He didn't know how General Hammond did it for so long.
Watching them leave, unable to go with them.
It wasn't just SG-1; it was all of them. All of the teams under his command. All of the people he was responsible for sending out there.
Unsure of the dangers they'd face.
Unsure of how many would return.
It weighed heavily on his conscience, not knowing if they'd all come back. Knowing the responsibility of informing loved ones would fall on his shoulders if they didn't.
He wasn't sure what he'd do if SG-1 didn't come back. If he sent them out without him and they didn't make it home again.
There'd be Jacob Carter to inform. Cassandra Fraiser. Rya'c, Bra'tac, Ishta. Sarah Gardener. General Hammond.
How could he write a condolence letter to himself and not imagine the worst?
How could he live with the guilt of being the one who sent them to their deaths?
Daniel, his best friend.
Teal'c, his brother.
There were no words to define her role in his life. Not yet.
Again, he wondered how General Hammond had done it for so long.
Sending people you were responsible for on missions they might not come back from, sending people you cared about into conflict knowing they might die.
He sat at the top of the briefing room table tapping his fingers lightly on the document in front of him.
SG-1's mission briefing.
Their first since he'd accepted his new command.
It wasn't going to be easy, he knew that, but he had no choice but to do it.
It was what had to be done.
What he had to do.
The locker room was unusually quiet. There was no pre-mission chatter, no sharing of what they each hoped to find.
No Jack to tease and sometimes torment.
Teal'c dressed in silence and stood, waiting for them to finish. He had confidence in Major Carter's abilities as a leader though felt a deep sadness that O'Neill would no longer be joining them.
If only things were different.
If only they didn't have to change.
Deliberately, Daniel took his time, matching the pace set by their new leader. She was distracted and he thought he understood why. She hadn't wanted to talk about how she'd found out about Anubis but he could guess she'd found out at about the same time as Jack.
It was strange to think it, let alone say it.
For seven years he'd been the Colonel. Now he was the General. Sir. Still O'Neil to Teal'c, still Jack to Daniel.
Still Sir to Sam.
She hadn't said a word since arriving at the SGC that morning. Had listened quietly to the briefing, speaking only when she was spoken to.
Jack had been concerned, Daniel knew, but he hadn't been able to ask.
There'd been a time frame of an hour, maybe more, when they had been able to say what they wanted. Anything they wanted.
He wondered what they'd said.
If they'd said anything.
Finally Sam finished getting ready and Daniel hurried to catch up. Creating united front against the most recent change to befall them, SG-1 left the locker room together and walked in silence through the hallways to the gateroom.
Jack - General O'Neill - was there to greet them.
The Stargate was engaged, the blue horizon flickering atop the ramp.
No longer as tempting or as wondrous as it once had been.
"SG-1, you have a go." The words were strained, as strained as the look in his eye.
He wanted to go with them.
Needed to go with them.
Couldn't go with them.
"Good luck and Godspeed."
With a curt nod, her gaze landing just to the side of his, Major Carter motioned for her team to precede her up the ramp.
She lingered for a few seconds. Her gaze shifted.
Blue eyes met brown.
Shared a look no one else could understand.
The leader of SG-1 walked up the ramp and disappeared through the Stargate.
The commander of the SGC watched her go. Watched them leave.
Started to wait, to count the minutes to their return.
It wasn't what they wanted but it was what they had to do.
"And I have the sense to recognize
that I don't know how to let you go."
- 'Do What You Have to Do', Sarah McLachlan