The first thing they tell you about this command is we don't leave our people behind. It's a legendary and time-honored tradition that was ingrained by our founders, the original members of the flagship team, SG-1. That designation was retired when its first commander, Jack O'Neill, passed away of natural causes. The flagship team became SG-2. Beyond that, there is no favoritism. We all play our parts, our numbers are nothing more than that: numbers. And I'm a proud member of SG-17, science team.
We hear the stories all the time, how SG-1 saved the world countless times, how they became the voice of Earth across the galaxy, making powerful allies like the Asgard. How they finally defeated the goa'uld freeing this galaxy of their evil domination. How they ended the reign of the replicators. How they united this world with a common goal: humanity.
Their picture hangs in the General's office, where they smile over his work, even the stoic Teal'c. You can find them in the science labs, the history department, even the mess where there's always blue jell-o, chocolate cake, and coffee waiting for the heroes of SG-1. There's a plaque at the base of the ramp, dedicating the Stargate to them, the doorway which they opened to other planets, to other galaxies.
Some swear they still roam the halls of the SGC. Samantha Carter has been heard in her old lab, spouting off theories of inter-dimensional travel and time distortion. She's always interrupted by an annoyed Jack O'Neill who playfully tells her to get a life, or invites her fishing, or orders her to get some sleep.
Daniel Jackson can be found in his old lab, leaning over the table with coffee in hand, reading from some old artifact, mumbling out loud to himself in a foreign language that nobody has been able to understand. He, too, is often interrupted by O'Neill who forcibly removes him, dragging him out the door where they disappear, arguing about Daniel's eating habits. The pair is frequently found in the infirmary, one of them stretched out on a bed while the other sits next to him in a chair. They each have a bed dedicated to them, apparently an inside joke that they were always winding up in the infirmary with one ailment or another.
The entire medical wing is dedicated to Dr. Janet Fraiser, but she has yet to show herself.
Teal'c is a rare sighting. Sometimes he's in a meditative state of kel'no'rim, other times he's sparring with O'Neill in the rec room.
But by far, the favorite sighting is the four of them, seated around the briefing room table with George Hammond at the head. Carter is always next to O'Neill, who is at Hammond's left. Daniel is across from O'Neill, Teal'c beside him. They all look very serious until O'Neill cracks a joke and Carter smiles down at the table, Daniel rolls his eyes, Teal'c appears confused, raising his right eyebrow, and Hammond looks amused with the trace of a smile on his grandfatherly features. O'Neill looks very pleased with himself, like it's his mission in life to keep them happy and he has just succeeded.
They always disappear after looking up as though they've heard a sound and turn to the window where they can see the gate. Then they jump to their feet and vanish as they run to the stairs heading down to the Control Room. Running off to save the world, no doubt.
When I first arrived here and heard the rumors I didn't believe them. I'm a pragmatist, a realist. Scientifically speaking, I knew they couldn't really be here. They had all died years ago. Samantha Carter was the last to go after a long and healthy career. Brigadier General Carter. Her father would have been proud.
I don't believe in ghosts. Nobody here really does, but they can't offer any better explanation for the familiar voices echoing through otherwise empty hallways, or the sense of peace one feels in the presence of these strange apparitions. There is nothing to fear when you see SG-1. They don't leave their people behind.
I learned this firsthand.
It was my seventh mission on SG-17, when we were attacked by unknown hostiles. I was separated from the team and a local equivalent of a bullet to my left shoulder left little doubt that I wouldn't make it. But my team didn't leave. They fanned out in defensive positions, holding back the attackers.
"He doesn't look too good, sir. We need to get him back to Earth."
The voice of Samantha Carter rang in my ears, but I didn't know who she was at the time. I thought maybe I'd blacked out and a rescue team had been sent in.
"I see that, Carter," came the voice of O'Neill moments before he appeared, kneeling in front of me. "You need to move, Captain. They're waiting for you. They can't hold them off much longer. We'll cover you. Get back to the 'Gate."
I gaped at him, of course.
Teal'c stood beside him. "Perhaps we should warn the others."
Daniel Jackson came next, standing behind O'Neill. "I don't think there's time for that."
"They won't leave him behind." Carter insisted, standing close to O'Neill who was still before me.
O'Neill's eyes pierced mine, gazing into my soul. "Get up, Captain. That's an order. You're going to make it if I have to carry you on my back. Go. Run. We'll cover your six."
I was so stunned that I followed his orders and got to my feet, staggering towards my teammates across the open field. SG-1 ran alongside me, weaponless. O'Neill was at my side and I could have sworn I felt him touch my elbow, urging me forward.
I don't know how I made it without getting hit as bullets showered around me. My team watched horrified as I stumbled towards them and finally crashed to my commander's feet. The last thing I heard before blacking out was the strong, casual voices of SG-1.
"He's going to make it." Carter said.
"I'm confident." Daniel agreed.
"Me too," said O'Neill.
"As am I," agreed Teal'c.
And I knew I'd be okay.
I woke up in the infirmary, but there was nobody there. It must be late.
"Hey," said a quiet voice and I turned to see the calm face of Jack O'Neill who sat the in the chair beside the bed. "Glad you made it."
I couldn't have spoken if I wanted to. I was speechless. This was Jack O'Neill, a man who over fifty years ago had led Earth out into the galaxy, a national, inter-galactic hero. A man who had died twenty-five years ago.
"You've got heart, kid," he said. "Don't ever lose that. Mark of a true humanitarian. We're proud of you."
SG-1 was proud of me?
Then he grinned. "Next time, try not getting shot. That's my job."
"Jack, leave the kid alone." The voice came from nowhere but O'Neill turned his head and smiled.
"Just keeping him company," he whined good-naturedly. "It's lonely and boring here."
Sam Carter appeared next to him and put her hand on his shoulder. "They'll take good care of him, sir."
O'Neill touched her hand, still smiling up at her. Then he looked to me. "Yeah. He'll be okay. Just waiting for his team to show up. Doc sent them away an hour ago."
"She's as bad as Janet. She used to order me to sleep for hours while you were recovering."
"Don't I know it. I had to threaten her with extraordinarily awful behavior in my next check-ups if she sent me away from you or Daniel."
"I always wondered how you managed to be there every time I woke up."
"I'm good at manipulation." He smirked.
"Yes you are, sir. Very good at getting what you want."
He glanced up at her. "Sometimes it takes a while." And he took her hand and kissed her knuckles.
They disappeared after that as my team walked in. They asked me how I was doing and I whispered that I was fine.
"How did you do it?" My commander asked. "How did you get the strength to make that foolish run?"
I smiled sleepily as I responded. "SG-1. Wouldn't leave me behind."
They glanced at each other as I drifted to sleep while the voice of O'Neill rang in my head. "That's right, kid. Get some rest. Your team is here for you."
"Come on, Jack," said Carter. "We have to go back."
"I know, Sam. Dad's expecting us right?"
"Yep. He and Charlie said they have a surprise for us. And you know how Mom gets when we're late."
"A surprise? Maybe some time to ourselves?"
"I'd like that."
"Fishing in Minnesota?"
"Excellent. Did I ever tell you I love you, Samantha O'Neill?"
"Everyday since our engagement."
"Right. Does it get old?"
"Not when you say it."
"Good. Because I'm going to love you for all eternity."
"That'd be nice. I'll love you forever, too. Always."
"Excellent. Let's go home, Sam."
"Daniel and Sha're and Teal'c and Drey'auc are coming over. Janet's busy watching over Cassie and the grandkids."
"I love happy endings."
And they were gone, and I knew they were real because in all the fantastic stories about SG-1, of their exploits and devotion and honor and sacrifices…Nobody has ever said that Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter were in love.
When I awoke the next morning I looked through the old records and sure enough, not two weeks after he retired from the Air Force, retired Lieutenant General Jack O'Neill was married to Colonel Samantha Carter.
And in my eyes, they were more than heroes.
They were family.
And despite the danger of our work, the unexpected threats we may face, I felt safe knowing that SG-1 would always be there to watch our backs.
It's just what they do.