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An Immense Distance

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He's not sure when it started happening.

Or maybe he is.

With Teal'c, he was always the fellow warrior. Brothers of the Soul, the Jaffa had told him once, and Jack had been both extremely touched and completely unable to disagree with that statement. They had an understanding that went deeper than most people could fathom, despite growing up on two very different planets. But their bond had been through battle, and Jack didn't battle any more. He rarely even sparred any more, mainly because he didn't have the time. Just like he didn't have the time for Star Wars or jello wrestling, the zoo or mini-golf, or any other strange practice of the Tau'ri that Teal'c had adopted over the years. He was honest enough to admit, if only to himself, that part of the reason he didn't have time for these things was because he no longer knew how to connect with a man who judged his own self-worth entirely by his abilities as a warrior. He needed Teal'c's respect too much to be comfortable with seeing it diminished.

There was a part of him that knew he was doing his friend a serious disservice; that Teal'c not only understood, but supported his move to an administrative role, but it was outweighed by the part of him that agreed with Teal'c. He was a soldier who could no longer fight. A warrior who couldn't battle. In his mind, that was the next best thing to useless.

Daniel hadn't seemed to understand how great an impact his taking command would have on their lives. They saw less of each other, both on base and off. On base, Jack could no longer wander off and bug Daniel in his office for hours on end. Daniel had tried, early on, to bring Jack coffee, but Walter had usually kept him in a steady supply, and Daniel's coffees came with a list of compelling reasons why Jack had to make planet P3-whatever the top candidate for SG-1's next mission. Never mind, that mission schedules had already been posted, that the planet had already been assigned, that Jack had even less ability to arbitrarily move things around now than he had before. Daniel kept on asking. And Jack kept on refusing. And maybe because they no longer had nights where Daniel joined Jack for pizza and beer, or days where Jack brought Daniel coffee and cookies, Daniel stopped showing up, even if he never quite stopped asking.

He missed the companionship, how Daniel forced him to think about other things and perspectives, to try new things (like that god-awful fancy coffee with the hint of cinnamon), even if it took the guy a damned long time. He missed being able to spend five minutes in a back-and-forth argument, simply because they were both too stubborn to give up and give in. And he wondered what it was about a couple of stars that had made them both give in.

With Carter, the second the stars were pinned to his shoulders a change occurred. For one thing, she started coming to attention every time he entered a room. And unlike Daniel, Carter was so aware of the boundaries of military ranks that she never even tried to get him to change anything (although, when blue Jello became available every day, she did give him a thank-you for no apparent reason). With Sam, though, the change had begun awhile ago. He'd felt her pulling away, even if he hadn't originally known why. And once he did, he'd let her go. In many ways, he was glad he'd started distancing himself before the promotion. It had allowed him to ease into their current distance. Without their missions together and his impromptu stops by her lab, he pretty much saw Carter during briefings. If he'd had to go cold turkey from her smiles, he might have gone insane. As it was, he missed her, even as he was proud of her for doing so well in her command of SG-1. He wanted her to do well and be happy, even if he couldn't manage either.

He could admit that he thought his chances for happiness were pretty well over. He disliked his job, found it draining without any sort of exhilaration as compensation, and while Kerry was nice enough, she wasn't – Not that it mattered. He'd known nearly a decade ago that his chance for happiness was destroyed through his own carelessness, so he wasn't terribly surprised that the situation hadn't changed. Still, he hoped with all his heart that Carter was happy, because she was too young to understand this sort of resignation.

As he waits for them to show up for the briefing, picturing the three of them walking in together laughing, he wonders when he became part of the periphery – and if this is how all the support staff feel, around the combat teams. Teams whose bonds have been forged under fire, who know each other better than some men do their wives and girlfriends. He feels secondary. (And rightfully so, he tells himself, the first focus should always be the men out there, risking their lives.) And if he feels this way, as the man in charge of the base, he can't help but wonder how Siler feels, or Walter, or any of the countless other SFs and airmen who work in the halls.

Did they feel like second-class citizens on their own base, the one they kept running smoothly? Did the scientists and technicians feel like the awkward geeks in high school, keeping to the edges of the cafeteria, never approaching the tables with the cool kids? He sighed, tapping his pen as he waited, and wondered how much his own attitude towards geeks might have contributed to such a phenomenon, if it did indeed exist. (Not that he was likely to find out – he barely had time to put his pen down and eat lunch in his office, let alone venture to the cafeteria.) On the other hand, he'd always taken an interest in the men under his command, so he knew a lot about all his staff as people, and could talk to them about non-SGC related issues, at least briefly. Hopefully that counted for something?

His eyes focus sharply on the entranceway as he hears Carter give a brief laugh, followed by an indignant, "Daniel!" and a soft thwacking sound. He can't recall when he last had a non-work related conversation with any of them, the three people he knows better than anyone else around here. He doesn't know what Teal'c's opinion is on the most recent late-night movie-of-the-month, or how Daniel's recovery has been progressing (other than what the medical staff and reports tell him) and if the newest blend of coffee was as good as the blue mountain stuff he likes, or how Carter's been enjoying having a life. He lets out a small sigh, as he realizes that he's more up to date on Walter's kids' exploits than on those of SG-1 and schools his face to impassivity as they enter the briefing room.

The last thing he wants is for them to guess how he's feeling. For one thing, they'd worry about him, and not only does he not want their concern, but it could be dangerous for them, too. Out in the field, any extra worry is a potential distraction and therefore a hazard. They'd also probably feel guilty, since they encouraged him to take the job. Which is not only dangerous, but ludicrous, since they have no reason to feel that way. He'd made the final decision on his own: weighed up his knees against his team's safety in the field, Carter's need for advancement against an unknown commander, staying in the loop as part of the SGC against a peaceful retirement in Minnesota. And like any soldier given a displeasing set of orders, he'd suck it up and do it right. No matter what it took.

And if it meant distancing himself from his – no, the – team, well, he'd do that. And he'd be grateful that the process had started the moment he got those damn stars.