Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate or its characters.

Title: The Strength of Steel

Timeline: Present-Day

Series: Part of the General Carter universe

A/N: I challenged myself to write something in one hour, and this is what came out. Any mistakes are my own.

For Amara, who requested Jack being strong for Sam. Also inspired by MidKnight Rider's Moonlight and Steel.

Behind every great woman is a retired lieutenant general waiting for her to come home.

It was 2:30 when Sam blearily stumbled into their bedroom. Jack opened his arms, and she made straight for the bed, not stopping to undress. She pressed her face into the crook of his neck. The stickiness of her cheeks betrayed that she'd cried on her way home.

"I lost them all," she whispered.

SG-9 and SG-11. Eight young men and women struck down after contracting what they'd thought was a minor case of influenza on another planet. Jack had done the job long enough to know how personal it was. How guilty Sam felt. How painful writing each of those eight letters home would be.

Sam had led the SGC for two months. Honestly, she'd been fortunate that she hadn't had a loss like this before now. Not that that made it any easier. Not that it would be any easier in the future.

He pressed a kiss to her silvering hair.

Sam drew in a hitching breath and her spine stiffened slightly. Jack knew she was on the verge of crying again but trying not to. Even after all these years, her instinct was to hide. To push down all of those emotions and pretend she was fine.

But Jack knew better. He'd always known better, and his wife had too big a heart to be anything other than a mess right now.

He rubbed circles on her back. "Let it out, Sam."

She broke, her sobs coming in loud breathy gasps, and Jack's heart broke along with her. He rocked General Samantha Carter back and forth like she was a child and knew that this would not be the last time he did so.

But he would be here the next time she lost someone. And the time after that. And the time after that. And when she questioned if she could do it anymore, he would hold her until she inevitably realized that she couldn't not do the job. That was what made her so good for it.

Jack didn't know how much time passed, but eventually Sam's sobs became sniffles and then quieted altogether. She sagged against him, and he gently laid her down on the bed. The hallway light played over Sam's now relaxed features, and cast its glow over Sam's hair, giving it a shimmering steel color that reflected just how strong she truly was.

Jack brushed a lock behind her ear and bent down to kiss her cheek, in awe of the woman he loved.

She was a damn good leader, not in spite of how much she cared, but because of it. It meant that she was the one that was needed in order to send those impossibly young kids through the 'gate, even when she knew they might not come back.

She was strong all on her own, but Jack would be her strength when it all became too much. Then she would go back out there and do it all over again, and he'd be waiting for her.

It was what made them the best team, even after all these years.