George got out of his car and immediately noticed the neglected lawn framing the otherwise picturesque suburban home of Major Samantha Carter. Heaps of fallen golden leaves adorned the bushels of grass. He’d obtained her address from her personnel file, and now laying eyes upon her home for the first time he was struck by the thought that somehow this type of home doesn’t seem to fit his image of the Major. He imagined something more concrete and dark; he’d probably seen her in her lab too often, he thought to himself. In fact, not too long ago she had spent an entire three months holed up in her lab. He had been astounded to receive a call from payroll to say that a certain Major hadn’t clocked off the base for thirty days straight, and he had been even more surprised at her borderline insubordination with him when he had insisted that she go home. Less of a surprise to him was to see her check-in time pop back up on the personnel spreadsheet less than twelve hours later. She really was as stubborn as her father, but he couldn’t fault her for it. She’d gotten the Colonel home- inventing a whole new subset of particle physics along the way- both points having pleased the bigwigs at the Pentagon. So he’d let it, and her, be.
When she answered the door he wasn’t surprised by her reaction. She looked utterly blind sided by his appearance, and he couldn’t help but chuckle. One of the perks of being a General was watching subordinate officers sweat in one’s presence.
“General! I-I wasn’t expecting you! Urm, come in, Sir,” she stammered, waving a hand in invitation.
“Thank you Major,” and he stepped into her hallway, taking in his surroundings. Neat and minimal, as expected. A few framed childhood pictures of her and Jacob adorned the staircase wall, and another of her brother, Mark, and his kids sits next to the phone on a low table. He’d known the Carters for so long but it had been a long time since he’d seen her brother. He wondered how old the kids in the photo must be by now.
“I must say, Sir, it’s a little strange to see you off-base out of uniform,” she managed, looking a little embarrassed by her admission. He thought the same of her, wearing her simple white cardigan and pale blue jeans. It was odd to him how positively normal she looked, and to imagine how people must pass by her on the streets with zero inkling of the military and scientific miracles she could pull off on a daily basis. That is, assuming she ever goes out, such the workaholic that she was; the youngest of the Carters, George had always known Sam to be serious about her studies growing up. She had always been extremely respectful to himself and the other military fathers they’d known, unlike the disdain her brother had always shown the officers after their mother’s death. But Sam had always been a bit on the quiet side when the old Air Force buddies had shared family barbeques back in the day. He was proud of the confidence she had later built and the strong officer she had become, and was even more glad that she and Jacob had mended fences and that he was back in her life. And his own life too, for that matter.
“I’m sorry to turn up unexpectedly, Major,” he said at last, after pulling his head out of his nostalgic thoughts. “I just wanted to speak with you off-base. You know, off-record.”
“I see, Sir,” she replied, looking both intrigued and concerned, and he took a seat in an armchair. He watched as she followed suit, taking a seat opposite him. “Oh! Do you need anything to drink, Sir?” she suddenly added, jumping back up to attention.
“At ease, Major, I’m fine. I won’t take much of your time,” he smiled assuredly. He was amused by her jittery behaviour towards having him in her house. “How are you holding up with everything?”
“Fine, Sir.” Should have seen that coming. Maybe I should be more specific, he thought to himself.
“So with Colonel Makepeace arrested, I’m planning to reinstate Colonel O’Neill as commander of SG-1,” he prompted.
“I’m glad, Sir. When will we be back on rotation?” ‘As eager as ever to get back to work,’ he thought.
“About that. Has Colonel O’Neill had time to fill you all in on the circumstances of his mission?”
“Yes Sir, he did a fine job convincing us all, Colonel Maybourne included, of course. I’m glad the mission was a success.”
“Jack begged for you all to be allowed in on the plan, but the Asgard were insistent on it only being him in the know,” the General started, steering the conversation towards the matter he'd come to discuss. “He told me that he had been forced to say harsh things to you all to keep his cover, and I have to say I sensed some tension between you yesterday. I want to be sure that the air is clear between you all before putting you all back out in the field.”
“I understand that everything he said was part of the mission. We all do. Everything is fine between us, Sir.”
A perfectly neutral answer, again as expected. “Really? Announcing he was returning to Edora permanently after you’d put all that hard work to bring him back must have hurt.”
“It was a credible cover story to get the Colonel access to the gate,” she replied, keeping her expression unphased. “I understand that now.”
“But at the time?” He watched as she paused, considering an answer, but he continued before she had a chance. “You barely left your lab, let alone the base for three months working tirelessly to bring him back. Why?”
“We don’t leave our people behind, Sir,” came the automatic answer.
“We wouldn’t have done either, the Tok’ra would have had a ship there in a year.”
“How could I have sat around knowing there may be a way of getting him back in a quarter of the time?”
“There was no way to know if he was even still alive,” he baited. “Do you know the cost your project incurred, not to mention the hoops I had to go through taking SG-1 off rotation even though the Colonel was declared MIA?” She seemed a little taken aback, but he continued on. “And working to the point of exhaustion? Dr Frasier came to me several times with concerns. And when I finally ordered you off base I was met with resistance-”
“I appreciate all you did for me, and for the Colonel. And I apologize for any transgressions," she did look genuinely apologetic. "I admit I did become a little engrossed in the problem at hand, Sir.”
‘Just a little?’ he thought. “You were short with your team members”, he continued. “Your behaviour was rash, and I heard complaints from a couple of the scientists about your behaviour, too.”
“Again, I’m sorry Sir. I was very eager to get the Colonel home, which I did, and of course to return the stranded Edorans home too,” she answered, looking a little sheepish.
He hated having to grill her but as base commander he had to ensure that all team dynamics were strictly professional and functional. And as the flagship team of the SGC operation, if there were any signs of any hindrance of judgement of SG-1 team members, he would face part of the fallout. “Would you say you let personal feelings towards the Colonel affect your behaviour and approach toward rescuing him from Edora, even when there wasn’t even any evidence that he was still alive?”
He watched as her expression changed red and her posture became defensive. Then she did her best to cover it up before answering with, “I don’t know what you mean Sir. I would have done the same had it been Daniel or Teal’c.”
He felt bad for this interrogation, he really did, especially when he was so fond of the Major, having known her most of her life. Sometimes being a General was tough. “It hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that the last two times we’ve encountered an alternate universe, you and the Colonel have been in an intimate relationship.”
Her expression was now full-on deer-in-headlights mode. She appeared utterly mortified.
“I- Sir, I can assure you that in this universe there is nothing between the Colonel and I.” She looked like she wanted a black hole to swallow her up. “He’s a valuable member of the SGC program, and I consider him a friend. That’s all.”
The General took her in. She did seem sincere. Whether or not she was covering for herself, and who could blame her if she were, truthfully he didn’t like the idea of being forced to break up the team anyway, not when there wasn't any real evidence of any digression either. And compared to the other SG teams, SG-1 seemed to have a great dynamic that just simply worked, and he didn’t want to end that success, especially when the fate of the world may depend on their ongoing unity.
“Very well, Major,” he said after a pause, and he saw as her tension appeared to lessen slightly. “As long as I have your assurance.”
“You do, Sir. There is absolutely nothing inappropriate between us, Sir,” she finished, putting all the confidence she could muster into her words.
“Then I’ll see you at the base tomorrow,” George said standing up, excusing himself from the house of a rather humiliated Major. He hoped he wouldn’t have to return to her house again under such circumstances.