Jack sighed as he headed into the mountain. He’d crash here tonight. After the last few days, he needed to touch base with his office. He needed to make sure no one had gotten killed or injured or infected with some alien virus while he was off making nice with Summers. He needed to check on the Tok’ra situation that had brought them back, and honestly, why did they care about a missing Tok’ra?
That thought made Jack smile a little. Harris hated vampires, Jack hated Russians and Tok’ra. It wasn’t such a hard stretch to think the kid could turn out to be a fair fighter. He had some good instincts. And on that thought, Jack detoured toward the general’s office. He never doubted that General Hammond would still be in.
“Walter,” Jack offered as he passed the chief master sergeant. He was another one who seemed to live in the mountain.
“Colonel, good to have you back,” Walter said with a smile.
“The general in?”
“He’s waiting for you,” Walter said. Nodding at the lieutenant sitting next to Walter, Jack headed up to the general’s office, rapping on the door before he pushed it the rest of the way open.
“Colonel. Good to see you back.” General Hammond closed the file he’d been looking at. “How did you leave things in Sunnydale?”
“Well, the god is dead, but it took four soldiers firing multiple rounds, several direct hits with a zat, multiple hits with a sword, and apparently one local expert seems to think that she only went down because Harris passed Summers an ax made from an alien steel called Gamitum. We then engaged between eighty and one hundred sword-wielding madman, but look at the bright side. I only have four members of SGC in the hospital.”
General Hammond sighed. “I had hoped your reports were exaggerating things a little.”
“Nope. If anything, sir, I underplayed it.”
“And the slayer?”
Jack sat down and gathered his thoughts. He had a lot of respect for the job she’d done, but she was young and the young always had huge blind spots. Buffy wasn’t unique in that, but she was unique in the sheer amount of responsibility thrust at her. “She’s a leader. I’d have her in this command in a second, only maybe I wouldn’t let her sit in our chairs,” Jack pointed out. General Hammond nodded as he steepled his fingers in front of him.
“Strengths?” he asked calmly.
“She’s not battle fatigued, and I’m starting to think Harris is right when he suggests that something in a slayer prevents it because I’d be worn down to nothing trying to do her job with no time off for nervous breakdowns.” Jack laughed, but he wasn’t kidding, and General Hammond’s wry smile made it pretty clear that he understood that. “She’s calm in battle, loyal to her people, stronger than anyone we have on the payroll, and creative when she runs into problems. Frighteningly so.”
“So, she’s up to your standards?” Hammond asked.
Jack wished he could say yes. He really did. “Any fault she has comes from idiots who never gave her any leadership training. I had to avoid even talking to her 'mentor' because the man hasn't given her the right tools, and I truly wanted to dress him down and force him to scrub a few hundred toilets."
"Sabotage?" Hammond asked.
"I don't think so, sir. After talking to Summers and Harris, it seems like the Watchers who trained Giles think of these women as disposable and short-lived. He doesn't know the leadership techniques Summers needs, so she's developed a few dangerous blind spots."
“She doesn’t notice signs of fatigue in her support staff, she’s unrealistic about tactics, and she’s rash. She makes me look like a sedate old man who doesn’t want to take risks.”
“Dangerous qualities in a leader.”
“They could be,” Jack agreed. “But I give this woman some credit, General. She was told she had to fight and die alone, and she had the strength to tell the Watchers to go fuck themselves. If she was thirty years older or if I didn’t mind getting called a dirty old lecher, I’d propose.” Jack was only half joking--he always had preferred strong partners. Sara always could call him on his shit, and now that he was graphically and vividly aware of Daniel's orientation, he had to fight down a real attraction there. Harris was just lucky that Jack didn't plan to risk his career for anyone. The job was too important, and besides, Harris made Daniel happy. While part of Jack was annoyed and jealous, the more mature parts of his brain liked the idea that Daniel had found someone to love.
General Hammond laughed. “Be that as it may, Colonel, I think she’s a little young for you. She could be one of my grandchildren.”
“Only if you send your grandkids to war with an ax and a prayer.”
“I would hope not.” General Hammond turned serious as he leaned back in his chair. “I don’t like what these men have done to this young woman. I’ve talked to the President about trying to identify the members of the Watcher’s Council and limiting their access to the United States.”
“And just hope the next slayer turns up here?” Jack asked. This whole system smelled of rotting fish, but until they knew more about how to spot an up and coming slayer, Jack figured the Watchers had the power here.
“I would rather think of Summers cornering the market on slayers for the next fifty or sixty years,” General Hammond said. “So how do we make that a reality?”
“We offer her training. She’ll listen, sir. At least she listened to me.”
“And you aren’t our most diplomatic officer,” General Hammond said, but not unkindly. Jack certainly knew it was true enough.
“No, but I made it clear that I considered her the commanding officer on scene. I was painfully honest, and I gave her my unvarnished evaluation of her performance and her team. I also listened to her evaluation of my performance, and she nailed me to the wall by my ears.”
“I got the report,” General Hammond said, and from his expression, he found it amusing. “You rely too much on modern weapons, you have unwarranted faith in technology, and your interpersonal skills…” General Hammond reached for another file and opened it before reading directly from it. “Suck hairy monkey balls,” he finished.
Jack cringed. “And sadly, most of my previous commanding officers would send her a bottle of champagne if they ever saw that.”
“Only after she turned twenty one and could drink. Right now, she’s barely legal to vote. However, she also said that you were one of the bravest men she’d ever met, that she trusted your judgment, and that if she ever wanted to blow up another NID base, she was calling to invite you to the party. I get the feeling, you made a good impression. So, who do we send to back her up?”
“Major Warren,” Jack said without hesitation. “He’s seen Summers in action, he’s fought at her side, and he’s seen how I interact with her, so he’s not going to question her leadership. If we send in someone who tries to take control, I think she’s going to kick them out of town—especially after the fiasco with the NID.”
“Not Major Castleman?” General Hammond asked.
“Castleman’s a good officer—one of the best,” Jack said slowly. Castleman was one of the few officers who had taken control of SG1 while Jack was out of commission. “However, he’s ambitious. And while he’s normally one of the best at diplomacy, I tend to think that if Summers respected an interpersonal style that sucked hairy monkey balls, she probably wouldn’t want Castleman’s softer approach. Warren’s direct… borderline offensive at times.”
“Exactly,” Jack agreed with aplomb.
General Hammond shook his head fondly. He was the only general in the Air Force who could get a report like that one and not blow a gasket. Even now, Jack’s fingers itched to get ahold of that file and see exactly what Summers had written. Clearly her verbal debriefings were nothing compared to her reports. “I am concerned about this vampire. What’s your take on him?”
Jack shrugged. “I don’t know enough to have a take on him. I know he didn’t break under serious torture, but I can’t say why. Harris says that Spike has a long history of devoting himself to someone he loves. He seems to think that if Spike loves Buffy that he’ll do anything to make her happy.”
“That’s not exactly comforting,” General Hammond pointed out. “Love is a rather fickle emotion.”
“My thought exactly,” Jack agreed. “Harris did say that without his obsessive love and without the chip, Spike would be exceptionally dangerous. But he also pointed out that C4 is fairly dangerous too, and it still has its uses.”
“So, keep an eye on the situation and wait?” General Hammond translated.
“And do you trust Airman Harris’ judgment enough to risk having a non-human so close to Ms. Summers?”
“I trust his judgment when he says that Summers won’t turn against Spike and trying to make her will just strengthen their bond and leave us sucking in the wind.”
General Hammond’s eyebrows went up. “Well, colorful as that may be, it sounds like a fairly accurate description of an eighteen year old girl. God, Jack, when did we start putting eighteen-year-old girls on the front lines?”
“We’ve done it to eighteen-year-old boys for a while now.”
General Hammond rubbed a hand over his face. “Some days I think I’m getting too old for this job.”
“Nonsense, sir. You have another forty or fifty years in you.” That earned Jack a dirty look. “And speaking of people who really are too young to be fighting, but they’re fighters anyway, I need to talk to you about Airman Harris.”
“I hadn’t written the reports yet, but I assume you want him up on charges for being absent without leave and disobeying a direct order.”
“Actually, sir, I wanted to assign him to SG1.”
General Hammond blinked several time, shook his head as though clearing it, and then glared. That was not a good combination. “Excuse me, Colonel?”
Jack shrugged. “The kid listens to Teal’c and the two of them are oddly similar in fighting styles, so I thought Harris could use a little one-on-one time, so I gave him to Teal’c as a chal’til.”
“A chal’til? You mean a training slave?”
Jack hated that everyone seemed to remember Daniel’s stupid stories except him. “In my defense sir, I was frustrated with Daniel and Harris at the time.”
“So, Teal’c considers this binding?”
“Very,” Jack agreed. “He actually seems to think that if Harris isn’t on SG1, then he’ll have to transfer to whichever team we put him on.”
“Teal’c threatened you?” General Hammond sat bolt upright, shock clear in his face.
“No, sir. Teal’c does not threaten. He only states facts, and in his mind, the fact is that Harris is his chal’til and they cannot be assigned to separate duties. He even offered to move to SG3 and take Harris with him in order to reduce any conflict.”
“Have you tried to ask Teal’c to sever the relationship?”
Jack grimaced. “Yes, sir, but you don’t want to go there. Ending a chal’til relationship apparently involves public beating, the ripping out of the symbiote and potentially slitting the throat, but that last one is only if you really liked the chal’til. Teal’c has made it very clear that he will not end his mentorship of Harris until he feels Harris has mastered all the skills Teal’c has to offer.”
“That… that could be a problem. Harris is only signed up for four years.”
“I pointed that out, but Teal’c said that he would decide when Harris was ready to graduate. He offered an estimate of ten to thirty years, and surprisingly Harris did not disagree.”
The general sagged back into his chair. “Colonel, you can’t have Airman Harris on your team if there’s even a rumor of a relationship between him and Dr. Jackson. And you and I both know that there is more there than simple rumor. It’s against the regulations.”
“So is having a woman in a front-line combat unit. So is giving a turned enemy combatant access to classified materials. So is taking a civilian into combat. Hell, I’m the only member of SG1 who is legal under the regs.”
“I am aware of the irregularities of SG1. This whole base skirts the regulations on a regular basis. After that hormone attack, I’m aware of any number of irregularities all over this base. I told the Joint Chiefs that the same device that made all our soldiers…” The general stopped, clearly searching for a word.
“Libidinous,” Jack filled in for him.
With a sigh, Hammond said, “It’s rather disturbing how often that word creeps into our reports, but yes, libidinous. I suggested that the device also interfered with the video recording systems. If we turned over our surveillance from that period, the amount of against-the-regs fraternization would shock a porn star.”
Jack snorted. He had not expected that to come out of Hammond, but the man had a twinkle in his eyes. “So put Harris down as one more,” Jack suggested. If the mountain could survive porn tapes of all their soldiers, it could survive Harris. Hopefully.
“I thought you didn’t trust him, Colonel.”
Jack leaned back. “I saw him in action. He’s untrained, annoying, and quite frankly, I think that anyone who gets in a relationship with Daniel has a streak of masochism. That said, he’s a natural fighter, he’s a survivor, and he doesn’t turn on his people, not even when his life’s in danger. And he’s smart enough to adjust to a new reality. Would I trust him in a random combat unit? No sir, I would not. But Teal’c will keep him on the straight and narrow until some of the rough edges get sanded off.”
“And your psychological assessment?”
“He’s as healthy as I am,” Jack said with a smile.
“That’s less than reassuring,” General Hammond pointed out.
Jack shrugged. He’d be insulted, only the general was right. “I muddle through.”
“He’ll have to pass a formal evaluation from MacKenzie.”
Jack clapped his hands together and rubbed them. “Oh goodie. Can I watch?”
“Colonel,” Hammond said with an avuncular exasperation.
“He’s going to send MacKenzie straight to the loony bin. I think Teal’c’s the only one who isn’t driven half-insane by some of Harris’ less attractive traits. And I’m including Daniel in that. Hell, I think Daniel’s streak of masochism is showing in his choice of partners.”
Hammond shook his head. “This is potentially a bad idea.”
“So was including Dr. Jackson. So was letting Teal’c on the team. Hell, the first time I saw Carter, I didn’t want a woman on my team. Our bad ideas seem to turn out pretty well.”
“I hope this one does,” Hammond said, his serious tone making it clear he had a few doubts.
“Me, too.” Jack turned serious. “And if I think this is going to compromise us in any way, you know I’ll pull the plug on this experiment before I’ll put my team at risk.”
“That I believe, Colonel. Well, SG1 is officially a five-man team as soon as you can get Harris certified as field-ready. Dismissed.”
“I’ll let the team know,” Jack said as he got up to leave. Hammond wasn’t totally behind this decision, Jack could tell that. Considering that Jack had a few qualms of his own, he wasn’t surprised. However, he figured his second thoughts had a whole lot to do with his own missed opportunities and butt-ignorance. That and he still didn’t like looking in a mirror and seeing a younger version of himself.
Once he ignored that selfish part of himself that wanted Harris to fall down a very deep hole, he had to admit that the kid fit with the team. Jack cheered himself up with the realization that if Daniel ever again tried killing himself by staying in a library that was falling into the sea, the team had one more set of hands to drag him to the gate. And if Danny was sleeping with Harris, he would stop falling for every murderer that had a twinkle in her eye. And if Teal’c was training Harris, he would definitely have less time to put Jack on his back during training.
Actually, this might not turn out so bad. Jack started whistling as he headed to his office to fill out the transfer paperwork. Major Warren to head the new hell gate program and one Airman Harris to SG1.
Thank you everyone for the kind comments that have kept me energized though this story. Xander started as a boy who blamed others for his actions, and now he's a man. So that's the end of this story arc. I might write some one-shots later, but for now I'll leave it to the readers to imagine how much trouble Xander might get in as he follows SG-1 through the gate.