General O'Neill let the phone receiver fall onto the cradle with a loud crash. He rested his elbows on the desk and growled in frustration. He really hated being 'The Man'.
He started to wonder – not for the first time – if it was too early to hand in his resignation, when a light knock on the office door had him straightening.
"I’m sorry, sir. Is this a bad time?"
"No time's a bad time for you, Carter. C'mon in," he replied and gestured for her to close the door.
He watched Sam follow his order, and then as she slowly and methodically approached his desk. He could virtually hear the cogs turning in her head, and when she bit her bottom lip and her brow furrowed slightly, Jack knew she was trying to decide the best way to bring up whatever was on her mind. He already had a pretty good idea as to what was bothering her, however, and he felt his previous frustration return. It wasn’t Carter’s fault, but he hadn't slept for two days now and he was exhausted; from babysitting an alien delegation that did nothing but act like children, to an alien plant that took over the base, it wasn't exactly the first week in charge he had envisaged. So, while his frustration wasn't aimed at Sam, he just didn't have the patience or willpower to deal with anything right now, let alone talk to the woman who probably had the highest IQ known to humankind.
He swiped a pen off the desk and sighed heavily as he started to take it apart.
"Carter, as much as I love your company, it's after twenty-three hundred and I was about to head to bed. Shouldn't you be there as well?"
He saw her eyes widen and suddenly realized how his question sounded.
"Uh, I mean, in your bed... uh, alone. Y'know, what with your big mission in the morning and all."
"I know what you meant, sir," Sam said with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "And probably."
"So... why aren't you?" he asked, waving the pen around.
"I couldn't sleep. I was... thinking."
Her words made him smirk. "You don't say," he drawled. "Whatcha thinking about?"
"The mission, sir."
He studied her for a moment before he pointed to the chairs on the other side of the desk. He waited until Sam sat down before he spoke.
"Is my colonel having doubts?"
"Your colonel? Sir?" She asked in surprise.
He quickly schooled his features. "Sure," he replied, trying to sound nonchalant. "You're a colonel under my command, are you not?"
"Then you're one of my colonels. And a damn fine one too," he added softly.
"Thank you, sir."
Jack tried to ignore the faint blush on Sam’s face at his words. "So, what's bothering you?"
"Well, sir, to be honest... I thought you were doubting my abilities."
"You know I'd never do that Sam," he answered honestly.
"I know," she admitted as guilt coursed through her. "It's just... It's a simple recon mission and –"
"Carter," he interrupted. "I know what kind of mission it is, which is exactly why I said to leave it for one more day." When she frowned, he continued. "How many times did we get assigned a simple recon mission, only for it to go to completely FUBAR?"
He knew the answer "too many times" was going through her head, but he could still see the doubt linger in her eyes. He sighed and dropped the pen onto the desk as he leaned back in his chair.
"Look, Carter, delaying the mission has absolutely nothing to do with your abilities as a leader or a soldier, I promise. It's just –" He stopped abruptly and Sam tilted her head to the side. "I want someone there to watch your back. Especially now that I'm stuck behind a desk and can't do it myself."
His gaze dropped to his desk and he scooped the pen back up in an attempt to ignore the heavy silence that had now descended. He could feel Sam’s gaze on him but he refused to meet her eye.
If Jack was honest, his appointment to Brigadier General was something he didn't particularly want, but he felt he had no real choice for the time being, so he’d agreed to the promotion. But from being on the front lines for so long, to suddenly pushing papers, it hadn’t been an easy transition. He was a man of action; he needed to be out there, doing something alongside his old team. Instead, he was now stuck on Earth while they continued to travel through the Stargate.
"I'm sorry, sir."
He slowly looked at her and frowned. "For what?"
"For questioning your judgment. This can't be easy for you."
Her words were met with another sigh. "Carter, you've led SG-1 before, and have always done a good job, but yeah, it's all still new. This," he said, gesturing between the two of them, "is still new."
He paused and cocked his head to the side. "I trust you with my life, Carter, and I trust you with Daniel and Teal'c's life. It's the same for them with yours, but since I can no longer go off-world… It'll just take me a while to get used to letting you go," he shrugged.
"Thank you, sir… and I appreciate your concern, really, but –"
"I'd also have done the same for any team here. I know," he cut in. "Don't worry Carter, there's no special treatment for you just yet."
He smiled at the woman sitting in front of him and was relieved when a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. Seemingly more content with his explanation as to why he chose to delay the team’s mission, she nodded and stood from her chair.
"So, feeling better?" he asked as he also got to his feet.
"Yes, sir. Thank you."
"Think nothing of it,” he grinned. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll sign a few more forms before catching some shut-eye."
"Have a good night," Sam smiled as she moved to the door.
"You too. Oh, and Carter?"
He waited until their eyes met.
"Come back to me, OK?"
A knowing smile graced her lips before it just as quickly disappeared.