So life settled into a new but quickly familiar routine. The Colonel's cold lingered stubbornly and I was given command of SG-1... temporarily, the General said, but he had a strange gleam in his eye whenever it came up. I wondered if he knew something I didn't.
As it was SG-1's exploratory duties were fairly light. Hammond knew how interested we were in the Ancient ship, which was at Area 51 now, being poked and prodded by Dr. Leland... among others. When I pushed the matter of Leland with certain higher-ups, I was told that the woman was actually a multiple PhD. She had extensive knowledge of the Antarctic, but she was also well-versed in more... applicable science. I halfheartedly tried to discover how and when we had met, but really I didn't have the time.
I found myself visiting the Colonel often. Maybe a little too often. I would stop by on the way home from the SGC and give him updates, or come over after a trip to Area 51 and we would speculate - albeit guardedly - about the Ancient ship. Every day unveiled more mysteries about the craft. For instance, we were starting to speculate that there was in fact part... missing. At certain sections along the hull there were mechanisms... at first we thought they were for docking, but then we began to believe that they were actually intended to hold together separate segments of the ship. And then there was the technology we had found inside, including a laboratory that seemed geared towards genetic science. It was amazing.
But even more amazing was the fact that, during these little stops at the Colonel's house, we eventually stopped talking about work. It was so odd. We'd known each other for so long, yet everything we knew about each others' personal life was somehow connected to the SGC. My relationship with my father. His relationship with Sara. My mom. Charlie. Our mutual love of Jello. That kind of thing. But now... maybe we just ran out of work things to talk about. Maybe we just hit some kind of threshold.
The night the shift happened was roughly two months after the Ancient ship had been found. The Colonel had finally been given a clean bill of health, after a lingering cough and several relapses that he'd been very ill mannered about. He had, he told me, contracted an 'old man cold', and he wasn't pleased. But he seemed pleased that night. I'd been gone for three days on a rare and particularly lengthy offworld mission, this time with a small-boned Lieutenant named, aptly, Young. It was the first time the General had assigned us a fourth, and while it had been a positive experience I hadn't known what to think.
Acting on a whim, I stopped and picked up Chinese takeout before going to his house. I was in such a good mood, up until the moment that I pulled into his driveway and started gathering up the plastic bags of sweet and sour pork and spring rolls. That was when I realized that, with the Colonel ready to go back into the field, the time we'd been spending together would surely be reduced... maybe come to an end altogether. Not only would we be more pressed for time, but things would go back into their normal state of being and this would feel... wrong. Not that we had done anything wrong.
Slowly I got out of the car, carefully balancing the bags. The two of us had been pretending but, as with the details of the Ancient ship, there was much we knew but didn't dare talk about. Yes, we knew what we were doing. Walking a wire. Risking getting burned. Playing a game, in a way. But that game was about to come to an end.
Sighing I nudged the car door closed with my hip and started walking across to the porch. Night was falling, shadows were lengthening and when one abruptly moved I started, almost dropping the fried rice. For a few seconds I stood, staring towards the corner of the house where I was sure I had seen some kind of movement. But nothing reappeared and I heard no noises. I decided it must have been in the wind, or my own guilty conscience.