“I don’t know, Janet. Sometimes, I just don’t **get** him.”
I give her my best ‘you know who – who do we **always** end up discussing on our girls’ night in?’ look.
“Ah, the Colonel. What did he say or do **this** time?” my best girlfriend asks, topping off my glass and at the same time polishing off our first bottle of wine. When I’m out with the guys, we always drink beer, even if Daniel doesn’t like it, because the Colonel does. Not that he doesn’t keep wine around – I know he does – but he likes yanking Daniel’s chain. But with Janet and me, it’s always wine, except on rare occasions when she brings out the 50-year-old scotch reserved for drowning our sorrows over Daniel’s apparent death or equally serious matters.
Janet waits patiently as always, though with her legs crossed, she swings her foot in the air threatening to lose the slipper dangling from her toe. I shift back on the sofa and pull one leg up to my chest, resting my stockinged foot on the edge of the sofa. My friend doesn’t comment; even I realize this is my defensive position.
“Still feeling badly about the Eurondans who died trying to come through the Stargate when the iris was closed?” Bingo! She gets it in one – or close enough. “Sam, like the Colonel said, it’s not your fault. Standard procedures dictate –” We had discussed that already – over lunch, before leaving the base. That was when Janet had offered to arrange a sleepover for Cassie, in order that we could have this evening alone together to talk.
“It’s not just that – there’s the whole thing with Alar,” I start, still not sure I can put into words exactly how I feel about our latest mission. The end result anyway. “I mean, I understand that we need to find technology. Obviously I’m all **for** that.” Janet snorted into her wine glass, but I don’t voice that it serves her right to have to wipe some droplets off her face. “But the way he – I mean, the Colonel and Daniel… Then Alar, the way he acted about Teal’c. I don’t know what I mean, really.” I sip my wine, hoping Janet will just somehow **know** what I mean. As well as she knows me, however, she’s not a mind reader.
“What about the Colonel and Daniel?” I give the good doctor an inquisitive smirk. Of all that I had stumbled across saying, she picks up on the mention of Daniel. Sometimes I think she and my other best friend would make such a wonderful couple. Janet’s practicality would balance Daniel’s enthusiasm nicely. Other times I think my feisty friend would eat him alive. Janet ignores my teasing look and just waits for an answer.
“Well, the Colonel didn’t treat Daniel very nicely during the negotiations. Downright mean and rude, would be a good way to put it.”
“If you ask me the only time Colonel O’Neill treats Daniel *nicely* is when Daniel reappears from another apparent demise. Otherwise, he seems to take perverse pleasure in giving him a hard time.” Her look dares me to contradict her, and I don’t bother because no one outside our team could understand that dynamic; I’m not sure I always do.
I resist the temptation to tease her further regarding perverse pleasure and hard times, too, and instead recount the incident from our mission. She takes it all in, reserving comment until I finish.
“That sounds a little rough, but since he came around in the end and apologized to Daniel – or the closest thing to it one could expect from him – I suspect that’s not all that’s bothering you. Did the Colonel give you a hard time, too?”
“No – well, he cut me off once when I tried to explain something, but no…” I finally respond, carefully, mentally sidestepping the picture of the Colonel and...well, *almost* sidestepping it.
“What is it, then?”
“Once we figured out that they had actually **started** the war with a pre-emptive strike by poisoning their own atmosphere in an attempt to eradicate the ‘breeders’, we left. As their shield collapsed and the walls were crashing down, the Colonel warned Alar not to follow us through the gate, though the man begged us to take him with us, offering us all that technology just to spare his life…” I stop there, taking another sip of wine to, I don’t know, bolster my courage? Maybe just to try to wrap my mind around it all, a Herculean task at best.
“But the Colonel…” Janet encourages.
“Ordered the iris closed. He just stood there on the ramp staring at me the whole time – even when he answered General Hammond’s question about not procuring the technology, his eyes never left mine. It was like…”
“Like what?” she prompts, when I leave that hanging.
“Like he was trying to tell me something more, but he didn’t say anything. Or maybe he wanted me to say something – I don’t know what. I just don’t know.” I set my wine down and pull the other leg up to rest my arms on my knees and my head on my arms.
“The Colonel has had to make a lot of tough calls in his career. Life and death decisions.”
“It was like he wanted absolution from me or something,” I blurt, looking up. “And I don’t know that I can – I’m not qualified for that.” I rest my chin on my arms this time, but I don’t meet Janet’s gaze.
“He needs to know you’re okay with his decisions.”
“Why?” I ask, looking up. “He’s the superior officer. It’s his call. I don’t have to agree or disagree, I just –”
“You just what?”
“I don’t know. Follow his orders, I guess.” Shrugging my shoulders feels lame – as lame as that last statement. I do *not* always blithely follow orders, and Janet knows it.
“But he trusts you. Respects your opinion. Dare I say, wants your approval?”
I stare at my friend just as intensely as the Colonel had stared at me – wanting more, needing more, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It doesn’t.
“Daniel’s his moral compass, the soul of our team,” I say defensively. “They’re always at odds, and that doesn’t seem to bother the Colonel.”
“And you’re the heart of the team. Now, now, don’t get me wrong,” she back-pedals as I drop my feet and lean forward, elbows on knees, to defend myself against what I perceive as the accusation that I’m the softy, the emotional female. “You’re military, and everyone knows you soldier with the best of them. And you generally practice scientific detachment with great skill. But you do occasionally tend to take on an emotional burden when you feel your actions cause others harm or pain. However, I’m equally sure the Colonel wants – needs – your respect and approval like he needs air to breathe.”
“I don’t know what he needs from me, Janet.”
“Maybe you should ask him.”
“Oh, right, just waltz into his office tomorrow and ask, ‘Hey, Sir, how about those Eurondans?’ Right!” At least my snort doesn’t splash any wine.
“I think you could work on your approach a little, but essentially, yes.” She pins me with a glare.
“Can we talk about something else?”
“Sure. Run away. Emotional avoidance is a specialty of SG-1. That and a certain four-letter word starting with ‘f’.” I give her my best imitation of Teal’c’s eyebrow; all I need is the “Indeed” to complete the picture, but she elaborates before I spit it out. “Fine. That’s what you all say when anyone asks how you are. You can have a broken leg, a staff weapon burn and a concussion and still answer, ‘Fine.’ And seriously expect us to buy it!” she finishes with an eye roll, polishing off her wine and rising. She grabs the empty and goes for a new bottle.
“No more for me,” I shout toward the kitchen. “I need to be able to drive home soon.”
“Why not just stay here?”
I can’t think up a good excuse not to and accept the refill she offers when she returns. We talk our way through most of that bottle and a carton of Ben and Jerry’s before she pulls out the sheets, blanket and pillow she keeps in the hall closet for my frequent overnights. Much giggling accompanies the making of the sleeper sofa, and one of these days, we say, we’ll remember to make the bed *before* the second bottle of wine.
Janet’s asleep, I’m certain, half an hour later as I lie there considering all we’ve discussed. Bits and snatches of our conversation float through my sodden brain. I remember the certainty with which she pronounced me “…the heart of the team.” Was she right that, “…the Colonel wants – needs – my respect and approval like he needs air to breathe,” I wonder? I think the reverse is certainly true – of all three men, but especially the Colonel.
And before I really think about it – the Colonel would be so proud – I pull on my jeans and tennis shoes and pick up my keys from the entry table. The thought occurs to me that ‘Janet usually puts those away somewhere,’ as I ease the front door open quietly. And, with the absence of traffic at this ungodly hour, I find myself on the Colonel’s front step at 3 am. I jump when the door opens before I even knock. What, does he have Sam Radar all of a sudden to know I’m here?
“Carter?” he says, the whole “what are you doing here at this hour?” clearly expressed in just the voicing of my name.
“Sir. I…” I look back at my car, parked perilously close to his precious truck. His gaze follows mine. I wonder if he can smell the alcohol, and I shiver, its false warmth fading with my courage. Even through the grape fog, I realize he probably heard my engine in the still of the night, but he obviously was still up. Though he’s in sweats and his hair is a mess, it’s the usual head-scratching mess, not the bed head. I wonder at my familiarity with his hair and try to convince myself Teal’c or Daniel would know the difference, too.
“Come in, so I can stop trying to heat all of Colorado with just my fireplace.”
I follow him to the kitchen where he makes coffee. Yep, he *so* smelled the wine. As he sets a cup in front of me where I sit at his table, I notice he’s not drinking any. Instead he pulls out a beer and, tossing the cap in the sink, he takes a long swig and leans against the counter.
“Wanna tell me what’s up?”
“I…” I can face a Jaffa army with more courage than this. The wine’s wearing off, and it’s not from the coffee I haven’t touched yet.
“Sir,” I say again and take another deep breath. It’s now or never, as the old cliché goes, and I know how much the Colonel *loves* clichés. Okay, no more stalling. “About today… About Alar…”
THE PLOT BUNNY: The plot I was given was: Sam is struggling to come to terms with Jack's actions at the end of "The Other Side". She feels his moral conscience is not all she thought it was, and feels compelled to seek an explanation from him. "The Other Side" is just before "Upgrades", and things are fine in "Upgrades". So something had to transpire in between. The look she gives him at the very end of the ep on the ramp after the iris closes and they hear a thud speaks a thousand words.