Title: A Good Retreat
Summary: It really shouldn't bother him, Jack told himself. Major generals in the USAF, retired or otherwise, weren't intimidated by mere colonels - even the hot, world-saving genius variety - and definitely not by sergeants of any stripe. Sequel to I Tell You What, Let's Change the Subject.
Humor. Fluff.

A/N: Thanks to binkii822 for the read-through.

It really shouldn't bother him, Jack told himself. Major generals in the USAF, retired or otherwise, weren't intimidated by mere colonels - even the hot, world-saving genius variety - and definitely not by sergeants of any stripe.

On the other hand, since Jack was pretty sure his brain had started to dribble out his ears the exact moment they'd pinned on his first star - at least whatever part of it hadn't been scrambled by multiple applications of snakey parasites and years of what others laughably called 'commanding' SG-1 - he didn't think rank really conferred an advantage in this case. Especially since Colonel Jack O'Neill would never, ever have gotten himself into this predicament.

Mostly because said colonel had, at the very least, known better than to get involved with hot, world-saving junior officers in the first place.

Having already made that mistake, Jack now found that the best he could hope for was to meet the threat without cringing or running away like a little girl.

Too bad today wasn't going so well.

Determined to get back on track, Jack reached out and grabbed the handle of the door, only to change his mind and snatch his hand back again. He calculated the amount of time that had passed since he'd fled (escaped, retreated to regroup, been completely routed), mentally weighed the odds of the coast being clear, and thought seriously about how long he could stand in here without really annoying Carter by making her wait for him.

Really annoying Carter, while occasionally fun, was actually not on Jack's to-do list today. Despite the fact that really annoying him was - very obviously - on hers.

He hadn't quite decided whether now was the moment when the odds flipped against him, or if maybe he could wait a few seconds longer, just to be sure, when the decision was taken out of his hands. He literally had to take a giant step backward to avoid being bowled over by the figure barreling through the door. He huffed in annoyance. This was exactly the sort of thing that the much savvier Colonel O'Neill would have anticipated and worked into his tactical plans.


The young - ridiculously young; didn't they still have laws about recruitment age? - lieutenant who'd just rocketed into the 19th floor men's room managed to stop just short of Jack's chest; meanwhile, he emitted a 'Sorry, sir' that sounded a little like he was strangling as he snapped awkwardly to something Jack supposed was meant to be attention.

Jack eyed the erring officer for a long moment, considering this latest wrinkle in the tactical landscape. On the one hand, the kid could provide him with intel; on the other, Jack liked to think he still had a reputation to keep up around here. A nagging voice in his head helpfully - oh, so helpfully - pointed out that the common knowledge around the base about his considerable soft spot for hot, world-saving geniuses-slash-former-subordinates had most likely shattered his already fragile reputation long, long ago. He ignored it. Pointedly.

"Is Colonel Carter still out there?" he asked, deciding that his need for intel outweighed his - childish, he assured himself, and wasn't it better to rise above childish things? - desire not to look like an idiot in front of what might very will be the SGC's newest recruit.

The young man look surprised for a few seconds, and Jack mentally rolled his eyes at the kid's lack of a poker face; but the answering 'Yes, sir' had that expected crisp junior officer ring.

"By herself?" Jack pressed further.

"No, sir," came the reply.


"She's speaking with Dr. Das and Sergeant Siler, sir."

Yes. Of course she was.

And really, what good did it do Jack to know it? He couldn't very well keep standing here in the bathroom. Whatever Jack might occasionally have yelled across a briefing room, lab, or the damn commissary, the SGC didn't generally hire idiots. The young man currently not-quite-staring at Jack would figure out quickly that the former commander of the SGC and Homeworld Security was, in fact, hiding in a bathroom if Jack didn't walk through the door forthwith. And while he was sure Carter already knew that, he'd still rather it didn't become gossip over somebody's campfire on P8B-484.

Jack grumbled a bit under his breath. Bad, bad planning. Meanwhile, the kid was still standing painfully at attention.

"Very good, Lieutenant," Jack said, wondering if he sounded more like a pompous idiot with an overblown sense of his own importance, or simply a plain old, run-of-the-mill idiot. With an effort, he refrained from rolling his eyes - after all, he should have a better poker face than a fifteen-year-old, or whatever this kid was - as he stepped around the young man and pushed through the door and into the corridor.

On reflection, Jack hoped he only sounded like an idiot.


"They'll have the software patch tested and installed by 0900 tomorrow, ma'am," Siler was saying. Dr. Das, apparently, had gone merrily along her way after Lieutenant I-Know-Nothing-Useful had entered the bathroom. "General," Siler added with a nod in Jack's direction as he joined them.

"Retired, Siler."

"Yes, sir," Siler answered.

Was that a smirk the other man was wearing? Jack scowled.

"Who'll be doing the on-site evaluation?" Carter asked, completely ignoring Jack's arrival.

As Siler continued to blather on in Carter's direction, spouting off names Jack didn't recognize and technical terms he'd rather he'd never have to hear again, Jack studied her face. She didn't look annoyed. She also didn't look like a scheming demon who was out to embarrass him; then again, she hadn't looked like one before she lobbed the opening salvo that sent him scurrying - in an undignified and, yes, embarrassing fashion - for the nearest cover he could find.

Actually she'd been smiling very sweetly at the time.

"You'll be interested to know, Sergeant," she had said in a complete non-sequitur, "that the General here had some interesting ideas about that performance problem I've been working on."

Siler had turned to look at Jack. "Is that so, sir?"

Jack, having uttered almost exactly those words while in bed with her the night before, had found himself momentarily without words.

Carter, on the other hand, had no such trouble. "Definitely," she'd answered for him.

"I didn't know you were interested in mechanics, sir," Siler had said. "What've you got?"

Even before he'd retired, Jack had never worked out a way to write Siler up for insubordination. The man had perfected the ability to make fun of his superiors without ever quite crossing the line. Like right now, when Jack was positive that behind that non-expression, Siler was secretly thinking Jack was an idiot.

He'd turned to glare at Sam, who was still wearing that sweet, innocent smile. "I don't know, Carter, what've I got?"

"Oh," she'd said, tilting her head to the side as if in reflection, "I think you should tell him, sir."

At which point Jack had jerked his thumb over his shoulder, mumbled something unintelligible, and fled.

Carter never really looked evil, of course. He'd learned that a long time ago. But Jack had discovered there was a relationship between the amount of sex they were having and his ability to remember that fact. And while he'd never say that the effects of having more sex with Carter weren't good - amazingly, incredibly, mind-numbingly good - he still didn't really enjoy looking like an idiot.

But if he had to, there'd better be compensation at some point.

"You folks about done?" he interjected at the first lull in the conversation.

Sam pursed her lips in thought. "I think so, sir," she said after a moment.

"Good," he said. "I've got a date with a beer and a steak."

"But," she said, holding up a finger to forestall his leaving, "aren't you going to tell Siler how I'm going to fix my little problem?"

Jack sighed.


"If I didn't know better," Jack said as they walked across the parking lot, "I'd say you were having some fun at my expense back there."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

He snorted.

"I'm a professional, sir," Sam said, mock-primly. "I'd never make fun of a superior officer in front of an enlisted airman." She paused. "Not while said superior was watching, anyway."

"Not even a retired superior officer? After all, I've noticed," and he put on his best pompous Pentagon beancounter impression, "that this installation is a little loose when it comes to protocol."

"That is true," she said. "It could make a difference that you're retired. Before, you were the infamous General Jack O'Neill. Now you're just a bureaucrat."

Jack winced.

"And you know how much we love bureaucrats at the SGC."

"But you love me."

She just smiled. He raised his eyebrows, and she smiled. He scowled, and she smiled. He stuck out his tongue, and she flat-out grinned.

"I'd like to make it very clear," he said, "that I will, at some point, be making you pay for this. Whatever this is."

"Oh, please, will you?" she said in a mock-simper. He'd swear she was batting her eyelashes.

He'd have less trouble if she didn't make evil look quite so cute.

He slapped a hand on the car door she was about to open. "You're a pain in the ass, you know."

She hummed a bit – hummed – and tilted her head to the side, one corner of her mouth tipping upwards. That soft, sexy, annoying little mouth that he really wanted to be pressed up against his own right now. This exact, precise second.

Jack blew out a long breath, dragging his gaze back from her lips to her eyes and reminding himself that the parking lot might as well have Property of the United States Air Force painted across it in letters ten feet tall. Retired or otherwise, he was so not going to kiss her right here on government land.

Involuntarily, his gaze dropped again. Damn her mouth anyway. Especially when she'd sucked one end of her lower lip into her mouth and was working at it with her teeth and her tongue.

"I had better odds against the Goa'uld, didn't I?"

She laughed. "Get in the car, General."

"Oh, are you bossing me around now?"

"Yes," she said, leaning over and kissing him on the cheek before she turned on the car.


Really, it didn't bother him at all.