First day on the new job, and the first thing Brigadier General Jack O'Neill did in his new office was play with the chair. It took him thirty minutes to get the back and the height exactly right. Then he rearranged his certificates and pictures. Davis had already hung them, but Jack wasn't quite satisfied. That took another hour. Then he found the phone. He seriously considered calling the President, just to say Hi, then reconsidered. Instead, he phoned a friend.
"T, hey, how are you?"
"Extremely busy, O'Neill"
"Yeah? Doing what?" Jack asked, swinging his chair from side to side. It really was a cool chair.
"I am searching the listings for an apartment."
Jack stopped swinging.
"You're moving out?" Jack asked incredulously, sounding exactly like his own father had when Jack had announced his intention to get a place of his own.
"Indeed. I have lived here nearly eight years, and Colonel Carter suggested it was time."
Jack allowed himself a big grin at the mention of 'Colonel Carter', then said,
"Hey, T, buddy, if you need any help, I can come down and.."
"You have other duties you must attend to." Teal'c said firmly.
"Yeah, I guess." Jack agreed, glum. "Hey, Teal'c."
"I can talk to the President on this phone. The very phone I'm using to call you, I just press a button and I'm through to the big guy himself. How cool is that?"
"Goodbye, O'Neill." Teal'c said, and put the phone down.
Jack stared at the silent phone receiver a second, then put it down. He briefly contemplated calling everyone he knew, and telling them this was the phone he used to call the President, then sighed. He really did have to get down to the difficult stuff. He took a deep breath, and opened one of the drawers.
Just as he thought. Full of bloody files.
An hour later, he had emptied most of the drawers, but one was stuck halfway open. He yanked at it, but it wouldn't move. He briefly thought of calling Siler to fix it, then thought about how it would look. 'Hey Siler, I've just been promoted to General, leader of you all, the one you all look up to. I can't open my own drawers. Can you?'. No, he could just see the look on Siler's face. Kneeling down, he looked closer. There was a file that had slipped out and was behind the drawer. He reached it, grabbed the file, and pulled it out.
"I hope this wasn't important" he said, to no-one in particular, settling down to read it.
Then a second later, he swore.
He found himself at Daniel's lab. Daniel only looked mildly surprised to see him, but then Daniel had been coping well with surprise lately. He was getting almost as insouciant as Jack himself.
"Hey, Jack, can I help you?" he asked, looking up reluctantly from the parchment he was poring over. The lab was dim, as usual, the only light coming from a small lamp by Daniel, illuminating his face.
"Take a look at that." Jack said. "Then tell me what you think." He said, throwing the file on the table in front of Daniel. Daniel, who liked paperwork only marginally more than Jack (unless he could write it in Ancient), frowned.
"Can't you summarise it for me?" Daniel asked, looking back down at his paper. Jack moved forward, into the light.
"Pete Shanahan ran a background check with the FBI. On Sam."
Startled, Daniel picked up the file and read it quickly. Jack paced back and forth, hands rammed deep into his pockets, just inside the circle of light, occasionally glancing up at Daniel.
"Well, to be fair." Daniel said, and Jack sighed. "We do run background checks on anybody involved with personnel who work here."
"After a few months! Look at the date on that! They can't have been dating more than a week." Jack said, striding forward and stabbing at the paper with his finger.
"Two weeks." Daniel said, absently. "But that's not the point." He said quickly, seeing the look on Jack's face.
"No the point is...the point is.what's the point, Daniel?"
"The point is, it's her choice whether to tell him she works in Deep Space Radar Telemetry or does what she does." Daniel said calmly. Jack nodded in agreement. "And two weeks is far too short a time to be checking up on someone. And plus, it's Sam." He said. Jack nodded again.
"It's Sam." He said quietly. He looked down at his hands, clasped on top of the report, uncharacteristically still.
"This Pete thing is killing you, isn't it?" Daniel said, gently. Jack looked up in surprise.
"No, no, not killing me. I mean, I want her to be happy. And I know we can't be together, and to be honest, I never really expected to end up with her. And lets face it, I'm not the kind of man that could make her happy." He said, trying to make it a joke. Daniel didn't laugh, merely watched him, with those expressive eyes full of mirrored pain. "I just thought, I'd be long gone when she found the guy." He said, looking down again. "I thought I wouldn't have to see it. See her, with someone else. And I admit, I'm not coping as well as I thought I would with it. So, no, it's not killing me. But it is hurting. A hell of a lot. A lot more than it's supposed to."
Daniel said nothing, but his eyes were full of sympathy. He wanted to reach out to his best friend, to tell him it'd be ok, that Sam cared, that he would end up with Sam, but Daniel was no longer sure that was true. And even if it was, Jack wouldn't accept his sympathy. Jack was locked away in his private world, hidden behind his walls. Only one person could reach him there, and it wasn't Daniel.
"So." Jack said, looking up at Daniel, in control again. "Any advice? Maybe she already knows."
"No, I don't think so." Daniel said, crossing his arms.
"She talks to you about this stuff?" Jack said, uncertainly.
"I don't think she's talked to anyone about this kind of thing since Janet died." Daniel said. "And lets face it, if Janet had known about this, she'd have been very angry. And she would have told me."
Daniel nodded, leaning forward, his elbows resting on the desk, his eyes shadowed by the light.
"I didn't realise you two were that close." Jack said, hesitantly.
"We weren't quite. We were getting there, though." Daniel said, looking down. Jack didn't know what to say. He'd known Daniel and Janet were friends, but had had no idea they were falling in love. Daniel's love affairs were normally so obvious, so blazoned all over his face for the world to see. And now Janet was gone. Jack remembered the bleakness, the emptiness he'd felt when Daniel told him Sam was dead. Daniel had had that too, but he'd never had that moment of sweetness, of intense relief, when he realised the woman he loved was still alive.
"It's ok." Daniel said, looking up at him. "I'm ok. I think you have to tell her." He said, tapping the report.
"Yeah, I know, but it's kinda awkward, you know? Coming from me, with the way things are between us."
Daniel sighed, and picked up the report.
"Ok, I'll tell her." He said.
"No." Jack exhaled heavily. "I'll tell her. It's my job." He said, sounding miserable about it. as he reached the door, Daniel called out to him.
"Hey, Jack." Jack turned, and looked at Daniel. "Did you know Sam blackmailed Weir to get to you?"
"She did?" Jack asked, surprised, and pleased.
"She did." Daniel confirmed. "Just thought you should know that." He bent his head down to the parchment again.
She was working steadily away, on the Bug Duster gun (he had no idea who had named it that, but he loved it) he had built, delicately picking her way through the connections, so at first, she didn't see him. He loved these moments. The seconds before she saw him. Her face, highlighted from underneath, achingly beautiful. Her eyes, so blue, and her smile, soft and fascinated. At these moments, he could stand and watch her forever. Whatever Pete, or those others had of her, he had those moments, these seconds no-one else would ever share with her.
"Colonel. I mean, General." She said, grinning from ear to ear when she saw him, like a non-disappearing Cheshire Cat. "How's the first day on the job."
He came forward, into her lab, close enough to see the joy in her eyes, not close enough to touch.
"Very satisfactory, thank you, Colonel." He said, revelling in her new title. Then the General fašade dropped, and he became just Jack again. "The chair is so cool. And do you know I have a direct phone line to the President?"
"They let you keep that?" she asked, incredulously, then added a hasty, "Sir."
But the joking passed, and Jack had a job to do.
"I've got something you need to see." He said, seriously. She put down her tools, and listened. "And before I show it to you, you need to understand that this is General O'Neill showing Colonel Carter, not me showing you, do you understand?" he asked anxiously, wanting to make sure she understood this was not personal.
"This is about Pete." She said, not a question, because only a few subjects could reduce them to their ranks, and not friends. He nodded, and handed the file over. She read it, quietly.
"I see." She said, finishing it.
"I'm not doing anything about it. What you do with the information is up to you." He said, trying to discern what she was thinking, but failing utterly. Damn it, where had she learnt that trick of concealing her emotions? There was a time when he could read every expression on her face.
"Thank you for telling me."
"It's not personal.I mean. I don't want to upset you."
"I'm not upset. And I'm not angry. At least, not with you, Sir."
"It means a lot, not just that you told me, but that you're leaving it to me to sort out." She said, her eyes soft.
"Ok." He said, unhappily, and left.
When he got back to the office, he called someone.
"Jack, I think you can call me George now." The friendly voice was reassuring, even over the phone. "And congratulations on your promotion."
"Thanks, though I'm not sure I'm up to this."
"You'd better be, that's why I recommended you."
"Oh, so this is your fault?"
"Damn right it is. And pass my congratulations on to Colonel Carter too."
There was a moment's silence, then Jack said,
"I found the file."
"I thought you would."
"That was sneaky, letting it fall behind the drawer like that, make it look like you'd never seen it."
"Knew it wouldn't fool you, son. But hopefully, it'd fool everyone else. What did you do with it?"
"Gave it to her. It's her choice."
"Good." Hammond said, approval radiating down the phone line. "When I saw that file, I already knew my time was nearly up, and I knew that eventually, you'd take over. There was no way I could tell you what Shanahan had done, but I felt you ought to know, just in case he turned out to be a bad one, and if I accidentally forgot the file.."
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
"You know, son, anytime you want to talk, I'll be available for you." Hammond said, seriously. "and believe me, whatever problems you have, you are not the first general to experience them. You have my home number."
"I do. And thank you."
Jack out the phone down, and looked at the clock. His day was almost over. He thought of finding Sam, and getting cake, but realised that right now, she probably wasn't in the mood. Hopefully, she'd find Daniel, and start talking to him. She needed a friend. And he.he needed to finish the paperwork. With a sigh, he picked up the topmost file, and began to read.