Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
Colonel Reynolds sat back, at ease in the visitor's chair across the desk from General Jack O'Neill. Watching the familiar chiseled face read through his recommendations as the departing general finished off his last paper work and closed his open files, Reynolds felt a sense of personal loss that O'Neill was getting promoted and transferred to the Pentagon. Respect didn't begin to describe his feelings for his CO.
He remembered the day he met O'Neill. SG-1 had come to the Groom Lake Facility in Nevada when he was still assigned to the NID. He'd told them then how honored he was, how much he respected the work they did. He'd been proud to show them all the research being done there - back-engineering the gliders SG-1 had taken from Apophis, working on the naquadah, developing new medicines and other chemicals from biological specimens brought back, and so much more. He'd been proud. They'd seemed impressed, but distant. Obviously they were focused on something else. Soon after he had learned that the second stargate had been removed from the grounds and other alien objects stolen, other worlds imperiled even, and that the NID had somehow been involved. After seeing O'Neill watch the cover being welded to the stargate under General Hammond's direct command, he'd known the chain of command that he wanted to be part of. He'd put in a request for transfer immediately. It'd taken more than two years and a promotion to colonel before it'd gone through. And then his first assignment had been wiped out by Major Carter and her ascended friend. It was not at all like reading about it in reports! Well, he'd learned. Survived and learned. He'd been at the SGC for four years now. And the more he learned, the more he came to appreciate the leadership, if not always the personal style, of Jack O'Neill.
He and O'Neill trusted each other with their lives. They had each saved the other at great risk. He had found the fallen Daniel and brought him to O'Neill. He had held on "as long as it takes" and O'Neill had gotten him out of the goa'uld cell and home to the SGC infirmary. They had stood shoulder to shoulder against the replicators in the SGC, and thought they'd die well. But it was more than physical courage. Reynolds considered himself a brave enough man who had always held under fire and done his duty. But if he had stood before Baal, looked at the visage that had hovered over his agony as it dripped acid and metal blades slowly through his flesh and bones, shattered his bones, tortured him to death again and again with no hope of ending the cycle; if that had been he, Reynolds knew his legs would have been too weak-kneed to stand and his good heart would have beat until it exploded. Yet he'd watched O'Neill stand there and smart-mouth the goa'uld, mocking him, showing him that he still had his spirit, his soul, his humanity despite the sarcophagus. Baal hadn't been able to take that from him. It was that spirit, that deadly but compassionate soul, that was truly special. Anyone at the SGC would follow O'Neill off the edge of the world. And O'Neill would be leading, not pushing them from behind. He knew he had served the last years under the highest standards of leadership, both Hammond and especially O'Neill. He could only hope to emulate it. But what was it? Were leaders born or made? Nature or nurture?
Jack O'Neill certainly had the command presence when he wanted to. He could dominate a room even with his mouth shut, although that wasn't his usual style. His competence and confidence in himself were simply obvious. Where did that come from? Hard experience and training, or natural aptitude? His directness, honesty, refusal to indulge in self-delusion, were earmarks of his integrity. Jack O'Neill was an honorable man, and he raised the standards of those around him. Even the aliens recognized that. He followed orders, despite enormous personal cost to himself. He did his duty, despite horrible pain and even death, over and over. He had a chestfull of the highest medals and now two stars to show he did. Yet, he was irreverent, bordering on disrespectful to people, even to superiors, he didn't respect. His insubordination had several times brought him close to courtmartial, and he must have a thick file full of reprimands. Yet, he was the consummate professional soldier, disciplined in everything that mattered, from care for his weapons to following flight control as he plunged to his death. But you wouldn't guess it from his annoying irrelevancies, culture-bound trivia, his sarcasm. It took followers a while to realize what all he was personally coping with, what he was deflecting, who he was diverting from fear or crippling tension. The military taught leadership. All the academies taught the importance to leadership of taking care of your people, and he certainly did that. SG-1 not only drew the most dangerous missions, it was both the first team and the only team to have survived with all its initial members. But O'Neill did more. He had put together a team of diverse, even diametrically opposite, individuals that no one else would have considered. Knowing their abilities and characters, and allowing people in the right positions throughout the SGC to do their thing, he continually inspired them, frustrated and challenged, teased and provoked. Being respectful to competent individuals, even sergeants like Siler, he listened well even while pretending not to. He pretended to be less intelligent than he really was, as Reynolds had suspected more than he ever let on. His no falderal, simple intuitive solutions; his tactical and strategic insight, betrayed his dumb faade. He pretended not to know any languages- and then took on a mission in Spanish to find Daniel; and he cursed in Arabic in his nightmares. Yes, Reynolds had heard a few of them in the infirmary, too. But if O'Neill's act was intended to get people to underestimate him, a tactical advantage to be sure, it was ironic that it resulted in people who knew him being all the more impressed!
Beneath the military veneer and the schooled blank face, under both the earlier bravado and the later self-effacement, O'Neill was a sensitive man. Reynolds had recognized the compassion, and warmed to the humanity of the man. He'd known that even to get SG-1 back, the general wouldn't order goa'uld poison sent out to kill tens of thousands of jaffa, and wipe out three worlds, and put earth at any risk. Davis was an ass, and no longer a na
The General closed the folder on the last of the personnel reviews and looked up at Reynolds. "I agree to your recommendation that Captain McBride should get a commendation medal. I'll add to your paperwork and send it up. I agree to Sergeant Harriman's promotion. Have you talked to Major Meade about her medical discharge? What's she think about it?"
"Yes, Sir. She's fine with it. Her back hurts too much to go on. She's glad enough to take her pension and use her skills elsewhere in the real world."
"I agree that Captain Doyle should be promoted. But with things winding down here, at least temporarily, it would probably be a good time to send him out for graduate school. What do you think?"
" Yes, Sir. The other members of his team will be out for months of rehabilitation, and Meade's getting the medical discharge. It's a good time. He should get a graduate degree in biology, following on his major. We could use more field team expertise in dealing with the plant and animal life we encounter. I've actually found my graduate degree in electrical engineering useful in trying to set up alien weapons, even getting the zpm."
O'Neill nodded. "Express me the paperwork, colonel."
Reynolds looked at the general curiously. Concerned he was about to be dismissed, he plunged in. The General was leaving, and he'd probably never have another chance to ask.
"What about you, Sir? If you don't mind my asking, what was your graduate degree in?" He knew O'Neill had to have one, or he wouldn't have made major even, certainly not colonel. All the armed services sent the officers they wanted to keep and promote out for a master's degree. But O'Neill was a private man. After decades he was so used to secret classification that he talked little about himself and almost never about his past. The general seemed to think about it, eyeing Reynolds contemplatively, judging the situation. Then he shrugged his shoulders.
"I have a master's degree in geography, physical geography. I studied geomorphology and fluvial processes, and for methodology remote sensing and mapping."
Hot damn! All those times he seemed to be mapping the terrain in his head, finding caves to hide in, and using misdirection to send the jaffa off in another direction while somehow ending up near the Gate himself, he really was!
"And your thesis topic, sir?"
" It was on the structure of cave systems and their expression in the landscape. It's been useful a time or two, too. Don't tell SG-1." They grinned at each other, confidants.
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