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For disclaimers and author's note see Chrysalis Part I.

 

Chrysalis: Part 10


Carolyn checked her watch and wondered whether doing a fourteen hour shift on her first day was setting a dangerous precedent. She had wandered to the General’s office expecting to leave her finished report on Colonel Carter on his desk. It was a surprise to find him still hard at work although he had changed from formal dress to the more comfortable BDU. His grey head was bent over a report that was cast in a yellow glow from the single lit desk lamp. She tapped on the door.

His warm brown eyes snapped up. ‘Carolyn.’ He was surprised to see she was still on base. ‘You still here?’

‘First day.’ Carolyn said by way of explanation. ‘I could ask you the same question, sir.’

He smiled wryly. ‘You wouldn’t believe the paperwork that a visit from the President generates.’

‘I believe I might.’ Carolyn laughed. ‘Do you have a minute, sir?’

‘Of course.’ He waved her in and she closed the door behind her.

She handed him the folder she held and sat down in one of the visitor chairs. ‘My completed report on Colonel Carter.’

‘I thought you were doing that tomorrow.’ Jack said rubbing his face tiredly. He’d completely forgotten to tell Sam and Carolyn there was no longer any need for it given the President’s intervention.

‘She was anxious to complete it as soon as possible and I saw no reason to delay.’ Carolyn said easily. ‘I’ve already emailed you and General Hammond a soft-copy.’

‘So?’ Jack asked tapping the buff folder. ‘What’s the verdict?’

‘Physically, there’s nothing a few night’s sleep and a better diet wouldn’t fix.’ Carolyn began, trying to feel comfortable speaking about a patient and silently reminding herself the normal restrictions of confidentiality didn’t apply in the military.

‘And psychologically?’ Jack prompted.

‘Bluntly, she puts up a good front but she’s a mess.’ Carolyn said. ‘I don’t believe Colonel Carter has even begun to address a lot of what she’s endured in the last year. She’s suppressed a lot by focusing on whatever current situation or problem is screaming for attention and because she’s fundamentally a strong woman.’ She sighed. ‘But it’s my professional opinion that with the most recent loss of her father she’s keeping control through sheer willpower at this point.’ She looked at Jack’s serious face. ‘But you knew all that before I examined her.’

Jack ignored her comment. ‘Your recommendations?’

‘I definitely don’t recommend transferring her out of the SGC at this time.’ Carolyn confirmed. ‘Equally I’m against ordering her to take an enforced leave of absence. She does have a support network here and that’s helping her maintain her balance.’ She sighed. ‘I do recommend putting SG1 on stand down for the foreseeable future. She definitely shouldn’t be commanding out in the field.’

‘Understood.’ Jack said. ‘That shouldn’t be a problem. We’re waiting for the arrival of a new team member and he doesn’t transfer for another month.’

‘It may be longer than a month, General.’ Carolyn said firmly. ‘In addition to the stand down, I’d like to start her with a grief counsellor.’

‘A shrink?’ Jack’s eyebrows shot up.

‘A grief counsellor.’ Carolyn reiterated. ‘I’d like to try her with Doctor Kenny. She’s one of the more mature female counsellors on staff at the Academy hospital. I think it would be a good fit.’

‘A grief counsellor. She’s going to love that.’ Jack sighed. ‘Anything else?’

Carolyn nodded. ‘I’d like to re-examine her in a month. Take a view with her counsellor at that point.’

‘Thank you.’ Jack said.

‘I’d like her to report to me tomorrow so we can arrange the first counselling session. The sooner we get her started the better.’ Carolyn said rising to her feet.

‘I’ll inform her.’ Jack confirmed. He responded absently to her goodnight before he locked the papers on his desk away. He headed to the locker room, changed into civvies and headed to the surface. Daniel had called him earlier to tell him he was taking Sam home. He figured he’d catch up with them there.

She was going to hate the results of the evaluation, he mused as he drove away from the mountain, but it should support the President’s denial of the request and prevent any further discussion of a transfer. All in all, it was working out quite well. The President had approved the plan for him to retire and continue working at the SGC as a civilian and Sam and Daniel were effectively going to be restricted to the base for the next month which meant he got to spend more time with both of them. The only downside was losing Teal’c. They had all been crushed when the wormhole had disappeared…

Jack dimly heard Hammond dismiss everyone as he slowly lowered his hand. He was grateful; he wasn’t sure he could talk. He was vaguely aware of people filing out of the gate room but his attention remained on the Stargate, his mind’s eye still seeing the shimmering puddle of blue of the event horizon.

He really left.’ Daniel murmured in disbelief.

Yeah, he really left.’ Jack repeated gruffly. He glanced over at the archaeologist and realised that the younger man’s face was wet. Sam looked up at him and Jack felt his heart lurch at the sight of her surreptitiously swiping away her own tears. It had been too much for her too. Jack felt the press of tears against the back of his own throat; hell, it had almost been too much for him.

He cleared his throat and rocked back on his heels. ‘Is anyone else hungry? I don’t know about you kids but I didn’t eat a lot at that lunch.’

A snack sounds good, sir.’ Sam sniffed.

Sure. Why not?’ Daniel agreed. ‘I hear Chef made peach pie.’

Pie’s good.’ Jack said as he led them out of the gate room. ‘I could go for pie.’

You can always go for pie.’ Daniel commented wryly.

Looking back, Jack realised, everybody else had given them space as they’d made their way to the commissary and sat down with a slice of pie each. Of course he and Daniel had ended up eating most of Sam’s but the time had let them regain their equilibrium and adjust to their first hour without Teal’c even though they’d spent most of it reminiscing. They might have spent longer if Sam hadn’t suddenly glanced at the clock and shot off…probably to the evaluation with Carolyn, Jack deduced in hindsight. He sighed. It was less than five hours without Teal’c and he already missed the big guy.

He pulled up in front of Sam’s house, pleased to see Daniel’s car still parked out front. He walked briskly up the path and knocked on the door. It was Daniel who answered and let Jack into the house. They made for the den and Jack saw Sam stir sleepily from the sofa to blink at him. There were a couple of discarded pizza boxes on the floor, a couple of beer bottles on the coffee table and the movie that was flickering across the screen was Star Wars. He looked at Daniel who shrugged.

‘Want a beer?’

‘Sounds good.’ Jack said.

Daniel disappeared to the kitchen.

‘You going to hog the whole couch, Carter?’ Jack inquired.

‘Sorry, sir.’ Sam shifted up so he could sit down beside her. They were close enough to be touching and Jack savoured the innocent contact. His gaze flickered to the empty chair where Teal’c would normally sit.

Sam followed his gaze. ‘I miss him.’

‘Me too.’ Jack murmured.

‘Me three.’ Daniel said passing Jack a bottle before he slumped into a chair. He grabbed a box and handed it to Jack. ‘Pizza?’

Jack took a cold slice and bit in enthusiastically suddenly aware he hadn’t eaten since the pie in the afternoon. He had put away his second slice and Luke had found the Princess when he cleared his throat. ‘I’m putting SG1 on stand down for the next month.’

Sam shifted so she could look at him properly. ‘The evaluation?’ She asked.

Jack nodded.

‘She thought I needed to go on stand down?’

Her voice was surprisingly calm and Jack peered at her worried. ‘SG1 would be on stand down anyway given you’re a man down.’ He pointed out. ‘On the upside,’ he continued cheerfully, ‘you can work on your projects and spend some time with Cassie.’

‘I will get to spend more time with Cassie and there’re a number of projects that I’ve been meaning to start but haven’t had the time.’ Sam wondered at her sense of relief. Maybe she really did need the downtime. It would be good to have a stable routine for a little while.

‘And maybe you can fit in seeing a grief counsellor.’ Jack threw in casually.

‘She’s ordering me to see a grief counsellor?’ Sam slumped back against the sofa. ‘Great.’

‘Look, I know I’m not usually one to advocate counselling and that sharing your feelings mumbo-jumbo,’ his comment elicited a reluctant smile from her and gave him the incentive to continue, ‘but I seem to recall you had Cassie see someone after Janet died.’ Jack said quietly. ‘Why not give it a go?’

‘I guess it couldn’t hurt.’ Sam grumbled.

Jack felt the tension draining from him. ‘So, you’re OK with this?’

‘I’m OK with it, sir.’ Sam said. ‘So I’m not getting transferred?’

‘Well, actually, the President spoke with the Joint Chiefs and suggested you would be needed for Daniel’s plan.’ Jack said. ‘You’re safe.’ He held up his hands as the realisation that she needn’t have taken the evaluation crept across her face. ‘Hey don’t look at me. I would have rescinded the order tomorrow morning but you were so keen…’

‘About Daniel’s plan, sir.’ Sam said staring at him. ‘You’re really going to retire and run the SGC as a civilian?’

‘That’s the plan.’ Jack confirmed cheerily ignoring how hard his heart had started pounding.

Sam held his gaze for a long moment, considered asking the question that hovered on her lips; was he doing this for her, for them? A laser battle commenced on the screen; its wild flickering momentarily grabbed her attention and also her courage. ‘What about the Homeworld Security job?’ She asked instead. She’d heard a rumour he’d been offered it.

‘I was offered it but I turned it down.’ Jack replied simply wondering if he should be disappointed with her reaction.

‘You’re turning down the opportunity to be a two star General.’ Sam noted.

‘I never thought I’d make it to the one star.’ Jack laughed. ‘I’m content with where I am, Carter. I’ve had my time in the Air Force but staying at the SGC I still get to feel part of it and it fits with Daniel’s grand scheme to keep the Pentagon brass from interfering too much in what we do.’

‘So, you’re really going to do it?’ Sam checked.

‘I’m really going to do it.’ Jack held her gaze. ‘The President will make my retirement official as soon as we’ve assigned the new military command, revised our current procedures and structure and it’s all ready to go. At that point, I won’t be in the Air Force any longer.’ He cleared his throat. ‘And I won’t be your commanding officer any longer.’ He couldn’t make it any more explicit, Jack thought, not without having the discussion which was not going to happen given that although he could tell Daniel was pretending he was somewhere, anywhere else, he was actually in the same room.

Sam began to smile, one that seemed to light up her whole face. ‘Things will be different.’

Now that was the reaction he’d been hoping for. ‘Oh, yes.’ His eyes gleamed. ‘Things will definitely be different.’

‘So how long do you think until everything’s in place?’ Sam asked as she settled back beside him, her eyes flitting back to the TV screen.

‘Daniel?’

Jack’s questioning tone had Daniel looking away from the movie action where he had determinedly kept his attention during the couple’s exchange and glancing across at them. ‘Jack.’

‘How long until we think we’ll have everything in place and I can retire?’ Jack said.

‘Four to six weeks, maybe.’

‘Four to six weeks.’ Jack repeated. He looked back at the archaeologist sharply. ‘You’re going to help me with all this stuff, right?’

Daniel raised his bottle. ‘I’d be happy to.’

‘Great.’ Jack held his gaze. ‘And Daniel? Thanks.’

‘You did ask me to find a way.’ Daniel said with a smile.

‘Yes, I did.’ Jack murmured. The two men shared a look of understanding before Daniel broke the contact, his gaze returning to the adventures on-screen.

Jack shifted as Sam let her head rest on his shoulder and he stretched out his legs in front of him. His eyes flickered again to the empty chair where Teal’c usually sat and felt the loss of his friend anew. At least, he thought, as his gaze slid to Sam and onto Daniel, the three of them still had each other.

End of Chrysalis - Continued in Butterflies Part I 
 


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