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Fanfiction: Comparative Studies

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S5 Proving Ground
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Team friendship.  Sam/Jack UST.  Elliot.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Comparative Studies


It was customary for the SGC recruits to be taken out for a celebratory drink by the SG team leader in charge of their evaluation – or so Lieutenant James Thomas Elliot had been told enthusiastically by Matt Grogan the first night they had bunked together after being assigned to the training programme. Jennifer Hailey had confirmed the tradition to Tamsin Satterfield in the middle of a hastily taken lunch one day and Elliot realised in hindsight that Hailey must have already been through it. Still, Elliot hadn’t really thought Colonel O’Neill would hold with the tradition.

O’Neill had coined the nickname ‘Colonel Hardass’ from the first ever recruits through the training programme and Elliot hadn’t seen much evidence that the intervening years had changed O’Neill’s approach. The man was intimidating. He had a tough, uncompromising persona that Elliot admired but which made O’Neill about as approachable as a rattlesnake in a bad temper. The Colonel had relaxed a smidgeon at the end of the training test when he’d delivered the news with General Hammond but that single moment of unbending wasn’t enough to prevent Elliot pausing in the doorway of the bar with a sense of bemusement that O’Neill had invited them out for a celebratory drink with him and the rest of SG1.

Elliot felt Grogan slap his shoulder.

‘Do you believe this?’ Grogan’s eyes were lit up. He hadn’t stopped grinning since the team had secured their provisional pass after completing the SGC training simulation.

‘Surreal.’ Elliot confirmed with a reserved nod. He wasn’t as gregarious as Grogan who seemed to be able to make friends at the drop of a hat. He also figured he was more driven than Grogan who had joined the Air Force because he’d wanted the adventure; Elliot had joined because he had ambitions to be the best of the best. He figured Hailey, who waved at them from across the bar, and he had more in common; both had been top of their Academy classes, both of them had ambition.

Elliot followed Grogan as he crossed the bar weaving between the tightly packed table and avoiding the sticky spills on the wooden floor to reach a packed booth at the back.

O’Neill got to his feet. ‘What are you both drinking?’ The question was delivered with a motion to sit. Grogan immediately slid into the booth, shuffling up against Satterfield who grinned at him and continued sipping on some alco-pop thing that was a luminous green colour.

‘Beer, sir.’ Grogan answered.

O’Neill’s dark eyes slid to Elliot questioningly. ‘Lieutenant?’

‘Beer for me too, sir.’ He’d have preferred a Coke. Social drinking wasn’t Elliot’s thing, he preferred to keep control, and when he really wanted a drink in private, he followed his grandfather’s choice; Scotch, straight up. Usually he was the first to put his hand up as designated driver but Grogan had insisted on a cab so they both could make a night of it and Elliot hadn’t felt compelled to argue.

‘Two beers coming right up.’ O’Neill left without another word.

Elliot looked at the small space remaining on the trainee side of the booth and grabbed a nearby chair which he angled up to the end of the table. He liked Grogan but he had no wish to be that close to him.

On the other hand, Daniel was scrunched up against Hailey who didn’t seem to be complaining. Elliot figured Satterfield wasn’t the only one with a crush. Teal’c was next to Daniel, a baseball cap hiding the distinctive gold brand on his dark forehead. The Jaffa was sipping on what looked like an orange cocktail in an outlandish glass complete with little umbrellas. Grogan nudged Elliot’s foot surreptitiously in amusement as they both spotted it at the same time. Elliot shrugged; Teal’c was probably the only person who could get away with such a drink without fear of being teased.

‘So, congratulations.’ Samantha Carter caught his eye. She raised her beer bottle. ‘SG17?’

Elliot nodded, unable to hide a flush of pride. ‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘Major Mansfield sends his regrets.’ Carter continued. ‘He and his team are…abroad or they would have joined us.’

Elliot felt a twinge of disappointment but nodded again in understanding. ‘I’m looking forward to joining the team, ma’am.’

‘Here you go.’ O’Neill handed Elliot one beer and passed another to Grogan. He glanced at Elliot and dragged over another chair. Elliot realised a beat later that the rest of SG1 seemed oblivious to the additional space O’Neill had left. They remained with their elbows tangled, their shoulders overlapping and pressed hip to thigh up against each other. He guessed years of off-world missions and close quarters made nonsense out of the concept of personal space. He pulled himself out of his thoughts as he realised Daniel was speaking.

‘So, you guys must have some questions?’ Daniel gestured at them, his expression open and friendly.

Satterfield blushed. ‘I was actually wondering about the language on the fake artefact, Doctor Jackson…’

Elliot noticed the surreptitious amused look O’Neill and Carter exchanged, and he barely refrained from rolling his own eyes. He took a drink of his beer allowing his attention to wander as the archaeologist answered Satterfield. Elliot leaned back in his chair, unbalancing it so that the weight was left on the back two props. He hooked his foot into the under bar on the table to ensure he didn’t over-balance and go sprawling. That would not be cool and given the company he was with, he so wanted to be cool.

Elliot felt another rush of pleasure at his success.

He had made it.

He had passed the training and would report to the SGC in a couple of days as a fully fledged member of a SG team. Had it only been that morning that Elliot had believed he had blown his chances? O’Neill was a difficult commander to please. He expected perfection; he expected the best. God knew, Elliot thought as his eyes scanned the Colonel’s team, he worked with the best so why wouldn’t he?

When General Kerrigan had told him about the Stargate, Elliot had considered himself among the elite. He’d worked hard; had achieved his aim of being first in his class. He’d already applied for a position as a pilot, mainly because he had dreams of NASA one day. To be pulled aside and told there was something else even more incredible had been a revelation but as soon as he had found about, he had wanted the Stargate programme and wanted it badly.

The first week of training had been easy enough given it was mainly sitting through an interminable number of briefings on the Stargate and the history of the programme. It had cemented his desire. Everything he’d been taught about the Stargate had confirmed that it wasn’t just the best who were assigned but the best of the best. To have just made the training programme was a mark of how good he was but Elliot hadn’t been satisfied with that honour; he’d wanted to make it all the way and secure a position on an off-world team…and he’d done it.

Elliot glowed with satisfaction.

Hailey caught his eye again and grinned as though she could read his mind. Elliot flushed a little but raised his bottle in acknowledgement. He guessed Hailey knew how he felt. Somewhere the conversation he had been ignoring had drifted to the nanobots in the simulation and Hailey’s face was animated as she described how she and Major Carter had created the whole idea. The Major was adding technical detail here and there but she was letting Hailey hold the floor. Elliot glanced at the Major who was smiling encouragingly at Hailey.

Elliot’s gaze skipped to the Colonel’s. O’Neill’s attention was completely on the Major, but just as his mind made the observation, the Colonel’s attention was diverted as Teal’c made some remark about Daniel helping with a birth. Elliot was riveted to the interplay between SG1 as Daniel was encouraged to tell the story.

Daniel’s bright blue eyes shone with intelligence and enthusiasm. His hands moved constantly, weaving in and out of gestures as he spoke. It was easy to see as he told the story of the Argos mission that he gave SG1 a human viewpoint on what was essentially a military mission. Yet Elliot had an idea that people underestimated the archaeologist. Elliot believed fervently that there was more to Jackson than words, languages and idealism given the reports they’d been allowed to read through training. They had hinted at a core of courage and bravery.

Elliot wondered what that had been like; to walk through the Stargate the very first time. His eyes sneaked back to O’Neill. The Colonel had made the trip with Jackson that first time. It had created an evident bond between the two men. There was banter and teasing in the way of brothers or best friends. O’Neill had no issues interrupting Daniel’s flow to add or detract from the other’s tale. Elliot had no doubt that each would lay down the lives for the other but he had the sense that neither of them fully understood just how much of their bond was evident. Teal’c got it, Elliot surmised.

The former First Prime missed nothing. His dark eyes watched over his team-mates protectively. Elliot shivered. God help anyone who hurt SG1 because they would have Teal’c to contend with. The Jaffa was more than a protective shield though; Elliot could see that. He was the rock on which the rest leaned; their touch point. They all looked to the Jaffa for strength – even O’Neill who was definitely the leader.

Carter’s role in the team was less obvious. Before meeting the team, Elliot had initially dismissed her as adding nothing more than her technical genius and that was definitely part of it, Elliot mused. But as Daniel glanced at her as he mentioned her squeamishness and Carter rolled her eyes at him; as the Colonel made some quip and she ducked her head to hide a smile, as Teal’c solemnly handed her his cocktail umbrella as though it was an expensive gift, Elliot began to understand that her place in the team was more than her brain or her IQ. She was the one the others didn’t want to disappoint.

Elliot took a large swig of beer to cover his revelation. He wasn’t even sure Carter knew it; he wasn’t even sure they knew it. Maybe it had something to do with her being the only woman but Elliot figured it had more to do with that first year when their bonds had formed. From the reports, the three men had been personally invested in the fight with the Goa’uld; O’Neill due to his part in killing Ra, Daniel because of his wife, and Teal’c’s rebellion against his God was to win his freedom. Only Carter had been there because it was her duty; for no other reason than to protect her world. She had initially fought because it was the right thing to do and maybe the men around her admired her for that. He knew he did.

Elliot had also been aware that the SG1 guys had been very protective with Carter during the week of training; unobtrusively but noticeable in the small stuff – the way they had never left her alone or how they had automatically grouped around her occasionally. Grogan had made some derogatory comment their second day of training and it had been Hailey who had corrected Grogan sharply. She had clued them into Carter’s kidnapping and why. Elliot wondered at how Carter must have felt being abducted just because she had once been host to a Tok’ra symbiote. Elliot shook his head; just the idea of the Tok’ra, of symbiotes was mind-boggling.

It was fascinating watching SG1 together. Elliot envied them. One day, he determined; one day he would make SG1. He would be part of the elite flagship team. His lips twisted. He guessed he should focus on doing a good job on SG17 first; that would be the next test. One step at a time but he would get there. The smattering of applause pulled Elliot back into the present and he belatedly realised that Daniel had wrapped up the Argos story.

‘Well, I guess I should make some kind of speech.’ O’Neill drawled formally.

They all looked at him expectantly.

He raised his beer. ‘Congratulations.’

Daniel sighed expressively.

‘What?’ O’Neill said, unrepentant.

‘Congratulations.’ Carter stepped in before the two could begin exchanging barbs. She raised her beer and there was a moment of clinking glasses before they all took a drink.

O’Neill set his empty beer bottle down with a thud. ‘Well, hate to cut this short but we should leave; we have an early start tomorrow.’ His words were delivered lightly but the rest of his team immediately responded, finishing their drinks with apologetic smiles at the trainees. The Colonel stood up and SG1 slid out of the booth.

Elliot scrambled to his feet, sending his chair back to Earth with a bump even as O’Neill waved at him to sit down. The Colonel directed a smile at the table; his brown eyes warming to the colour of hot chocolate. ‘Congratulations. Oh, and Elliot?’

Elliot straightened automatically.

‘The next time you shoot me, I shoot back.’ The accompanying smirk softened the threat but only just.

‘Yes, sir.’ Elliot acknowledged crisply.

O’Neill motioned at his team and SG1 left the bar.

Elliot breathed out and sat back down as the others spaced themselves around the now almost empty booth.

Grogan sprawled comfortably across the seat and gestured wildly with his bottle. ‘Can you believe we made it?’

‘No.’ Elliot shook his head. ‘I thought we were going to wash out for sure.’ They hadn’t been doing all that well. Elliot was beginning to realise that he had been too hung up on working out the answer to the simulation instead of just doing his job as he had done when he’d thought it was real.

‘You were quite the hero.’ Satterfield commented teasingly. Her dark eyes slid to Hailey who coloured and shrugged.

Elliot tried to ignore the rising heat in his own cheeks as he recalled the way he had picked up Hailey. ‘I thought she was dying.’ He said mildly, tipping his chair back again and trying to pretend a nonchalance he didn’t feel.

‘Sure.’ Grogan teased.

‘I appreciated the gesture.’ Hailey said with a smile.

Elliot nodded but he focused on his mug. Hailey was pretty and she was smart; two things which appealed to him in the opposite sex but he was focused on his career and he had no intention of screwing up his future with an ill-timed romance. He figured she would feel the same way.

‘I can’t believe you were in on it.’ Grogan complained good-naturedly, reaching across Satterfield to poke Hailey in the shoulder.

Hailey shrugged. ‘They always put a new recruit in with the trainees. You’ll get your chance to do the same.’ She motioned at Elliot. ‘I’m impressed you filched Major Carter’s access card. That was some trick.’

Elliot shrugged. He wasn’t about to confide his delinquent years. His father had ended up sending him to a military school to ‘straighten him out.’ Elliot had found himself challenged and had taken to the discipline like a duck to water.

Hailey’s eyes strayed to the clock. ‘Well, guys, I have to split too.’ She stood and grinned at them. ‘See you around the SGC.’

They watched her go and Grogan shook his head. ‘I still can’t believe she was in on it.’

‘I’m just glad she was on our side.’ Satterfield sighed expressively.

‘Was she?’ Grogan frowned. ‘She didn’t exactly help us.’

‘That wasn’t why she was there.’ Elliot said simply. ‘She was evaluating how we did as a team when everyone else wasn’t around.’ He wasn’t certain he’d made that good an impression before his rescue attempt. He’d dismissed her attempts to commit to succeeding as a team after all. He looked down to hide the sudden churn of emotion that twisted his gut.

And that had been the major lesson; SG teams were about the team. They weren’t about one individual protecting their own ass but about working together where any individual might have to sacrifice themselves for the rest. He’d got what O’Neill had been trying to teach them late in the programme but he’d got it and that’s what counted.

Satterfield looked wistfully around and raised her empty bottle. ‘Who’s for another?’

‘Count me in.’ Grogan chugged back the last of his beer.

Elliot drained his beer and set it on the table. ‘You guys go ahead. I’m heading back.’ He resisted the inevitable protests and finally managed to extricate himself with a promise to meet up for breakfast the next day.

He stepped out of the bar and into the cold night air with relief. He looked up at the myriad of stars dotting the dark blanket of the night sky with a rush of pleasure. He would travel to those stars; he would fulfil his dream. He would be part of the Stargate programme and help keep his world safe.

Elliot let the grin spread over his face. He had made it.

o-O-o

Sam shrugged out of her denim jacket and placed it carefully on the hook. She hit the light switch, illuminating the hallway through to the kitchen. She stretched, easing the kinks in her spine and the knots in her shoulders. She had liked the trainees but she’d been just as pleased when Colonel O’Neill had given their excuses and they’d been able to depart the traditional drinks. The end of the training simulation had also signalled SG1’s return to the off world duty roster and the team were due to head out first thing the next day on a mission. It was their first off world sojourn since Sam’s abduction by Adrian Conrad and the Colonel’s injury when he had rescued her. Although they had both been medically cleared, Sam knew their participation in the training had been a way of gently reintroducing them to the action; the real test would come the next day.

It would be good to really get back on the bike, Sam told herself, ignoring the flutter of nerves through her belly. She should get the early night the Colonel had suggested and make sure she was rested for the mission. She padded through her house to the kitchen, filled a kettle and set it on the stove to boil. A moment later, a large mug stood ready with an herbal teabag.

She left the kitchen and made her way into her bedroom, switching on lights as she went. She undressed, throwing her clothes in the laundry basket before donning her usual nightwear of pyjama bottoms and tank top. The cool air prickled her skin and she threw on a terry robe, leaving the belt undone. A visit to the bathroom took care of her make-up. She wandered barefoot back to the kitchen and the boiling kettle. She made her tea and leaned back against the breakfast bar as she waited for it to steep.

The training week had gone well, Sam mused. The Colonel had taken a hard line with the trainees but she knew he did it to ensure they would be able to face much worse when they were in the field. She fidgeted with the small cord on the teabag. She smiled remembering how her CO had denied ever being as young when she had run into him in the mess the evening before. The trainees had reminded Sam of when she had joined the programme; when she had been that young and enthusiastic about the Stargate. Her eyes rolled.

She guessed there were comparisons that could be drawn between the trainee team and SG1. Hailey and herself were the most obvious given they were both scientists and dedicated to the Air Force. Not to mention that they were both driven in their careers and fields of expertise; both first in their class at the Academy. The Colonel had also spent much of the week calling Hailey ‘Mini-Carter’ when they’d been out of earshot of the trainees. Sam dunked the teabag with a frown. Really, though, Hailey and she were nothing alike. Yes, she allowed as she threw the teabag in the trash and inhaled the fragrant Jasmine tea, there were surface similarities but Hailey and she were different.

Hailey’s roots were in small town Americana, her father an insurance salesman and her mother a housewife. Sam had spent her formative years as an Air Force brat, travelling from one of her Dad’s postings to the next, and any kind of stability had disappeared with her Mom’s death. Hailey had been popular at High School and had admitted to Sam that she had been on the cheerleading squad; Sam had spent most of her time in school two years ahead of her age group and adopted as a geeky mascot by the more senior popular kids who liked having someone around who could give them the answers.

Sam grimaced as she took a sip of tea. It wasn’t that her school years provoked bad memories but after changing High School many times in two years between her Freshman and Junior years she had barely had time to make acquaintances never mind friends. It was just that she envied Hailey, she mused. The stable upbringing had given Hailey a level of inner self-confidence that Sam wasn’t sure she had herself. She sighed as she gazed into the depths of her mug. Sam knew she wasn’t lacking in confidence when it came to her science, her capabilities as an Air Force Major…but as a woman? As Samantha Carter?

‘Let’s not go there.’ Sam muttered out loud. So what if her personal life was non-existent? If her family had transformed from her brother and father into her team. If the man she loved had made it clear he was unattainable. Sam dumped the tea in the sink, washed the mug and set in on the drainer. She reached into a cabinet for a bottle of water. She unscrewed the cap and took a long gulp. How had she meandered into the hopeless state of her love life anyway, Sam mused as she wandered along the hallway to her bedroom. She left the bottle on her bedside table as she paid a final quick visit to the bathroom.

She was in the midst of brushing her teeth when her mind drifted back to the subject of comparisons. Grogan and Teal’c were like night and day, she concluded with amusement. The former was gregarious and outgoing; the latter reserved and contained. Grogan reminded her of a slightly over-eager Labrador puppy whereas Teal’c was much more like a wise, sage Sheepdog. She inwardly chuckled a little as she rinsed out her mouth.

Satterfield and Daniel were probably a better comparison – maybe a bit like her and Hailey, Sam considered as she patted her mouth dry and threw her toothbrush into the glass at the side of the basin. Both were academically brilliant; multi-lingual; archaeologists and historians. Yet she knew Satterfield had also benefited from a two-parent stable upbringing in a mixed marriage of a Korean bride and American veteran soldier, while Daniel had suffered a turbulent trek from foster home to foster home. They definitely shared the same sense of compassion, Sam thought as she climbed under the covers. Satterfield’s last minute protection of Daniel in the training exercise had been captured by the surveillance tapes. Of course that might have been down to the crush the young woman clearly had on the archaeologist. Sam smiled. Daniel always seemed completely oblivious to the female attention he garnered especially since he had buffed up in the past few years.

Sam lay still in the illuminated room; her eyes wide open. Had Satterfield gone back for Daniel because of her feelings for him or because it had been the right thing to do? Sam guessed not even Satterfield would be able to answer the question. Sam remembered only too well how she had gone back for the Colonel at Hathor’s base – against orders. She had no idea whether she had done that because she had been growing to care for him more than she should or whether she had done it because it had been the right thing.

So not thinking about that, Sam reminded herself briskly. Elliot and the Colonel – there was a comparison she hadn’t considered yet. She frowned, her mouth turning downward. She wasn’t sure there was a comparison even though both had been cast in the role of team leader. The Colonel just had years of command experience that Elliot could not emulate no matter how much he might want to – and she should know. Sam propped a hand under her pillow. She had so been where Elliot was; trying to match up to the Colonel as a commander. She turned over trying to dispel the thought.

Elliot reminded her more of a couple of the guys that she had trained with at the Academy; driven and ambitious with eyes set clearly on being the best. She guessed she’d probably fallen into that category herself. She could empathise with Elliot. He had spent a lot of his time in training trying to work out what the Colonel had wanted and she had been the same during her first couple of months under his command until she had worked out that all he wanted was for her to do her job. She guessed she had the same failing as Elliot; she thought too much. Her lips quirked upwards – just look at what she was doing that moment; analysing the trainee team and comparing them with SG1.

Anything to avoid what was really on her mind.

Her stomach churned and she turned onto her back, a hand stroking beneath the tank top to settle warmly over her belly as though to soothe it.

It would be fine, Sam told herself grimly. The mission the next day was a milk run; a simple follow-up survey for a possible Alpha site. The planet had already been surveyed by SG10; they had already confirmed it was deserted with no risks. All tomorrow was about was confirming the original report, making sure the planet was viable.

Easy.

Just another mission like the hundred or so she had performed before.

Except.

She felt sick.

Sam sat up. She pushed back the covers and made a circuit of her house, checking that the doors were locked. She climbed back into bed wearily and kept the light on as she had done every night since she had returned home after the whole Adrian Conrad thing. She pulled the blanket up over her cold body.

The whole Adrian Conrad thing.

That was one way to describe her abduction; the experiments that had been performed on her like she was a lab rat; the way she had been dehumanised just to satisfy one man’s wish to live. Her eyes prickled with fresh angry tears and she wiped them away, annoyed that the incident still had the power to upset her.

She had been through worse; Jolinar, torture at the hands of the Goa’uld…yet what Adrian Conrad had done to her seemed worse. Just because he was human. Just because she was supposed to be safe on Earth. It didn’t help that Conrad had evaded capture. While she doubted that the Goa’uld who inhabited Conrad would come after her for the reasons Conrad had grabbed her, she could admit to herself that it was unsettling knowing that her abductor was still at large.

The guys had been great, Sam mused. Teal’c had helped her train, sharpening her hand to hand fighting skills; Daniel had provided a friendly ear whenever she had needed a distraction and the Colonel had bolstered her confidence and reassured her she would recover. She had needed his conviction that she would; she hadn’t been certain. She was grateful that he had relaxed the professional distance he had reinstated between them after she had been possessed by a computer entity. He had seemed to realise that she had needed him to be a friend to her not just her CO and she appreciated that even though she knew he had moved on from feeling anything more from her.

Sam frowned, pushing the thought to the back of her mind and turned over again. The Colonel had been right; she had got through. She had recovered and it was over. She rubbed her nose. It was over and she was fit for duty. She was ready to get back to work. There was nothing to worry about. Sam reached over and snapped the light off, plunging the room into darkness. It was over and it was time to move on.

fin.


 

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