"Kanan's dead," O'Neill said coldly.
"I assure you, I am not."
"I'm sure you do."
Carter looked from him to me. "It's been months since Colonel O'Neill was …blended. If you really are Kanan, why didn't the Tok'ra tell us that you were alive?"
"The Tok'ra do not know," I said. I became aware of sensations from Oketo's body and I paused, exploring them. "If I may suggest, can we take this discussion inside?" I gestured towards my ship. "Oketo finds your sun a bit too strong for his liking and I fear this will not be a short conversation."
O'Neill looked at Carter who simply shrugged. Taking the lack of denial for agreement, I reentered my ship, making my way back to the small cargo area. I arranged a few crates to serve as seats and gestured for my guests to sit.
"You said Oketo, is he your host?" Carter asked, breaking the awkward silence.
"Yes. He lived on Ba'al's planet."
"Where the hell did you go?" O'Neill demanded.
"O'Neill?" His surname was awkward but I knew that it was a distance and formality that he would prefer.
"Last I saw you, you were slithering off into the grass."
"Yes. I must apologize. I lacked the time to explain. My hope was that, with me gone, Ba'al's Jaffa would dismiss you as a mere human."
"You were wrong."
"So," Carter said. "You left the colonel and then…" She frowned. "How did Oketo agree to be your host?"
"Without a host, a symbiote can't communicate. They can't ask permission."
"You are correct. I did not." He looked at them, aware of the censure on their faces. I am well aware of the history between the Tau'ri and the Tok'ra. And of Jolinar's intrusion upon Major Carter, an intrusion that is the basis of much distrust. "I needed a refuge," I hurried to explain. "And, as Major Carter said, I could not ask permission. I took Oketo. I planned to return to the Tok'ra and seek another host but he has agreed that we can remain blended."
"He has, has he?" O'Neill asked skeptically.
I sighed. In a way, I expected this, although I thought that most of the conversation would center around why I am alive and O'Neill was dead. "Even if Oketo speaks to you, you will not believe that he speaks freely."
"He's right, sir," Carter said.
"The Tollan thingie—"
"If they were still around and if Oketo asked for Triad," she said.
O'Neill shrugged. "Okay, benefit of the doubt. That still doesn't answer why you're here."
"I…" I stopped, my grand idea now seeming trite and trivial. I should not have come. Or, at the very least, as soon as I realized that O'Neill was still alive, I should have left.
"Cat got your tongue?" O'Neill asked. "As I recall, you were never short of words before."
"I'm serious, Carter. All the time he was in my head all he could do was yak, yak, yak."
"He thought that you were dead," Oketo said, surprising me by taking control. "He wished to offer his services to the Tau'ri in your stead."
"In my what?"
"In your place—"
"I know what it means, Carter," O'Neill cut her off. "What I don't know is why?"
Oketo retreated, intimidated by O'Neill's attitude. I looked down, staring for a moment at the hands of my host. They were not smooth, he was, or had been, a field slave after all. But they did not bear the scars of O'Neill's. They did not know the feel of woman's skin or the bite of hardened steel. They knew the warmth of sun touched earth and the weight of a ripened stalk. They had never delivered the finality of death or been bathed in a hot rain of blood. "I betrayed you," I finally said, looking up to meet his eyes. "We…spoke much while I healed you and awaited a new host. I knew of your feelings. Of your ideas and ideals. If I were a separate entity from you, you would not have left me behind…as I did you."
"You said you thought the Jaffa would leave him alone if you weren't there," Carter said.
"If I had been there, I could have mitigated much of Ba'al's torture," I said, looking at her.
"You wouldn't have ratted out your own," O'Neill said.
"No. However, if you remember, when you were healing you sought refuge in a world created in your mind. I could have done the same again," I reminded.
Carter looked over to O'Neill. "I'm almost afraid to ask," she said.
"It was boring," he said with a shrug. "No magazines, no TV, no books. I was gonna go nuts."
"A symbiote is capable of creating a haven in the host's brain, a place for them to take refuge. I do not know if Jolinar ever did the same for you or—"
"We never really got that far," she interrupted, the tone of her voice telling me that the topic of Jolinar was not one she was comfortable with.
"In any case, I offered O'Neill that haven, and he sometimes accepted my offer. I could have done the same during his time with Ba'al, had we remained blended."
"Well, we didn't, so it's a moot point," O'Neill said. "We're wasting our time," he said, getting to his feet.
"Jonas and Teal'c are due back in a couple of hours and I'm sure Hammond has a report or ten for me to read. Let's get the hell out of here."
Carter also got to her feet. "Colonel, what about Kanan?"
"He's a big boy, he can find his way home." He walked out of the cargo hold and made his way towards the door.
"I came back because of you," I blurted as he approached the outer door. O'Neill stopped, although he did not turn around. Carter did, standing between us, looking from him to me. "You are important, O'Neill. More important than you even know. You matter to these people more than you wish to believe. " I got to my feet and walked towards him. "I know that you do not believe me. That you see yourself as nothing but a cog in a very big machine. But I know different. I…I have many centuries of life and…I know those souls who are more than simple cogs, they are vital beyond their belief. You are one such soul and…It was my fault that you died – or so I thought – and, I knew that I could never fill your place but I hoped to help, even in a small way. That is why I came here. I thought you had died helping me and I hoped to try and…fix that even in some small way."
O'Neill turned back. "You thought I was DEAD! How the hell were you going to FIX it?"
"I don't know," I said, not frightened, or even put off by his anger. "All I knew is that I had to try"
His ire faded and O'Neill sighed, pushing the fingers of his right hand through his rumpled hair. "Look, there's nothing here to…fix. Go…back to your tunnels and secret passwords and—"
"I am not returning to the Tok'ra," I interrupted.
"I see what you spoke of when we talked. Our intentions were noble when we began and perhaps – amongst some of us – they still are. But…I do not believe that we will succeed. And I do not believe that all the Tok'ra are truly working for the best."
"What are you going to do?" Carter asked.
I shrugged. "I do not know. I thought perhaps, I would find a planet and…see what I could do."
Carter looked at O'Neill, then to me. "You know, we've explored a lot of planets," she said.
"Carter? What are you doing?"
"Colonel, we have hundreds of planets in our database. And I'm sure there are several that would welcome Kanan…and Oketo." She looked at me. "They're not very advanced and most of them are farming planets or pre-industrial. But there are some that could benefit from someone with… dumb ideas and the willingness to make them work."
"You would do that?"
"Yeah, we would," O'Neill said. He motioned with his hand. "Come on. We'll grab some lunch. Carter can crunch the database and you can go planet shopping."
"Why? Why do you care where I go?"
O'Neill stared at me for a second as something flashed in his eyes. Something deep, something dark, something that was oddly familiar to Kanan. A part of Jack that Kanan himself avoided touching. A part of his mind that was so private, so deeply buried that it had never even crossed Kanan's mind to attempt to broach.
"613," O'Neill said, snapping his fingers. I stared, not understanding his reference.
"The beach planet?" Carter asked.
"Oh yes," I said, remembering now. "I regret that it took me so long to understand what the term bikini meant."
Carter turned towards O'Neill, her arms crossed over her chest. "Colonel?"
His face colored and he shrugged. "A man's gotta do…Oketo, has Kanan told you about cake?"