Wearing Thin



I'm keeping quiet in the locker room, head down, eyes on my boots as I lace them. I'm not sure they even know I'm there because they're arguing and talking a mile a minute, hands waving, faces flushed. Jackson and O'Neill. World savers. Heroes. And they're a few feet away from me squabbling like my kids when they've had too much candy and stayed up late.

Sue shouldn't let them do that. Really.

I settle my cap on my head and leave them to it, heading out through the 'gate a few minutes later.

Something's wrong. All day, it's wrong. Can't put my finger on it, but as I duck the sizzle of a staff blast, hauling a buddy to safety, I swear I'm putting in for leave when we get back. I'm cracking up here, itchy and on edge.

O'Neill's waiting for me at the end of the ramp beside Hammond, arms folded, scowling.

"Hey, you."

"Sir?"

I come to attention. So fucking tired. What does he want? If he asks me the score of the hockey game he was arguing about I'll tell him where he can shove the fucking puck. I'd die for him; volunteered for a mission to save his sorry ass once, but there're limits, you know?

He twitches my hat off. What the hell?

"Mine."

He smacks it against his hand and stares at the smear of mud and blood it's left behind.

"Second thought, maybe you can keep it. Good work out there, Major."

I turn and look at the stretcher coming through the 'gate. It's carrying a man who's going to make it, not a corpse.

I push the hat back at him and take mine from his head.

I don't want to be him.

I just want my hat back.

As he grins I say softly, "Doctor Jackson was wrong, sir."

His eyebrows shoot up and he starts to look really happy.

"And so were you."

"Major?"

It's a scary-ass drawl, but hey, I wore his lucky hat all day and I'm covered.

"Final score was 23-7."

"Not a chance. 24-7."

We argue about it all the way to the locker room.

I guess some people just don't know when to quit.

I get home and I'm wearing Jackson's socks and a T-shirt that smells of Carter's deodorant.

Even telling Sue I nearly died out there doesn't save me.


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