Mind the Gap

by indie

EMAIL: indiefic@hotmail.com
DISTRIBUTION:  Ask first.
RATING: PG
CHARACTERS: Sam/Jack
SPOILERS:  Everything through Season 8 episode “Affinity” and then wild speculation and dreaming from there.
TIMELINE:  A decade or so after the pilot.
SUMMARY:  Insurmountable objects in mirror may appear larger than they actually are.
DISCLAIMER:  The Stargate SG-1 universe is property of MGM, World Gekko Corp, SciFi Channel and Double Secret productions. No copyright infringement intended.  No profit is gained from this work.

***

Looking at the trainees, all of their expressions so damn serious, all of their brows deeply furrowed (or as deeply as they can be at twenty-three), she marvels how untouchable he is to them.  She’s watched them over the last few weeks, has seen how familiarity hasn’t softened their attitude toward him.  He tells them to jump and they strive for the stars.

And he does tell them to jump.  Tells them constantly.  Reminds them that they aren’t trying hard enough, that they lack the inner steel to complete the task.  He berates them day in and day out, changes the rules just when they think they’ve learned them and no matter what they do, they cannot. please. him.

At the very least, they should resent him deeply.  She’s seen less conspicuous idol worship among the goa’ulds’ first primes.

Years of training allow her to stifle her grin as she watches them from behind dark glasses.  She was one of those recruits, gazing starstruck at the indomitable (then)Colonel O’Neill.  She was so damn green, greener than them because at least they have some appreciation of what they’re getting into.  But that’s why they say ignorance is bliss.  If she’d known it all then, it would have been too much.  They had to work for it.  Year after year, bit by bit, the accumulation so slow that only times like this allow her to appreciate just how significantly things have changed.

She remembers the first year, the crystals from P3X-562, finding out the hard way - always the hard way - that Jack had a wife and a son.  Then Daniel’s revelation moments later that Charlie was dead by his own hand, that Sara sued for divorce.

"Well, he doesn't really tell you much until he gets to know you."

Daniel, always king of the understatement.  In that moment, Sam knew, with the blind conviction of youth, that there would never be a day where she truly knew Jack O’Neill.  She was so separated from him, so distant.  And the gaps were so insurmountable; Captain and Colonel, scientist and military man, pentagon work and black ops, pushing thirty and fortysomething.

Absolutely insurmountable.

She watches him, knowing he is unaware of her presence.  He barks at the recruits and they try not to cower.  None of them are particularly successful.  She doesn’t blame them, not really.  He’s a living legend to them, perfect and untouchable as a distant star.  They’ve read about his (severely edited) exploits, they’ve seen him in dress blues.  The medals and commendations tell a story.

It’s just that the story they tell is the wrong one.

She knows he isn’t really the indifferent hardass.  These recruits tear him up at least as much as they piss him off.  He sits up nights poring over their assessment reports.   He worries about them, worries that he’s not teaching them the right tactics, worries that he’s too hard on them, that he’s not hard enough, that the future of the SGC is doomed.  She knows he does this because more often than not, she puts on a pot of coffee and sits across the dining room table with him, using the late nights to chew through her own mountain of paperwork.

He won’t have to see them off.  Won’t have to send them into battle.  She knows that he’s thankful for that.  His tenure as head of the SGC wasn’t a long one.  The job was sucking his soul – his words, not hers, though she won’t deny their veracity.  That last year was a rough one, even by their standards.  Two treaty collapses, three dead system lords, one lateral transfer, four fist fights, one divorce, three broken bones and one retirement later, it was finally done.  The recently civilian Dr. Samantha Carter was given the reins of the SGC while General O’Neill devoted his energy to training SGC recruits.

Years ago she would have worried, she would have paled at the thought of stepping into his shoes.  Except that now, his shoes are under her bed and she can tell from the abundance of his snores that he (very literally as well as figuratively) isn’t losing any sleep over her promotion.

She asks about his job because one day she’ll be stuck with his latest batch of anklebiters.  She’ll be the one to send them into harm’s way.  Conversely, he asks very little about her job.  She volunteers even less.  Three weeks ago, she issued him a pass to see Daniel in the infirmary.  The cuts were scabbed over and his leg was healing and they all ignored the fact that he had technically been dead for about ninety seconds before the medic team was able to (fuck you, Oma) jolt him back to this plane.  Jack hadn’t known those details.  Except that he did.  Because the way he held her those bleak nights when Daniel was missing, she knew that he knew.  And that upsets her more than anything.  Because she knows that all those years the positions were reversed, there was never anyone there to do the same for him.

Of course, it isn’t like she hasn’t lost sleep over him.  Not by a long shot.  She spent months of her life sustaining herself on too strong coffee and stale donuts while she worked herself to death to bring him home.  All told, in the last ten years she has spent one hundred and sixty-two days looking all over the galaxy for his ass.  (She doesn’t count Antarctica since technically he wasn’t lost to her, but she does count Wal-Mart.)  She has rewritten stargate protocol, forged a covert alliance with a goa’uld, nearly beaten to death five members of a SGC scientific unit and resorted to having him paged over a department store intercom in order to get him home in one (living, mostly ambulatory) piece.

She smiles despite her strange need to seem aloof.  She can’t pinpoint when it happened.  There were incidents, to be certain, that strengthened their bond, but no one shining Moment.  All she knows is that she isn’t green anymore and somewhere along the line he meandered off that pedestal.  Day by day, word by word, the untouchable Colonel O’Neill has been replaced by the (adorably) grouchy (surprisingly limber) old general who shares her bed.

That insurmountable gap ... not so insurmountable after all.

END

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