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Title: Nowhere But Up
Author name: Icarus
Author email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sub Category: Drama
Summary: Wherein the nature of 'orders' and 'defying them' is explained with no little hypocrisy. The general is talked into reconsidering a disgraced pilot for the Atlantis team.
DISCLAIMER: The characters and universe contained in this story are Copyright MGM, Showtime, Gekko, Double Secret. No infringement on their copyright is implied. Copyright © 2005 All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or part without the author's explicit permission. Ask, guys. I'm easy to reach and usually quite generous.
Author notes: So unbeta'd. So off the cuff. I always thought that the debate in "Rising" between Weir and Jack O'Neill to get Sheppard on the team was a little flip (of course, they had to move the story along). So here's my vision of that discussion. Weir knew the right person to ask.
"Major Sheppard defied a direct order," Jack explained in a huff of frustration. He hated how the civilians just didn't get the whole "orders" thing.
"I've read your file, General." And Dr. Weir's little smile just didn't bode well about things that Jack really wished weren't in there, but had to be.
"That's different." Jack tried for breezy, and got skewered with a look. Why the hell was she so hung up on Major Sheppard anyway? They needed more than just the Ancient gene for Atlantis. Especially the military. He dropped the act. "Look. It's a matter of degree. So I've… modified… a few commands to suit the situation on the ground…."
She folded her arms. "You've done more than that, General."
"And yet, I have never taken my eye off the ball." She opened her mouth but he held up a finger. "Ah! Let's talk about this inside."
He gestured towards the door of her office across the room. Because this, this was getting into some dangerous territory. There were enough people questioning his right to command the SGC. Starting with one "General" Jack O'Neill. And yes, he did still think of his title in quotes.
Jack resisted the temptation to drag her along by the arm. Apparently, Weir had done just fine while he was in the deep freeze, but if she was going to be head of a mission that included military personnel, she needed to get some important distinctions down, now. He veered wide around the chamber that had been his living coffin for the better part of a year. The thing still gave him the creeps. Though it looked like someone used the ziplocks, because he hadn't come out with freezer burn.
In her office, he shut the door behind them. Dr. Weir had Major Sheppard's file out on her desk as she folded neatly into her chair.
Jack remained standing. "You've got to get," he began, "if you've read my file, that I have never disobeyed orders in a combat situation. Yes, I kidnapped a little girl to give her a day of kindergarten. I took my team on a commando mission to save Earth--which, by the way, was only not being saved because of some political… nonsense."
"Nonsense," Weir quoted and smiled. "That wasn't what you were going to say."
Jack ignored that bit. "The fact is, I have always had my priorities straight. If it came down to it, given a choice between a member of my team and taking out the Goa'uld, I'd make the sacrifice. You know I would." Jack gave Dr. Weir an intense steady glare. "Sheppard's a nice guy. I like him too. But I'm not convinced that he can do that. He disobeyed a direct order and abandoned his objective--under fire--during combat."
"To save his men, General," Weir interrupted, her voice firm.
"At which he did not succeed," Jack pointed out. "He blew the mission and those men still died." There was a loud silence in Weir's office. "He fucked up."
And if she couldn't handle the pithy profanity she didn't belong at the head of this mission. Or Jack's people. Quite a few of the military going to Atlantis had been recruited out of the SGC. It had been hell to replace them.
Weir leaned forward. "So since you've succeeded, you've gotten away with it? Even though you have done the exact same thing."
Jack softened. He couldn't say that he was better than Sheppard. He just didn't know. "The military's not big on rewarding good intentions. Success is what counts when lives are on the line."
"And if you hadn't succeeded, time and again, this could be you in Antarctica." Weir, nicely enough, didn't use an accusing tone. Though she did cock her head at Jack in a way that was just… cocky.
He settled into a chair in front of Weir's desk, his arm draped loosely over the armrest. "Sometimes I hate talking to civilian negotiators." Of which he only knew one. "It feels like I'm talking to Daniel, only you're a tad more polite."
"Doctor Jackson, you mean?" she asked.
Jack reached for Sheppard's file and flipped through some pages randomly, before remembering he really wasn't good at paperwork.
"Maybe that report doesn't represent the whole picture," Weir suggested, as if this were a novel idea.
"Of course it doesn't." Jack made a frustrated gesture. "They don't. They never do. They can't. But the facts are pretty clear."
"Well," Weir turned the report towards herself and scanned through it more competently, and Jack had another pang about his ability to command the whole SGC. Was he out of his mind to even try? "The tone of it is fairly even-handed," she admitted.
Good. That's what he'd picked up on.
"But it says here on page twenty-seven," her eyes scrutinized it, "under section E, that Major Sheppard was given a limited choice of assignments after Afghanistan. He could go to Guam or Antarctica. Though who knows why he chose here."
Jack grimaced and ran a hand over his face. "I do."
Sometimes the fucking pencil-pushers were clever. Jack would have never found that buried under all the legalese.
"Okay." He let his hand drop. "Someone was definitely gunning for Sheppard. That's a Sophie's Choice for pilots; and it's just plain mean." Dr. Weir's face was focused and surprisingly unsurprised, though she raised a questioning eyebrow. Jack explained, "There are no aircraft at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam."
"So it was Antarctica, or never fly again?"
Jack stared up at the ceiling with a heavy sigh, hands pressed to either side of his head. He was never going to "get" this job. They were going to tie him up in red tape and hang him with it, and he wouldn't even know what happened. He pictured Washington like a bunch of little elves, all dancing around him with evil grins. "That's about the size of it."
Jack didn't mention that there was only six weeks of guaranteed flight time a year in this region because of the weather. Especially for a chopper pilot.
He snapped the file shut, thinking of all sorts of ways a former black ops colonel could, and never would, get revenge on some asshole in Afghanistan who'd fucked up Sheppard's career. "He's all yours, Dr. Weir. I'll do what I can to get Sumner off your case if he complains." And that guy was going to be a pain in the ass, wasn't he? "When Sumner complains," Jack amended.
"Thank you, General," she said, not rubbing his nose in his oversight. Which was nice of her, but unnecessary. Jack was already rubbing his own nose in it just fine, and would be for the next several days, or at least until his next screw-up, oversight or whatever. "But that's not what I need your help with."
Jack looked confused. "It's your team," he said. "Your call. You can have whoever you want."
"Yes. But so far, Major Sheppard's said no."
Dr. Weir gave Jack a helpless shake of her head. "I'd like you to talk to him," she said softly. "See if you can't change his mind."
"Have we ruled out stupidity?" Jack asked her. Weir just smiled at him as she put away Sheppard's file. "Or insanity? It's possible he's insane. He did say he liked it here."
"Thank you for your help, General."
Jack rumpled the back of his hair, standing and feeling like a rookie pilot again. "Yeah, well, no promises there. If he's clinically insane…." He made a broad gesture encompassing all of the insanity of Antarctica. "But, whatever. I'll try. Just make sure my pilot's Sheppard. I'm heading out at 1600, tonight."
It was the least he could do, for a man who wouldn't save himself. Jack stalked out of the office, Weir forgotten, his mind already on the mission.