Jackfic Fiction Archive Story

 

Following The Leader Series - Part 2: Watching The Leader

by Elizabeth

 


Notes: This is my first Sam POV and I’m not sure I’ve done her justice, so feedback would be appreciated. However, no flames please. I can burn my own toast without any help, thank you.

DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and it’s characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions and Gekko Productions. This story is only for entertainment purposes and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anyway, if they were mine do you think I’d let anything happen to them? The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.

 

*****

 I don't know why I'm as annoyed with him as I am.  He didn't do anything I wouldn't have expected him to do and I'd like to think I could have done the same thing myself if I was quick enough.  If I was also brave enough.  However, it's almost impossible to be as quick as the Colonel though, when any one of us is in danger.  He's off, putting himself at risk, sorting out the problem, before the rest of us have even figured out there *is* a problem.  Guess that's one of the reasons why he's such a good CO. It takes intelligence to reach his position, although he camouflages it well, but something else too.  Something undefined that makes people follow you and he certainly has it.  I've never served under anyone better.

I want to check him out again, just to be sure there’s nothing worse to deal with, but already he’s giving me *that* look. The one that says quite plainly “I’m fine. Quit worrying and go away.” The trouble is, I *do* worry, especially when it’s him. He never worries about himself, no matter what the problem is. A little bit of a cold, like I hope this is, or a couple of broken bones whilst dying of hypothermia in an ice cave. It’s all the same to him, negligible until he’s seen his team home safe and sound – before him.

 

Why do I worry about him so much? I wish I knew. He never lets anyone in, never lets us know what’s going on inside that hard head of his. I know it’s not my position to get personal with my CO, that’s not the way the USAF work. However, we’ve all worked so well together over the past few years, it’s almost like we’re family more than team-mates. Plus, it’s no use denying that there is an attraction between us, we’ve both had to admit it, even though there’s nothing we can do about it, given our ranks.

 

He shivers again and Daniel’s quick to stoke up the fire we’ve got going. Both the Colonel and Teal’c are still drying off and, although the weather here was quite warm earlier, it’s now late evening and the temperature’s dropping rapidly. Teal’c seems quite unfazed by his spectacular drop into the river, hardly noticing their condition, but the Colonel’s not quite that lucky. He doesn’t have a symbiote to ward off the symptoms, as Teal’c does. Teal’c was quite lucky, all things considered, as I think back over events.

 

*****

 

We’d been on this abandoned planet for some hours, following a long disused trail across the plain, until we’d reached the chasm with its spectacular drop down to the gushing river several hundred yards below.

 

We’ve been theorising for some time as to why the planet seems so deserted of any type of life. I won’t know for sure, until I’ve tested the samples I’ve collected back at the base. However, it seems as though the soil simply doesn’t have enough nutrients left in it to support plant life of any value. Food chains being what they are, without plant life there naturally won’t be a lot of animal life either. There might, of course, still be life further away from the gate that the UAV didn’t detect, but we’ll need to arrange for a much longer mission to confirm that possibility.

 

On reaching the ravine, the Colonel debates turning around and going back home, ready to declare the mission a wash-out, when Daniel spots what might have been building remains on the far side. You have to admit that Daniel’s kind of cute when he gets this exited routine going, his body and brain going at two different speeds. I bet Sha’uri loved that look on his face, she was one lucky woman. Well before Apophis came along anyway. The Colonel grins at his antics, which gets me thinking. He usually grins when I get exited too, so I wonder what I look like when my interest gets piqued? It’s a disquieting thought. Anyway, the Colonel gives way, as he usually does, and we wander up and down for the next hour until Teal’c sees an old rope bridge. The climb down the cliffs would have been do-able, given an hour or so, but the water looks deep and too fast to cross, so our CO rejects that idea. The bridge is a simple construction, with wooden slatted boards and further ropes at waist height to hang onto. The natives must have been a similar height to us, gauging by the scale. Daniel would have been across it in a flash, only for the Colonel’s automatically sharp command to wait until he’s tried it out himself first. I’ve known many CO’s who’d send junior members of the team out to test a situation, but not the Colonel. As I said earlier, he puts our safety before his. He’d never ask anyone to risk anything he wouldn’t try himself first.

 

It’s difficult not to laugh, as Teal’c deliberately places himself right next to Daniel, ready to hold him back until the Colonel gives his permission. The Colonel then proceeds to test out the bridge, walking across it with easy, slow, graceful steps until he reaches the far side. He comes back across just as carefully, testing each board further, checking out the condition of the ropes, probably considering Teal’c’s extra weight, until he’s back on our side.

 

“OK Danny, it’s your lucky day, you get your wish. Teal’c first, then you, Carter and me. Take it slow, keep within arm’s reach of each other, but only one on a slat at a time. Got it?”

 

We step out onto the swaying bridge, feeling it swing further under our combined synchronised footsteps, until the Colonel makes us stagger our rhythms. We certainly don’t want to cause any undue strain on the old structure. We’re half way across when it happens. There’s a roost of flying creatures nesting in the far side of the ravine, something we hadn’t spotted before. They’re the first sign of life we’ve seen so far and I think they must probably feed off whatever fish are in the river. I’m not sure why the Colonel’s previous trips hadn’t disturbed them, unless our joint trip has sent vibrations through to their roosts which has roused them. Or maybe it’s just that Irish luck of his, but they’re all in the air now. Arrowing out of tiny holes in the walls of the cliffs, they flock together and whirl in the air around us, screeching, clearly agitated by our presence.

 

The Colonel indicates for us to stay still, hoping the creatures will calm down, but it seems calming down isn’t on their agenda. Flying together up and down the gorge, they suddenly sweep towards us, heading straight for our precarious position on the open bridge.

 

“Crouch down.” He hisses and we try as best as we can to keep out of their path. We’re suddenly being swatted by hundreds of small bodies as they swarm straight through us. Up close, they remind me more of small squirrels, than birds. Individually, they’re no threat to us, it’s simply their vast numbers causing us problems, as they continue to ram through us, voicing their annoyance. My heart’s in my mouth as Daniel shouts, losing his footing, taking the brunt of the thickest contingent of creatures. Both Teal’c and I hold onto him as he struggles to retain his grip on the old bridge. He steadies himself and I hear the Colonel breath a sigh of relief beside me, when the truly unthinkable happens. Teal’c wavers and somehow slips off beside us. I can’t believe the solid Jaffa came to loose his grip, Teal’c never seems to get into trouble! I watch as he falls, not once calling out as he descends head first down the deep drop to the gushing water beneath.

 

“Carter, get yourself and Daniel back. That’s an order.” The Colonel’s already stripping off his back-pack and throwing it carelessly over the side, whilst watching Teal’c’s uncontrolled drop. Amazingly, he manages to stand upright enough for the manoeuvre, despite the tail end of the flock still swarming through us.

 

“Yes Sir.” I manage to say, as I catch one quick glance from those deep mahogany eyes. It’s a look full of many messages, but none that I have the time to process, before he slides through the ropes and allows himself to fall after our friend.

 

I struggle to watch their progress as Daniel and I slowly make our way back across the swaying bridge. A small part of my mind can’t help but wonder at the cost of the pack the Colonel has casually thrown away, both financially and in relation to the supplies within. However, I realise that he’s probably already discounted the possibility of us being able to carry it back under these conditions, before I’ve even thought about it.

 

The ruins already forgotten, we watch as the drama unfolds below us. I haven’t seen Teal’c reappear since he hit the water. He went in at an odd angle and he still has his back-pack weighing him down. The Colonel did as controlled an entry as he could, under the circumstances. I can vaguely see his head, way below me, bobbing about as he dives again and again to find our missing Jaffa. He is being swept along by the flow of the river as it quickly takes them away from us. I manage to get a quick glimpse of him surfacing once more, with Teal’c in his arms this time, as the river flows around a bend, taking them both from sight altogether.

 

Once Daniel and I are back on solid ground we race along the edge of the ravine, looking down all the while, desperately trying to follow our missing team members. The avians have disappeared back to their roosts, apparently satisfied at protecting their territory, and leaving us in peace. It’s now mid-afternoon and the sun is beating down on me, making me sweat, both in heat and fear, as we continue our frantic searches over the cliffs edge.

 

“Damn it!” I can hear Daniel curse and I can only imagine the horrors going through his mind. We are the only people he has left that he can call family, the Colonel especially. I’ve often thought it strange that the Colonel, who guards his privacy so jealously, has befriended our exuberant civilian so completely. On the face of it you’d think they’d have nothing in common. The Colonel is military through and through, even though he has a penchant for bending rules that get in the way of completing a mission. Whilst Daniel is as anti-military as it’s possible to get, considering he actually works for them now. They’re like chalk and cheese and yet they’re still able to understand each other, often communicating without the need for words.

 

I’m constantly having to pull Daniel away from the canyon lip, no mean feat considering our different body weights, whilst desperate to find our team-mates myself.

 

“Careful Daniel. The Colonel won’t thank us for having an accident as well.” What I’m really thinking is that my CO will have my hide if I let anything happen to our civilian. He’s my priority now and the SGC wont look favourably on me losing our linguist specialist.

 

“Yes, sure.” He shouts back, sarcastically. “It’s OK for him to scare us witless, but not the other way round.” He runs a further fifty yards ahead and peers over the edge again. “Where are they?” he shouts impatiently, as I leap-frog him to check another fifty yards further down.

 

“They were both together the last time I saw them.” I try to comfort him. “We’ve just got to carry on searching until we find where they’ve climbed ashore.” I’m absolutely positive that the Colonel *will* be able to get to shore. Determination is his middle name. There are others, of course, but respect for his rank prevents me from voicing them out loud.

 

“And what if they only manage to get out on the other side?” Daniel asks, fearfully, as he passes me again.

 

“I don’t know.” I struggle to keep my own worries under control. “We cross that bridge when we find them. The Colonel knows which side we’re on. He’ll try his best to get back to us.”

 

I race past Daniel again and we continue this technique until I finally see two bodies struggling ashore onto a small beach, way below us. I yell Daniel over and we watch as the Colonel helps a groggy Teal’c out onto the shore.

 

They are both alive. Thank God, although you can take your pick which one. I feel like cheering, but settle for heaving a huge sigh of relief instead.

 

So many times over the past few years we’ve come very close to running out of luck, but somehow we’ve always managed to pull through. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost any of these three men, but especially the Colonel. Somehow he seems the most vulnerable of any of us. Bet that makes you laugh, doesn’t it? Anyone meeting him for the first time would find that hard to believe, given the hard-ass, grouchy routine he’s perfected. However, we know him better. Daniel, Teal’c and I figured out a long while ago his act is just a way of keeping people at a distance, where he’s safe from being hurt again. Not physically, that’s like water off a duck’s back to him. Emotional hurt is his weakness and there’s nothing we can do to protect him from that, although we do try when we can. Anyhow, my one concern now is how to get down there and help our friends back up to safety. I’ve no doubts our first order of the day will then be to get them both back to Janet. Oh, boy, will the Colonel be pleased about that!

 

Both Daniel and I watch for a few relieved moments as, far below us, the Colonel and Teal’c lie down to rest after their exertions. I holler down to them and, although I can’t hear anything that the Colonel shouts back, over the noise of the river, he waves to us, assuring us they’re both OK. I can’t see Teal’c’s back-pack, so that means we’re down to half our supplies for the return journey. Spying out the cliff beneath us, I can see it’s actually quite a rough surface and should be easy to scale down. It’s too deep for our ropes, so we’ll have to climb down without that particular safety precaution.

 

“You OK with this Daniel?” I ask him and he gives me a pained expression back.

 

“I’ll pretend it’s a pyramid.” He mocks, as he slides easily over the edge and starts the long climb down.

 

Guess I forgot for a moment that not all training is gained through the military and I quickly follow him over the edge. As I thought, there are plenty of hand and foot holds to grab onto and there’re no problems going down. The only difficulty is the distance involved and it takes over an hour to get all the way down to where our soggy friends are sitting patiently, waiting for us.

 

My muscles are complaining by the time we reach the bottom, despite the ease of descent. Once my feet hit the sandy beach the Colonel somehow managed to find, I can see that Teal’c is still a little bit dazed.

 

“He’s OK, just a little winded.” The Colonel assures me. “He’ll be as right as rain soon, won’t you big guy?”

 

Teal’c just gives him a slight nod, too exhausted to do anything else. I guess that explains why they didn’t attempt to climb out. They’re both wet through though and I can’t help but be bothered about that, as the temperature’s already starting to drop for the evening.

 

The Colonel had already started collecting driftwood together, but hasn’t lit anything yet, so I guess his matches must have been in his back-pack. Part of me is sure that if Daniel and I hadn’t been on the way down, he’d have found some other way to light the fire. I can just imagine him rubbing two sticks together like a boy-scout. Then I quickly dash that image – the Colonel is certainly no boy-scout! We can both see how tired he is though, Teal’c’s no featherweight, and Daniel tells him to rest, whilst he continues to search for firewood. Plenty of combustible material is piled up along the water’s edge and we have a brief discussion about the origins of the wood. None of us had spotted any trees on the plain up above. However, mystery as it is, at least Daniel soon has a fire going and we’re able to hustle the Colonel and Teal’c nearer its warmth.

 

I can’t help but grin at the look on his face when I tell the Colonel to ‘strip’.

 

“It’s not as though I don’t appreciate the offer, Carter, but we do have guests present.” He laughs back as both he and Teal’c remove their outer garments and place them by the fire to dry off.

 

“Here Jack.” Daniel takes off his jacket and tries to pass it over to our half naked leader, but the Colonel shakes his head.

 

“No Daniel. You’ll need it yourself. The temperature’s dropping already.”

 

“Yes, but I’m not the one who’s shivering after going for an afternoon dip.” He throws the jacket at the Colonel anyway, who catches it, but still hesitates. “I promise I’ll put it back on as soon as yours is dry. Deal?”

 

The Colonel hesitates a moment longer, then turns around to Teal’c, the jacket still in his outstretched hand. “How’re you doing buddy?”

 

“I will be fine O’Neill. DanielJackson’s jacket will not be large enough for my body and my symbiote will prevent me from suffering the effects of the temperature.”

 

“I think you’re out-voted, Sir.” I quip and he turns back to me as he shrugs himself into the borrowed warmth.

 

“Ya think?”

 

I pull over our two remaining back-packs and take out both sleeping bags from them, passing them over too. I don’t need to suggest they climb inside to conserve body heat and they’re both soon wrapped up and drying off nicely.

 

The Colonel watches from his curled up position by the fire, as I remove the Primus Stove from my back-pack and proceed to warm up some MREs. I’m keen to get something warm inside the pair of them and it won’t do Daniel or I much harm either, as the sun starts to set.

 

“Pity about the tent.” The Colonel muses out loud as he watches the clouds above us. That piece of kit was in Teal’c’s pack, but the weather looks as though it ought to hold overnight.

 

“I apologise for the loss of my equipment, O’Neill.”

 

“Yeah, well, they’ll probably just take it outta my pay.” He replies, not really noticing the look of regret that crosses over Teal’c’s face. He’s too busy watching the skies, probably waiting for the first stars to appear. He loves to watch the night skies wherever we are, trying to see if he recognises anything, trying to place himself in the universe. You’ve no idea how many off world constellations have been added to the records at the SGC after he’s named them. It’s like this thing he has with planet designations. He drives me crazy with refusing to remember them, but he’ll come up with a name and always manage to remember that. It’s enough to drive any mathematician mad, but his attitude seeps into the machine and months down the line half the references will be the new names he’s given them. Take this planet for instance. It’ll probably end up being called ‘Deep Drop’, or something equally inane, at least from the Pentagon’s point of view.

 

“Then I must offer you some form of restitution. I am already in your debt for your assistance earlier. How may I repay your losses?”

 

“Huh?” is the reply our illustrious leader gives him, as first a frown crosses his features and then a huge grin appears. “Teal’c,” he laughs, “the only payment I’m interested in is seeing you safe and sound on terra-firma.”

 

Daniel opens his mouth at that, but the Colonel cuts him off before the linguist has a chance to say what’s on his mind.

 

“OK, whatever-firma this happens to be.”

 

Daniel closes his mouth again, laughing quietly to himself and wanders off again in search of more driftwood.

 

“So what’cha cooking?” The Colonel asks, staring over the flames towards me.

 

“Chicken and noodle soup.” I say, struggling to read the packet in the waning light.

 

“So it’s probably going to taste like macaroni cheese then?”

 

I can’t answer that, as he’s probably right anyway. I don’t know why they bother to label the packets. Cardboard tastes the same, no matter how you package it. Teal’c somehow manages to cross his legs in the sleeping bag and drifts off into a light meditative trance, no doubt resting after his exertions and I notice the Colonel slyly watching him. His gaze then travels back up the cliffs again and I suddenly realise he’s probably not watching out for the early evening stars, but probably checking the security of the area.

 

“It’s an easy climb, Sir.” I tell him, hoping to allay at least some of his worries.

 

“I’m sure it is, Carter, just checking to see if they are any more of those flying rats about. Thought I’d skewer one for supper.”

 

His eyes are gleaming again and it never ceases to amaze me how he manages to make light of any situation, diminishing our worries and helping us to relax. Actually, most of what he does amazes me. He puts on this ‘don’t ask me, I’m a dumb ass’ expression, making us evaluate every possible contingency and then he’s in the thick of the solution, pulling everyone together. He suddenly shivers and I quickly pour out the soup and pass it around. The last thing I want is for him to catch a cold. It’s going to be a tiring enough climb upwards tomorrow, without him having the shakes too.

 

I guess that’s when I started to get angry with him. I shouldn’t be and I have no right to be. It’s completely irrational. He’s done his job, protected a member of his team and I have no rights to second guess his command decisions. I certainly don’t want to lose Teal’c and someone had to go in after him. The Colonel’s far stronger than me and a better swimmer than any of us, so what else was he going to do? Wait a few valuable minutes before deciding Teal’c wasn’t coming straight back up? I realise I’m being very selfish and very unfair towards Teal’c.

 

It’s just that from my point of view, the Colonel sometimes seems to act without thinking a situation through. His tendency to rush straight into action often seems unsound to me, his behaviour completely polar to the way I would react. Yet even as I mull this over, I know it’s not that simple. I’ve been on plenty of missions when something’s gone sour and the Colonel’s already reacting to the problems, whilst I’m still thinking my way through the pros and cons. As our CO, he doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for all the theorising that Daniel and I can come up with. Sometimes I wonder if we’re just a little *too* intelligent for a field unit. He doesn’t need the complete A to Z of a solution, just the abridged version, it’s all he has time for. Life can disappear very quickly out here. He’s able to extract the pertinent data he needs and is making lightening quick decisions, that I simply can’t match in situ. It probably explains why he’s still active, after all these years. Most soldiers of his age are flying a desk by now, having never reached his rank, and certainly without his commendations.

 

A Jack-of-all-trades, that’s what he is. He doesn’t need to be a master of any, given the intellectual resources he has at the SGC, although I know he’s more intelligent than he lets on. One day I’ll look up his qualifications, if it’s not classified, like most of his service record is.

 

I wonder if part of me is jealous of his skills in the field. His ability to stop thinking and simply act, when there isn’t the time for anything else. I certainly admire him and doubt I could ever be as good a leader as he is, able to make the hard decisions and live with them, because that’s the hard part. Living with decisions afterwards, when there’s no one else to blame. He’s taught me a lot, that’s for certain. His ‘never leave anyone behind’ tenet is now almost mandatory throughout the base. Most personnel are in awe of him, especially the new recruits.

 

It’s quite funny watching the daggers being thrown my way by the female staff of the SGC, envious of my familiarity with the Colonel. I certainly seem to be working with the three most wanted men on the base and you know what’s really hysterical? Not one of them seems to realise it. Teal’c has his family and would never dream of being unfaithful to them. It wouldn’t be honourable. Daniel has no room in his heart for anyone after Sha’uri and as for the Colonel? I think he’s frightened to admit there might still be a heart inside him capable of feeling love again.

 

The sun has finally set and I’m brought back to the present to see a pair of deep dark eyes staring at me, pensively. The fire lights up his face, highlighting his features and I’m reminded once again how striking looking he is, although he’d probably laugh if I told him so.

 

“So, Carter, you’ve no problems with that then?” There’s a challenge in his voice and I realise I’ve drifted through a fair portion of the evening’s conversation. Teal’c is once again deep in meditation and Daniel is trying hard not to grin. Why do I feel like I’m being set up here?

 

“With what?” I can only sigh in return.

 

“Your turn to buy the steaks when we get back. We took a vote.”

 

“Three votes to none, was it, Sir?”

 

“Well, actually, Teal’c got two votes because of Junior, so it was a full house.”

 

“OK, you got me, but I pick the place.” This time it will be somewhere with more than bare floorboards and beer stained tables.

 

The Colonel shivers again and Daniel grabs his clothes back from next to the fire. “They’re dry again, Jack. Get dressed, you’re shaking enough to cause a landslide.”

 

It certainly is getting quite chilly away from the fire now. The Colonel grabs his gear and takes off Daniel’s jacket, handing it back to him, which Daniel puts back on gratefully.

 

“Hey, T, time to get dressed.” He nudges the Jaffa back to awareness and they both get back into their clothes. Teal’c appears to have fully recovered by now, so we split up the night shifts and Daniel goes first. He likes to write up his notes in his journals whilst everything is still fresh in his mind and I volunteer to go next. The Colonel picks third, which I know is because he considers the early hours the most dangerous, and Teal’c gets last. Despite his objections, Daniel and I agree to let the Colonel and Teal’c keep the sleeping bags, just to be on the safe side. We’ll just have to curl up nearer the fire overnight.

 

It’s soon morning and, by the time we’re all getting ready for breakfast, it’s obvious the Colonel is coming down with a cold. He’s shivering and sneezing, despite trying his best to cover the signs up. Typically, he refuses any medication, insisting he can wait until we get back to base and we pack everything back up again. Teal’c volunteers to take one of the back-packs and Daniel grabs the other before our CO can snag it. He glares at them, convinced they’re coddling him and I have to look away, grinning, as I too would have done the same thing if I’d been near enough.

 

It’s a long haul back up to the top and the Colonel has to stop several times to catch his breath. He’s shaking slightly from the cold and trying to stifle any sniffles and coughs, knowing they’ll loosen his hold on the rock-face. He refused my suggestion of a safety rope, accurately pointing out that even Teal’c wouldn’t be able to keep a strong enough grip on this surface, if he lost his. It’s rough enough for hand-holds, but not secure enough to hold onto someone else’s weight too.

 

Once he’s finally rolled himself over the top, I suggest we stop for a breather. He gives me *that* look and says in his most sarcastic tone.

 

“I’m *fine*, Major, let’s get going.”

 

I can’t believe that man, sometimes! It’s obvious he’s not up to par, yet he refuses to admit there’s anything wrong. Does he think we’ll consider any less of him, just because he’s caught a cold like the rest of us mere mortals? Daniel comes to my rescue though.

 

“Who cares if *you’re* fine, Jack. *I* need a rest.”

 

“Oh!” is the Colonel’s dumbfounded reply and he looks suitably chagrined as he sits back down, heavily. Daniel shares a brief smile at Teal’c and I, that the Colonel misses completely, luckily.

 

After five minutes, you can tell the Colonel’s getting angsty to be on the move again, so we get back to our feet and strike off back to the gate.

 

“I’ll see if I can authorise another trip back to those ruins for you.” He says to Daniel and our archaeologist’s face lights up like it’s Christmas. “Although how we’re going to get past the honour guard beats me for the moment.”

 

It’s obvious Daniel would have loved to have gone back then and there, but even the Colonel realises he ought to go back and get checked out. The smallest cold, caught off-world, can turn out to be something a lot more serious, if not dealt with responsibly.

 

It takes a few hours to get back and we stop twice for a break. Each time the Colonel looks grateful for the rest, though he says nothing. Daniel has taken to passing tissues across, as the sneezes start in earnest, which he takes silently. I manage to place my hand on his forehead at one point, before he flinches away, and I can feel he’s warmer than usual. Teal’c looks darn-right guilty by now, but says nothing, knowing the Colonel hates to be the centre of attention.

 

Once we’re back at the DHD, Daniel quickly dials us home and, after waiting for the signal to proceed, we’re quickly through the wormhole and stepping out onto the ramp at the other side. The General is quick to greet us.

 

“Welcome back SG1. Did you have a good mission?”

 

“Got some good diving in, Sir.” The Colonel is quick to reply with a grin, before he sneezes violently and the General is quick to eye up the condition of his 2IC.

 

“I think you’d better get yourselves down to the infirmary. We’ll debrief later.”

 

“Yes, Sir.” Both the Colonel and I reply. Teal’c bows and Daniel says, “That’s a good idea. Come on Jack, Janet’s waiting.”

 

“Oh, goody.” Is the almost silent response.

 

Two minutes later and Janet’s quick to notice why we’ve all stayed two feet behind our CO. His colour’s been fading on the walk back to the gate and it’s obvious he’s not well, even before he sneezes again.

 

“Come on Colonel, let’s get you checked out first.”

 

He sighs, resigned to whatever fate our CMO has in store for him and Janet nods a couple of other nurses over to deal with the rest of our medical checks.

 

Over an hour later and we’re still waiting for news on him. We’ve been checked out A-OK, had showers, grabbed a snack and we’re still hanging about the infirmary. The General came down once and, after getting a brief resume of the mission, has returned to his office. He knows Janet will inform him of any problems as soon as she’s finished. We’re starting to get worried at the long wait, when she appears and puts our minds at rest.

 

“Well, it’s a nasty cold he’s got, but the tests show nothing unusual, so I’ve signed him off for the rest of the week. I’ve told him to come back and see me on Monday, to see how he’s recovering, but he doesn’t need to stay on base. I’m going to send him home, as long as someone stays with him for a day or two, just in case.”

 

“Sure, I’ll go.” I’m quick to volunteer, earning myself a sideways grin off Daniel and a puzzled bow off Teal’c. Looking after a sickly Colonel is not to be undertaken lightly.

 

“I see the medical didn’t find anything wrong with you Teal’c.” she carries on. “How do you feel?”

 

“I am well, DoctorFraiser and am now fully recovered, thanks to ColonelO’Neill’s assistance.”

 

“Good. The Colonel should be dressed by now. I’ve already told the General I’d be asking someone to go home with him, so it should be OK for you to leave now.”

 

“You go with him, Sam, Teal’c and I will see to the General. We know where to find you if we need you.”

 

We all re-enter the ward first though, as Daniel and Teal’c will both want to see with their own eyes that the Colonel is OK. He’s looking a little flushed now, but he’s already fully dressed and lacing up his boots. There’s a pile of medication on the table next to him and I’m not the only one to spot that he makes to leave without picking them up.

 

“I believe these are for you, O’Neill.” Teal’c says as he collects the various items and hands them over to me.

 

The Colonel notices the move and looks at me, head on one side.

 

“So I guess I’m going home with company then?” He asks, just before a sneeze stops any further questioning. He doesn’t seem to mind the baby-sitter for a change either. I guess he’s just glad Janet’s not making him stay in the infirmary.

 

“Yes, Sir.” I smile back, as I fall into step beside him. Daniel and Teal’c bid us farewell and I’m soon in the elevator, starting the first stage of the journey back up to the surface.

 

The journey back in his Jeep is mostly silent, except for his cold. He handed me the keys without any arguing, which speaks volumes for how tired he is. It’s not long before we’re unlocking his front door and are inside the house. It doesn’t escape my notice how he efficiently eyes the place up before he wanders around. Even in his own house his instincts don’t desert him and he doesn’t relax until he’s sure no-one’s been here in his absence.

 

I like the Colonel’s home. It reflects his personality quite well. Not too cluttered on the surface, light and airy, but if you know where to look there’s a wealth of goodies to be found. Take his telescope deck, for instance, it’s all hand built and we’ve spent many a relaxed evening up there watching the stars, drinking to missing comrades. It seems a large house for just one person and I often wonder why he doesn’t get a smaller place. Then again, he holds so many gatherings here for the staff at the SGC, not just us, his team, that a smaller place just wouldn’t do. Plus it’s quite close to the base and he needs to be close in case of emergencies. You wouldn’t think the Colonel could cope with all the paperwork his 2IC position at the SGC entails, but I guess he manages it somehow.

 

“Help yourself to whatever.” He invites as he heads over to the stairs. “I’m gonna lie down.”

 

“What about your medication, Sir?” I ask as I deposit the various packets down on the kitchen counter. He hasn’t even bothered to look at them.

 

“Oh, I’m sure you can find somewhere to store them.” I can hear the smirk in his voice as he’s already half way up the stairs and a few seconds later I can hear a door being opened up above me.

 

I check out the packets, noting the instructions printed on each one and pop a couple of pills before filling a glass of water and taking them up to the master bedroom. He has two spare bedrooms and I know I’ll take the one I usually have – the single. The other room has a double bed in it and Teal’c and Daniel often share that one when we stay over. Considering how close we all bunk up when on missions, sharing a double is hardly an inconvenience for them. Besides, the Colonel would probably KO anyone who suggested there was anything other than comradeship between the team.

 

His bedroom door is still ajar and I can see the Colonel’s already in the bed, the dark blue sheets half way up his bare chest. His clothes have been hastily dropped onto the bedside chair and he already looks half asleep.

 

“I found somewhere to put the pills, Sir.” I warn him before I enter.

 

“Jack.” He reminds me yet again.

 

“Jack. Here you go, Sir.”

 

He opens his eyes to me, a mild reproach in them for the ‘Sir’ no doubt and he eyes the glass.

 

“I don’t want them, Sam. I’ll be fine.”

 

“I’m sure you will. After you have your pills.”

 

He sighs. “I’m not gonna win this one, am I?” he asks.

 

“Nope. The sooner we get you well, the less I’ll have to put up with Daniel driving me crazy about those ruins.”

 

He starts sneezing again and reaches for the box of tissues by the bed.

 

“So if I take these, I’m not taking them for my benefit, but for yours then, huh?” he grins at me, which is a bit difficult as he’s blowing his nose at the same time.

 

“Sounds good to me. Now sit up a moment so you don’t spill this down the bed.”

 

“Yes, mom.” He reaches out for the glass and pills, which he now downs without protest.

 

I watch as he settles back down, reminded once more of how much he’s lived through by the scars that pepper his skin. How many of those marks were gained by putting someone else first? Could I have enough stamina to survive all that? Could I keep getting up, coming back for more? Could I have taken that dive?

 

“You’d have done it too, you know.” He says as he closes his eyes.

 

“Done what, Jack?”

 

“Gone after Teal’c. Just ‘cause I got there quickest, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have done the same thing.”

 

I can’t answer him, because: a) I’m surprised he always seems to know what I’m thinking, and b) I’m not convinced I’m heroic enough to have done a stunt like that.

 

“Don’t waste your time thinking too much about it, Sam. When I’m around, your thinking’s not a problem, it’s what you are and I make full use of that. I need you to be the way you are, to tell me things I can’t see myself --- If I hadn’t been around though, you’d have moved up a gear, skipped straight past the analysing stage and gone in instead.”

 

“How can you be so sure of me when I’m not?”

 

He opens those deep brown eyes at me again, slightly blurry at the moment because of the temperature he’s running, but the look is as strong as steel.

 

“I know, Sam, because it’s what *I* do.” He sneezes again and closes his eyes once more. “I’d be a pretty crap CO if I didn’t know my team, or what they’re capable of. Sure, you haven’t got my experience, but you haven’t got my years yet either. It’ll come, don’t sweat it. Now go and find something to amuse yourself with, I’m beat.”

 

“Sleep well, S--- Jack. I’ll see you later.”

 

He only half grunts back and I walk out of the room, quietly. I can’t stop myself from hesitating on the other side of the door though, just for a moment, to continue watching him. He’s such a conundrum and unlike anyone else I’ve ever met. He can be by turn: wilful, loud-mouthed, opinionated and caustic, yet also gentle, heroic, understanding and child-like.

 

“Sam?” he suddenly asks, without opening his eyes.

 

“Yes, Jack?”

 

“Your bedroom’s down the corridor.”

 

I can hear the amusement in his voice and I leave him to get his rest. He has earned it after all. Could I really be as good a commander as he is? I’m not so sure. He’s one class act to follow, but if I am to learn anything about command, I’ll learn from watching my leader.

 

 

*****The End*****