Stargate -- "Pearls"
This fic was written for jb_slasher, who won my fund_jcollins auction ages ago. They donated $10 to the Jim Collins Foundation, which helps transgender individuals pay for gender-reassignment surgeries.
This fic is unbetaed.
Let me turn all the tears / That you have cried into pearls / Hand them over to me / I'm gonna keep, keep them for you ~ Ace of Base, "Experience Pearls"
Pearls | G | 1663 words | complete
The beads, according to Daniel, are the local equivalent to pearls: round, blue, and about the diameter of a dime, created by a local variety of shellfish when grit manages to sneak inside their thick orange shells, and gathered by the local populace when the shellfish are harvested and dried before the cold season. The spiced meat is jerky-like in consistency and tastes, in Jack’s opinion, disconcertingly exactly not like apple pie. Carter isn’t a fan, and Daniel’s expression gives away nothing, but Teal’c seems to like it, much to the amusement of the chief and his wife, who took SG-1 into their home for dinner the first night of the mission and flatly refused to let their guests help cook.
The pearls are strung on a fine filament of naquada, deposits of which were the original reason for this mission. The pearls’ opalescent sheen makes them look eerily similar to the event horizon, as if the liquid surface had been captured in droplets and frozen. Daniel blathers on about the significance of the ‘gate in local custom, but the Goa’uld haven’t visited in long enough that the team’s pretty much at ease.
All of the adult villagers wear at least one string, as necklaces of various lengths or bracelets, and it’s not until the second day that Daniel asks their significance.
“Connection,” the chief says, “between families, between friends. Life is both good and bad. The muti’yara are a beautiful thing, made from pain and sadness, yes? Life is like this also.” The chief touches a long string of the pearls he wears around his neck. “This was given to me by the father of my wife, when she agreed to marry me.” He pointed to much shorter string his wife wore around her left ankle. “Those I cut from this at the death of our second child, from fever.” Daniel nods, a thoughtful look on his face. “Memories are not lost, so long as there is one to remember them.”
“It’s going well, I think,” Carter says, toying with a piece of purple fruit. “From the test I sent to Janet, we know this fever that accompanies the rainy season responds well to penicillin. They’re willing to trade a season’s supply for a moderate amount of naquada each year. It’s not a lot, but it’s only a fraction of what they mine or find each year and the IOA thinks it’s a good trade.”
“I love a happy ending,” Jack says, grinning and biting into his own fruit, the refreshing sweet-tart flavor bursting over his tongue. “I don’t want to jinx it, but good mission.” Carter glares at him, but he grins back, unrepentant. “Superstitious, Carter?”
“Never, sir,” she says. “Though a very unscientific study might indicated that you just cursed us.”
“Uh-huh,” Jack says, popping the rest of the fruit into his mouth. “Hey, something’s up.”
The chief is tapping his upside-down cup on the table, something he’s used in the past to get the attention of gathered diners. It’s the final night of the mission, so SG-1 is dining with the high muckety-mucks of the village: the chief, of course, but also religious leaders, wealthy merchants, and the family that owns the naquada mine. “My friends. This has been a very eventful few days for our people, and the beginning of a fruitful relationship between us and our new friends from Arth. I would like to honor that in the way of our people.”
The chief stands and picks up two flat, dark-colored boxes, walking down the table to stand beside Daniel, between him and Jack. “First, a gift between peoples,” the chief says, placing the boxes on the table and lifting the lid of the first to reveal a long strand of pearls, probably over four feet in length. “Please give this to your leader when you return home.” He returns the strand to the box and hands it to Daniel.
“Yes, thank you,” Daniel says, taking the box and bowing slightly over it before setting it down, something Jack has seen the villagers do over the last few days. It would probably go to the room at the SGC with all the other ‘gifts for your leader’ teams had received over the years, but that was alright. “It is a lovely gift.”
The chief inclines his head and opens the second box, revealing a shorter strand of the glowing pearls, this one closer to two feet long. “And this is a gift between men,” he says, lifting the strand out and holding it to the light for a moment before letting the beads pool in his hands. “Sarjan Jackson. You have taught us much of the history of other peoples in the time since the d’hemit left our world. For this, I would thank you.
“You have also told us much of your world, and of your people and your Esgee’won,” he continues. “My people value stories, and you have provided them. Of Arth, of your team, and of your friend, Prajur O’Neill.” The chief places the beads back in the box and reaches to take Daniel’s right hand and then Jack’s; Daniel’s slight squint keeps Jack from pulling away. “You have been through great joy, and great sadness. O’Neill has been the stable place from which you have built a life. Among my people, we call this jamina, a bond that cannot be broken, that not even time and tides can tear asunder.”
The chief presses their hands together, and with a practiced motion loops the string of beads around their hands, letting the coils settle around their wrists. “O’Neill, will you protect your jamin’siji with all your strength, for all your days?”
“I will,” Jack says, reminded suddenly of other, more familiar Earth rituals. “Already have been,” he adds, so quietly he doesn’t think anyone else will hear him, though from the way Daniel’s face shows momentary surprise tells him he probably wasn’t quiet enough.
“Jackson, know that this jamina will support your in your happiness and your grief. S’ng ra hayuah,” the chief intones. “You a blessed to have a bond of this strength, and we are blessed to be given the chance to honor it.” The assembled villagers clap and cheer, and then the chief releases their hands and returns to his seat.
Daniel lowers their hands, staring at them with an inscrutable look on his face. “Did we just get married?” Jack whispers, wanting to break the sudden strong tension between them.
Daniel doesn’t smile. Using his left hand, he untangles the string of pearls and removes it from their wrists, returning it to the box. “No, I don’t think so,” he says, sounding a million miles away. He closes the box and pushes it over to Jack. “But this is a serious ritual to these people, so don’t poke fun at it in front of them.”
Jack frowns at the idea, but doesn’t argue. He pulls the box over, glancing at it occasionally as they finish their meals, tucking it under one arm when SG-1 leaves the banquet hall and prepares to leave for home.
And it’s in his pack, tucked between cushioning layers of spare clothes, when they return to Earth the next day.
“What’s this?” Daniel asks, without preamble, as he walks into the private room in the infirmary where Jack’s recovering from their most recent mission. “I found it in your pack.”
Jack puts down his book and looks pointedly at Daniel; whatever he’s trying to show Jack is neatly blocked by the leg Jack has in traction. Daniel circles to the side and holds out his hands, which are filled with brilliant blue orbs strung on a thread of naquada. Jack winces very slightly and looks away; he hadn’t considered that there might be a chance Daniel would go through his pack. But Jack had been unconscious from the pain when Teal’c had dragged him through the ‘gate with his leg broken in three places, and Daniel must have unpacked his stuff while he was in surgery.
“It’s that jemima thing, from the planet with the naquada and the pearls. You remember, it was like six months ago?”
Daniel frowns, thinking. “Oh, the jamina ritual,” he says finally. “From P9C-535.” Jack nods. “You keep it with you?”
Jack is ready to say something flippant, but Daniel’s expression is thoughtful, the look he gets just before he has a ‘eureka’ moment that saves teams and planets. “Yeah, I do,” he says instead, watching Daniel carefully. “I thought the ritual was...kinda neat, yanno?”
Daniel makes a thoughtful sound and hands the necklace to Jack, who lets the strand of pearls pool in a dip in the blanket. “The Mudhuni value close relationships, both platonic and romantic ones,” Daniel says, expression indicating that he’s thinking hard. Jack wonders what he’s rocktumbling. “They actually encourage their romantic relationships to be built on strong platonic ones; pairing up young is actually strongly discouraged.”
Jack blinks, quickly squashing that hopeful little flutter that he often had around Daniel. It was silly, it would never happen. “Good idea,” he says. “Probably leads to fewer breakups when people realize they don’t know the other person at all.”
“Mm,” Daniel says, a contemplative noise Jack can’t hope to interpret. “Hey, when Janet lets you go, why don’t you come by my place? We can do dinner, have a beer. No, wait, no beer, painkillers. I, uh, I mean--”
“Sure, sounds great,” Jack says, smiling slightly as he cuts Daniel off mid-ramble. “And why don’t you hang onto these?” he adds, offering the necklace back to Daniel. “You can drop them off in my office or something.”
Daniel takes back the necklace, a thoughtful look on his face as he tucks it back into his pocket. “See you later,” he says, wandering out of the room with a barely-there expression.
Jack buries his fond smile in his book. And for just a moment, he lets himself hope.
Feedback is better than chocolate.