Title: Soldier On
Gift to: Secret Santa gift for Samantha-Carter-is-my-muse
Category: Angst, Adventure, Romance, Hurt/Comfort, AU

Season: 8 (post It's Good to Be King)
Spoilers: Solitudes (1x18); Grace (7x13); Heroes (7x18);New Order (8x01, 8x02); Affinity (8x07); It's Good to Be King (8x13)
Pairing: S/J

Summary: General Jack O'Neill is bored with flying a desk and takes the chance to go off-world again when the opportunity presents itself. Not wanting to play favorites he leaves SG-1 behind with Carter in charge of the base and takes Ferretti and a diplomatic team with him. Of course, things don't go as planned and it's up to Sam to mount a S&R mission and bring them home safely.

Rating: T
Warnings: language, sexual situations

Disclaimer: see profile

A/N: I don't have a beta, so any mistakes are my own. I always appreciate feedback and/or constructive criticism or just a comment to let me know why you (don't) like it.

Awards: Nominated in the categories Action/Adventure and Hurt/Comfort/Whump of the Sam & Jack Multimedia Awards 2015!

Stargate Command
Colorado Springs, CO

Brigadier General Jack O'Neill was whistling as he made his way over to his office. He almost felt like skipping but generals in the United States Air Force didn't skip, so he just bounced lightly on the balls of his feet with every step, a small grin playing on his lips.

Taking command of the base hadn't been his first – or second, or third – choice but he had accepted the promotion because he didn't trust anyone else in the position and was aware that his body was reaching its limits when it came to field work; at least he could watch his team's back as base commander and make choices in the best interest of the Program and people working here, rather than what the NID, IOA, politicians in DC or Trust operatives wanted. After all, they'd all seen what happened when General Bauer took over for Hammond a few years ago and Jack didn't want a repeat of that situation, even if it meant flying a desk.

However, today he would be going off-world again!

The last time he'd gone through the 'gate was when Maybourne had found an Ancient spaceship on his planet and Jack's ATA gene had been needed to operate it. The mission hadn't gone totally as planned but everything had turned out well in the end, and the SGC took ownership of the little spaceship with its time travel device. That had been the first time he'd gone off-world in months and he'd been surprised how much he'd missed it! Not just going through the 'gate but the excitement of it all; even the Jaffa shooting at him! His superiors hadn't been too pleased to learn he'd put himself in harm's way, though. His elation had been short-lived when the Joint Chiefs of Staff had basically grounded him for the foreseeable future, claiming he was too valuable to risk getting killed.

A request by the Voari for Jack to be present during the festival in celebration of their alliance with Earth and the signing of the actual treaty was something he couldn't refuse, though. Neither could his superiors. Jack still wasn't sure what Ferretti had told the Voari about him for them to request his presence – he'd never met the aliens, after all – but he was grateful to his old friend for arranging it. Lou had undoubtedly known he'd jump at the chance to go off-world and leave his paperwork behind for a legitimate reason!

Still grinning, Jack entered the briefing room and came to a halt at seeing his old team there. "Did we have a meeting?"

Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter straightened in her seat but visibly suppressed the urge to jump to attention – much to his relief. "Um, no, Sir. But we heard you were planning to go off-world-"

"Ah yes," he smirked and leaned against the briefing room table. "SG-1 is on downtime, right? I'll need you to keep an eye on things here for me, Carter."

"Of course, Sir," she said with a small frown on her face.

Doctor Daniel Jackson cleared his throat and threw him a puzzled look. "Shouldn't we go with you? I mean, we're the flagship team and–"

Jack pointed an accusing finger at the archeologist/linguist/anthropologist as he replied. "You just want to meet the Voari and see this festival of theirs!"

"Well, it is an interesting celebration," Daniel said abashedly, "and probably has roots in-"

"Ack! I don't care where its origins come from or how many changes there are between how some old dead culture on Earth celebrated said festival and how the Voari do it," he said. "I just want to enjoy myself while I recuperate from the numerous papercuts on my hands."

Carted ducked her head to hide a smile while the Jaffa Teal'c raised an inquiring eyebrow before he spoke. "You do not wish us to accompany you, O'Neill?"

Shrugging, he made a dismissive wave with his hand. "Nah. You guys have had a pretty hectic schedule lately and the Voari are pretty peaceful. I'll just accompany SG-9 and take Ferretti with me, since his team established contact with the natives a few months ago."

"But Jack, the Voari have a very interesting culture and I would love a chance to observe one of their festivals! You might need my skills too," he added with a smile, "because we all know you're not much of a diplomat and you have the habit of ruffling feathers."

"Oh no, I made sure to check with Lou; the Voari are completely human, so there are no feathers for me to ruffle," he replied with a smirk.

Carter grinned when Daniel rolled his eyes but seemed to take pity on him. "Sir, what I think Daniel's trying to say-"

"I know, Carter," Jack said, interrupting her. "But SG-9 has Doctor Danmark and they are the diplomatic team, if you recall. I can't play favorites with you guys because that's not fair to the other teams, Daniel. Besides, the higher-ups would probably be wondering why we even have a diplomatic team if I don't use them when their skills are needed."

Daniel grumbled a bit before he nodded in acceptance, albeit reluctantly. "Fine, I'll just have a talk with Doctor Danmark then before you go to discuss some of my questions."

"Great!" Jack clapped his hands and turned around to go into his office before he swiveled back towards his old team. "With Dixon on paternity leave, Edwards on medical leave, Ferretti joining me, Pearson at the Gamma Site and both Raimi and Reynolds off-world with their teams you'll be in command of the base as the highest-ranking officer, Carter. I have a debriefing with SG-21 in ten minutes, followed by a conference call with Hammond and the JCS and then I have about twenty minutes before my briefing with SG-9 and Ferretti, so come see after my conference call to discuss your temporary command, okay? That way you can sit in on the briefing about the treaty signing with the Voari and know what I'll be up to while you're stuck here."

"Yes Sir," she replied, grinning. "Do you know how long you'll be gone?"

He smirked and rubbed his hands together in glee. "I think it's a three-day festival and I'm pretty sure I have to be there for the whole thing, so unfortunately for you that means three days of paperwork!"

Stargate Command
Colorado Springs, CO

It had been a long day and Sam was pleased to have finally finished her last meeting. Dismissing Colonel Reynolds after the debriefing had been a bit strange considering he was technically of a higher rank but he hadn't seemed to mind. The man was probably just glad to have gotten his team home safely after a recon in Goa'uld territory and undoubtedly looking forward to some relaxation. She, on the other hand, had to remain on base for a little longer. Technically, her shift had ended already but she wanted to wait until General O'Neill's scheduled check-in in an hour before she would even consider going home. Besides, she could just as easily have dinner in the commissary with her team instead of cooking for herself or ordering takeout since Pete would be in Denver for the rest of the week.

She sighed to herself as she collected her things from the briefing room table and turned off the beamer before returning to 'her' office. The sight of the neatly stacked folders on the General's desk elicited a smile from her and she briefly wondered if the base commander's paperwork had ever been this organized. Sure, General Hammond had always done a good job and he'd hardly ever complained about the paperwork but even he used to make long hours as he muddled through all the reports and requisitions in between briefings, debriefings and meetings. Since General O'Neill's promotion to base commander the desk was usually cluttered with overflowing in-trays and scarcely filled out-trays, and she'd caught him searching for his laptop buried underneath all the folders more than once. Now, both trays were empty as she'd steadily gone through the paperwork throughout the day and Walter had happily retrieved everything from her out-tray an hour or so ago. She had even managed to get caught up with her own mission reports.

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts about paperwork and when she looked up she grinned. "Hey."

"Hey Sam," Daniel said, smiling at her. "You busy?"

"No, I just finished debriefing SG-3 and was admiring my empty trays."

He chuckled softly as she went around the desk and placed her things on it. "I don't think the paperwork has ever been wrapped up this early. Even General Hammond usually didn't finish until in the evening."

She smiled at him and sat down in the comfy leather chair. "What can I do for you?"

"Uh, I was wondering if I could go with Teal'c when he's meeting with the Rebel Jaffa and Master Bra'tac."

"If you wait another hour then you can ask the General himself."

Daniel grimaced briefly before he plopped down in a chair and leaned forward. "Well, I don't really need Jack's permission since you're in charge of the base – and the mission roster – now."

Sam nodded slowly in understanding as she recalled their discussion from the day before General O'Neill had left. "He didn't want you to go."

"Something like that," he admitted sheepishly. "But Teal'c and Jack both agreed that SG-1 should be included in the Rebel Jaffa's mission, even if just to, uh, observe. So, it would probably be beneficial for me to join Teal'c and learn as much as I can about their plans of attack and which Goa'uld they want to target."

Taking a moment to consider his arguments and SG-1's schedule, she shifted in the leather chair and looked at his eager eyes. "Well, it's not like SG-1 will be busy or anything," she said slowly. "And you've already submitted your report on the artifact SG-12 brought back…"


She chuckled softly at his enthusiasm and pulled up the mission roster on the General's laptop. "It's just an overnight mission according to Teal'c's intel, which means you should be back around this time tomorrow."

"Way before Jack returns," Daniel added, bobbing his head.

"Fine," Sam relented, "as long as Teal'c doesn't mind you tagging along and you promise not to get yourself killed."

He grinned widely and jumped up from his seat. "Thanks, Sam! I'll go find Teal'c to tell him the good news."

"You're welcome. Just make sure to be geared up and in the 'gate room in twenty-five minutes." She returned his smile and watched him go, already rolling her eyes at his enthusiasm. Spending an overnight mission with the Rebel Jaffa wasn't her idea of fun but that might just be because of their chauvinistic attitude. Besides, if Daniel managed to get some extra intel from them by doing so and had a good time, then she was perfectly fine with him going. Unfortunately, him and Teal'c leaving meant she wouldn't have any dinner companions, she thought to herself as she got up to make her way to the commissary.

Milky Way Galaxy

The second day of the festival turned out to be even more outrageous than the first and Jack was loving every minute of it. Back when he was on SG-1, he'd always been wary of alien festivals and celebrations and more often than not felt like he had to suffer through them rather than enjoy the festivities, but the Voari were surprisingly good hosts and very welcoming without being over the top or downright suspicious. It probably helped that the groundwork for this alliance had already been done by others – Ferretti's team had established contact months ago after which SG-9 had been brought aboard for negotiations – and now there were just a few days of celebrations left for Jack to enjoy.

It certainly beat his daily routine which nowadays included doing paperwork and sitting in on the various kinds of meetings – if Balinsky was going to show him one more rock…! Jack sighed and shook his head, trying to shake off the frustrations of flying a desk and commanding a top-secret military base. This was his time to relax and enjoy himself, away from the confines of his office. A quick glance around showed lots of people sitting in a semi-circle around a huge buffet table with a large rectangular coal fire at the open end and beyond the fire people were dancing.

Well, mostly women.

Scantily clad women with enticing curves and admirable hip flexibility.

Oh yes, much better than listening to a bunch of geologists talking about some wonderful rock formation they'd found, he thought to himself. From the corner of his eyes Jack could tell Ferretti and Major Conner who were sitting on either side of him were enjoying the, um, entertainment as well. Captain Grogan, Conner's 2IC, appeared to be trying his hardest to look professional and kept his eyes peeled to his lap where a plate with food was resting and occasionally glanced around as if to take in the festivities. Airman Mansfield was grinning widely though and jovially talking to one of the natives at his side, while every now and then throwing an appreciative look towards the dancing women.

Doctor Annette Danmark was a different story but Jack couldn't really blame her for feeling a bit uncomfortable – he'd attended enough celebrations similar to this one with Carter and her feelings often ranged from awkward to embarrassed when the dancing was particularly provocative. It was after all pretty obvious the women were dancing with the goal to arouse the various men watching them as evident by last night's events. For the moment the women were still wearing most of their clothing, which wasn't much to begin with but yesterday they had started removing articles as the evening progressed until there was nothing but one flimsy, see-through veil left and by that time a lot of them had approached some of the seated men and led them away…

Jack still wasn't entirely sure they had been couples prior to the dancing but he had a pretty good idea of what had followed. Some of the paired up folks returned later on for the rest of the celebrations, including firewalking but others had retired for the night. He himself had even been approached by two lovely women – not simultaneously – but he had gently let them down, not at all comfortable with the blatant invitations or the approving glances and encouraging gestures from the chieftains of the various tribes gathered in the city.

Mansfield had taken a different woman up on her offer though after silently asking permission to leave from his CO. Conner had briefly hesitated and glanced Jack's way since he was the superior officer and base commander but he'd just shrugged, leaving the decision up to the team's commander. After all, the native woman had seemed enamored with Mansfield and the Airman hadn't been intoxicated or appeared otherwise drugged. Jack was more than happy to sit on the sidelines for this mission – as was Ferretti – which meant Conner was in command of his team and Jack would only interfere if he thought it necessary. Plus, this way it wouldn't fall on him to have "the talk" with Mansfield, although Jack was pretty sure everyone at the SGC was aware of the strict condom rule for sexual encounters with aliens after his own experience with the whole nanites-aging venereal disease had become a cautionary tale for all new recruits…

Sighing, he leaned back on the pillows cushioning his six and stretched out his legs in front of him. With effort he managed to drag his eyes away from the young attractive dancers and took in the rest of the natives. It were mostly men sitting in their circle as it was a patriarchal society and from what he recalled of yesterday's introductions the few women present were wives of the chieftains – and Doctor Danmark, of course. The older yet attractive women were serving food and drinks, while the teenage girls too young – or unattractive perhaps – for the dancing were entertaining the younger children and the less attractive older women and elderly appeared to be either preparing food or playing the musical instruments.

Jack wondered what his former teammates would think of this place. He was sure Daniel would have loved it and suspected the younger man had been aware of what the festivities entailed and that was why he'd suggested SG-1 accompany Jack to Voarios. After all, Daniel was known to enjoy women doing some kind of dance ritual and while he would swear it was for the cultural significance, Jack was well aware that he simply liked exotic-looking native women, even more so if they came close to stripping off their clothes. Daniel tended to act a bit like a geek but he had a quiet confidence which had grown steadily since joining SG-1 and that, combined with him being a good-looking guy with a hint of naivety, somehow made him very appealing to alien women. Out of all of them Daniel really was the guy who most often ended up involved with a native woman here or there…

Teal'c was in a relationship with Ishta as far as Jack knew, even though the Jaffa had also gotten involved with that girl on Earth a couple of months ago, right around the time Carter had gotten engaged to that cop of hers. Jack grimaced at the last thought and firmly pulled his focus back to the festivities. Teal'c would have enjoyed the dancing too, he decided. The big guy might not give away much with his facial expressions but after eight years of working side by side he was pretty easy to read. Now, Carter would have been very uncomfortable with the show, especially once the skimpy clothes were coming off. She would probably mutter something about emancipation or chauvinistic bastards making their women – and only the attractive ones – dance for their sexual gratification before she'd down a drink or two and settle in a corner wishing the night away, or maybe offer to stand watch to get out of the 'festivities'.

A soft chuckle escaped Jack's lips as he imagined Carter silently fuming while enduring the celebrations. He guessed he only had to look at Doctor Danmark to get the picture, although he had to admit the doctor of political sciences seemed to be taking it all in her stride. Signaling one of the women serving drinks, Jack took three cups of the locals' liquor and handed one to Lou on his right and the other to Danmark on his left – Major Conner had relocated to discuss something with one of the chieftains – and held up his own in toast. "To a fun evening for all and a good alliance with the Voari."

"Hear hear," Danmark said dryly but gamely downed the shot.

Ferretti clinked cups before he emptied his, coughing and spluttering slightly afterwards. "Christ Jack! That's a hell of a lot more potent than the previous round," he rasped.

Jack smirked after finishing his own drink. "Come on, Lou! What happened to the guy who couldn't get enough of that Abyonian moonshine, eh?"

"He got old," Ferretti groaned good-naturedly. "Where are those fruity drinks? I like those much better. Doc, you want one too?"

"Sure, Colonel," Doctor Danmark said. "What about you, General?"

Before he could even respond Ferretti was already reaching across to hand the woman a fruity cocktail drink. "Nah, he likes the hard stuff. He isn't one for fruity drinks… at least, not since P3X-595 when they drank that stuff that made Carter take off-"

"Ack! We won't be going into that right now," Jack hurriedly interrupted him, reminded of that early mission with SG-2 that still made Carter blush prettily whenever it came up.

Danmark, however, leaned forward. "P3X-595? I don't believe I've heard that one before…"

Her tone made it clear that her curiosity was piqued and that she was hoping someone would explain what was so funny about it, but Jack knew it was one of the off-limits missions on SG-1's list, much like the whole Hathor ordeal that had resulted in Jack briefly being a Jaffa and Daniel fathering Hathor's offspring. Of course, the good Doctor probably didn't know that as she had only been with the Program a little under a year. He sighed and, catching Lou's glance, turned to Danmark to explain it. "It was one of the first missions we went on. After Kawalsky, the newly appointed leader of SG-2, died Lou here was given the position of team commander and since it was early days and Hammond was still in the process of making up the rest of the seven teams, SG-2 was a man short.

"Since SG-1 had only just been formed and consisted of a Jaffa, a civilian scientist like yourself, a military scientist and a black ops colonel, Hammond thought it might be a good idea to send the two teams on a mission or two together. After all, we'd done well on our trip to Chulak too as one team. Anyway, the natives on P3X-595 had been friendly–"

"Maybe a little bit too friendly," Ferretti cut in.

"And we unsuspected earthlings happily joined in the celebrations," Jack continued wryly. "Let's just say the fruity drink had an adverse reaction on the then-Captain Carter and after that we learned to be more careful with what we drank while off-world. Some things just don't have the same effect on humans from Earth as they do on humans from other planets."

Ferretti grinned and took another swig of his fruity drink. "Too bad it took you another couple of missions before you realized that little lesson also applied to food, eh Jack?"

Doctor Danmark chuckled along with Lou who was waggling his eyebrows and poking Jack in the side with his elbow. "Ah yes, I've heard that cautionary tale!"

"For crying out loud," Jack muttered, rubbing a hand over his face to hide his embarrassment.

"Boy, did we do some stupid things those first few missions!"

Reminded of their less successful missions over the years Jack chuckled softly. "Oh come on, Lou: you still do some stupid things on missions!"

"He's right," Ferretti admitted to the Doctor, chuckling along. "This actually kind of reminds me of the good old days."

Danmark raised her brows in question and gestured at their surroundings. "Half-naked women dancing for the entertainment of men who do business with aliens over drinks and food?"

"Well, when you put it like that… the half-naked women are definitely an improvement!"

Jack rolled his eyes as Lou laughed the hardest at his own joke and leaned over to Doctor Danmark. "Conner joined in the first year too, I'm sure he has some stories to tell as well."

She glanced over at her team's commander and nodded. "I'm sure he does, but he doesn't talk much about those early missions. Can't really blame him from what I've heard about his CO at the time."

He winced, reminded of Captain Jonas Hanson who had truly started to believe he was a god and forced people to build him a temple. Also known as Carter's ex-fiancé… Jack loved Carter, he really did, but the woman had awful taste in men as evidenced by her more recent engagement and he wasn't entirely sure if he should be pleased with the fact that she – at least at some point – reciprocated his feelings. Did that mean he was part of her lunatic fringe too? There was no doubt in Jack's mind that Shanahan was a bit… off, considering the background check he'd run on Carter early on in their relationship and the fact that he'd stalked her and interrupted a stakeout, which nearly resulted in Osiris killing all of SG-1! It had only been years of experience with a dash of luck that had allowed them to capture the Goa'uld in time. Well, almost. Osiris had managed to shoot Shanahan but he figured that was the guy's own fault.

"Yeah, Hanson was one crazy bastard," Ferretti said pensively, before changing the subject. "Hey Doc, you ever tried firewalking? I'm sure we can convince them to give us a chance to try walking over those hot embers!"

"Oh, I don't know…"

Jack smirked as he jumped up, suddenly feeling a little bold and adventurous and held out his hand to Danmark. "Yeah, come on, Doc. You scientists should know all about the physics behind it."

She took his hand and stood, smiling wryly. "I think you may be confusing me with Colonel Carter, General. My PhD is in political sciences, not physics."

"Ack! Please, don't ruin it for me: I've learned to tolerate scientists over the years but politicians…? That's pushing it, Doc!"

Before she could protest Ferretti clasped Jack on the shoulder. "I'll bet you a hundred bucks I can hold out longer on those embers."

"Oh, you're on, Lou!"

A/N: This story was written specifically to SCIMM's preferences for Secret Santa 2013 (on GateWorld) but as the deadline approached I didn't manage to write the full story I had in mind. Therefore, the story I sent to her had seven chapters and a different ending, but I decided to only publish the version with the additional chapters. Hope you will all enjoy it!