1. It's not that Walter doesn't like General O'Neill. It's just that he liked Colonel O'Neill a lot better, because Colonel O'Neill was not Walter's problem, at least not like this, day in and day out. And it's not like General Hammond didn't get mad, "hoppin' mad" as he was wont to describe it in his easy drawl, but those times came in and blew through like a summer thunderstorm, clearing the air.
O'Neill simmered like a pot left forgotten on the stove, a low burbling that built and built, lid rattling occasionally until the pressure blew it free and splattered the contents everywhere, a release that didn't really end anything, because it just kept boiling until it was drawn out, cracked and dry, and everyone in the room was singed and jittery.
And Walter had enough to be jittery about just from his actual job.
2. Not unrelated, Walter had liked it much better when Hammond was in charge of wrangling SG-1 rather than O'Neill having that dubious honor. The tension settled eventually, but never quite went away, not just the push-pull of O'Neill trying to run the team from behind his desk and Colonel Carter's slow, strangled frustration with that, but of O'Neill's restlessness and the way it seeped out into grousing and and fidgeting the minute the other three walk through the gate without him.
General Hammond had stood sentinel behind Walter's chair for years, always calm even when he was bellowing orders in a crisis. He'd always said leading from the rear, from behind a desk was a learned skill, one that required patience and an understanding of when to step back, to separate from the moment, but Walter didn't think Jack O'Neill was ever going to truly come out of the field enough to accomplish that. It was, Walter figured, the downside of coming from a tight-knit team like SG-1 - together they ran like a precision clock, but remove one cog, and the whole things ticked time a second or two off as it wound down. And as much as it made Walter's life difficult sometimes, imagining what it was like for O'Neill to stand behind him instead of walking up that ramp, well, it made him miss the General on both their behalf.
So sometime in the middle of SG-1's third mission as a trio, he poked his head into O'Neill's office. "Colonel Carter just called in their check-in, right on time. She said all's clear."
O'Neill blinked at him a moment before biting out a gruff "Thanks," but as Walter eased the door shut he didn't miss the soft sigh of relief. Back at his station, he added a note to the desk log: New task: email O'Neill when SG-1 checks in
3. General Hammond always brought in coffee. The good stuff, expensive stuff, not Starbucks or anything most people thought of as fancy, but something special ordered, smooth and rich and he always shared with Walter. Walter would have married that coffee, it was so much his constant companion for so many years. O'Neill, however, had either no taste or no taste buds, because he swilled the base coffee without blinking, no care that it was made from who-knows-how-old foil packets that Stores sent up that tasted burnt no matter if you poured a cup while it was still brewing.
Walter knew if he asked Colonel Carter and Dr. Jackson would share what they brought in, both of them having some sense of proper caffeinated propriety, but it wasn't the same, and though he'd searched Hammond's office for an original bag, since Hammond always brought the beans in plain paper, and Walter ground them himself, he never found the name of it. He toyed with emailing the General and asking, but decided it wouldn't be the same, not having the General here to share it, and let it go to be a pleasant memory. If anything, the SGC had taught him how to do that.
4. Having O'Neill in his metaphorical hair all the time also meant having Dr. Jackson in his hair all the time. And it's not that he disliked Dr. Jackson, but Dr. Jackson without the rest of SG-1 to dilute him... And General O'Neill didn't help. The opposite in fact. He and Dr. Jackson wound each other like springs. It was actually kind of amazing; they managed it without any real effort, just put them in earshot of each other and they'd spiral in, their escalation effortless, until something broke them apart and they'd retreat, only to repeat the pattern a few hours later, or the next day.
It exhausted Walter just watching it, but they seemed to thrive on it.
Teal'c had trailed Dr. Jackson one afternoon, and Walter sidled up to him as the first round of that day began and he asked, "Is... Is this new?"
"Unfortunately no. Be grateful. They have managed to achieve some restraint."
"Wow," Walter said. "This is restrained?"
Teal'c's sigh spoke volumes. "Indeed."
5. He almost deleted the email - he was copied in on it late in the string, and it didn't seem relevant, probably an error, but it was from General O'Neill and he opened it up and skimmed through it and jerked out of his chair and said to Nishant, "Cover me a minute?" before he escaped the control room as quickly as he could without looking like he was doing just that. He ducked into the washroom down the hall and sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm whatever it was that rushed through him, because it made no sense, that the news they planned to re-name the Phoenix in honor of General Hammond would hit like a punch to his stomach, punch all the air out of him, his eyes watering.
He'd gone to the funeral, paid his respects, wiped damp eyes and gone back to work, because that what you did at the SGC. You grieved and moved on because everything else moved on, you didn't sit in the bathroom and heave and gasp for air, throat choked, tears streaming down your face over a damn email about something good and positive, something the General deserved, even though he didn't deserve to die to get it.
His comset beeped and Nishant said in his ear, "You've got that meeting with Landry in 5. You okay?"
He clicked back twice, not yet ready to speak, not yet ready to walk back out and see Nishant, who'd been assigned after Hammond had left, and never knew him; not yet ready to face Landry, who now sat in the General's office, at the General's desk, with his bland smile and small laughs, a good enough guy, but not enough to fill that space. No one could.
Walter wadded up a handful of toilet paper and scrubbed his face and blew his nose, the ache in his stomach now more a swirling whirlpool that pulled heavy at his chest. He flushed the wad of paper and rinsed his face, cleaned off his glasses, straightened his jacket. Maybe after his meeting with Landry, he'd show Nishant the email, and tell him why George Hammond got to go out to the stars.