Too Many Geeks
by nanda (email@example.com)
If Daniel weren't already sort of dead, Jack would have to kill him. Just for making him put up with the endless stream of geeks.
Newell Caldwell, Ph.D., blah blah blah, was the fourth geek. Or maybe he was the third and it just seemed like it had been a lot longer? Whatever. If he didn't shut up in the next ten seconds Jack *was* going to hurt him.
He tried to convey to the geek -- by means of a look that Daniel, Carter, Teal'c, or, hell, even Thor would have recognised immediately -- that his damn miserable geeky life was about to be over. But no, Dr. Geek-Number-Four just kept going, and going, and going.
" ... can't believe we're actually on another planet ... can't believe that you guys do this all the time ... when do we get to do something, can we do something? ... are there any Jaffa around? .... why do we just have to stand around here like this? ... when do we get to see some action? ... "
And going, and going, and going ....
Of course the fact that Jack also kind of wished they didn't have to sit around on babysitting detail wasn't helping his mood. SG-1 was quite capable of handling these negotiations, thankyouverymuch. But Hammond had thought that after Daniel, and Heimdall, and getting a new person (or four), the team could use a bit of a break.
So here they were, watching, well, absolutely nothing, while SG-9 did its diplomatic thing inside. And frankly, it would have been a lot less excruciating without the geek. Hell, it was a nice enough planet -- the company, except for the geek, was pretty good -- they could actually be having some fun. Well, sort of fun. Okay, they'd still be bored, but Teal'c might be able to crack a few jokes or something.
He exchanged a look with Carter -- probably the twentieth this hour -- and she closed her eyes, shook her head, and sighed. When even Carter got exasperated with the geeks, you knew it was bad.
Teal'c just stood at attention, occasionally glancing at the geek out of the corner of his eye. Jack knew that look. It said something like, "If you do not cease immediately I will be forced to disembowel you."
"Look at that fountain, isn't it fascinating? ... wonder what kind of water filtration systems they use ... maybe we can get SG-9 to ask ... "
Goddamn geek. Daniel had been a pain in the ass (had he ever) but at least he'd known when to shut up. Well, okay, no, he hadn't, but he'd usually done it when Jack had *told* him to.
Jack had the distinct impression Carter was trying not to cover her ears.
Teal'c must have noticed one or both of them fidgeting because he said, in a voice that suggested he was about to make a noble self-sacrifice, "I do not believe four of us are required for this task, O'Neill. Perhaps it might be wise for you to ... patrol the marketplace?"
"Patrol the ... oh!" Damn, Teal'c really was a buddy. And he was right -- their presence was completely unnecessary for security. And Jack's absence was definitely necessary for Dr. Caldwell's continued well-being. And Carter ... Carter was looking up at him with wide blue eyes. *Begging.* He had to look twice to be sure, but ... yes. Definitely begging.
"Hey, yeah. Good idea, Teal'c." He took a step away just to toy with her, but then he turned back and said, "Carter, with me."
She jumped to his side as eagerly as a cadet. "*Thank* you, sir," she said as soon as they were out of earshot.
"You owe me," he said.
"Hell yes ... sir."
He chuckled. "Thought you were supposed to be sympathetic to the geeks, Carter."
"Oh, I'm sympathetic," she said. "I'd just be a lot more sympathetic if he would shut up for five seconds."
"Though you gotta admit, he's better than the last one ... what was his name?"
"Yes. Captain Reyes. With the unfortunately timed digestive ailment."
"That's a polite way of putting it, sir." He could hear her smile without looking at her. "You know," she said brightly, "General Kerrigan told me last week they're starting to encourage some of their more promising students to pursue graduate work in anthropology and linguistics."
"Really? That's a brilliant idea, Carter." He was willing to bet it'd been hers, too. She'd been paying a lot more attention to her alma mater since she'd found that pint-sized firecracker Hailey there. "Can't we just wait for one of *them*?" he asked.
He liked her laugh. What with one thing and another, she hadn't been laughing a lot lately. "Take it up with General Hammond, sir," she said.
"You know, I intend to."
She turned and gave him a very pretty smile, her eyes crinkling up, and they fell into a comfortable silence as they weaved through the city streets.
There, now this was more like it -- just a nice, *quiet* patrol with his second-in-command on a reasonably friendly planet. Boring and predictable in a good way. This planet had something like trains, but nothing like cars, so they were surrounded by foot traffic. And there was a light, salty breeze coming off the nearby ocean, with low clouds in the sky; the air was cool, but not cold. All in all not a bad day. They crossed the last street and entered the throng of the marketplace.
Jack had seen this kind of thing all over the universe -- individual stalls and tables selling produce, meat, the local equivalent of fast food, clothes, antiques, and a thousand other things. Only here, the local residents were reasonably familiar with gate travel, so his and Carter's clearly alien dress didn't attract a lot of attention. Sweet. And the whole team had been here yesterday, so he kind of knew his way around.
They strolled, mostly quietly, through the various sections. Sometimes he made a quip about clothing that would suit Teal'c or Caldwell. Eventually they stopped so Carter could buy them both some fruit that tasted a little like Sweet Tarts. He really liked the way her face puckered up when she tasted it, so he gave her the last bite of his. And she laughed. Okay, truthfully, he'd spent most of this little excursion trying to get her to laugh.
It was weird. He knew he'd been a jerk about Daniel -- though he still thought he'd done the right thing keeping them all on active duty -- but somehow in the weeks since, he and Carter had started getting closer, or more comfortable around each other, or something. Maybe it was from presenting a united front against the geeks, or maybe it was because neither of them had a lot of friends so losing one had made them more determined to make the few they had stick around. He didn't know. Whatever had brought it about, he liked it.
Still working on that Carter-laughing thing, he searched out the most ridiculous, conical hat he could find and tried it on. While he was watching her bite her lower lip, obviously trying not to smile, his radio crackled.
"O'Neill. Have you encountered unexpected difficulties?"
"Uh-oh," she said. "Think we left him alone with Caldwell for too long, sir?"
"Clearly." He reached up to his shoulder. "Yeah, Teal'c. Carter's having trouble deciding which hat to buy. We might be here a while."
"Do you require my assistance, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked, making Jack feel very, very guilty. Which, he was sure, had been the intention.
"Okay, okay. Ten minutes," he told Teal'c.
He took off the silly hat and motioned with his thumb in the direction of the main square. "Guess we'd better ..."
"Yeah. Guess so." She sounded decidedly regretful, and Jack liked the thought that she was enjoying herself, too.
They were almost at the market entrance when a young girl just up ahead called to them. "Sir, madam ... a gift to take home to your world?" She looked about fourteen or fifteen, and beside her stood an older woman, obviously blind, with cloudy eyes.
Carter slowed down and looked at him, silently asking permission to stop. He shrugged and walked towards the table.
The girl was excited to talk to them. "I saw you when you entered the market," she said. "I wanted to ask where you were from but I was afraid." Their clothes, Jack noticed, were worn and obviously homemade; a covert glance confirmed his hunch that they weren't wearing any shoes. Most of the people they'd seen in the city were well dressed and looked healthy. He tried not to frown.
"We're from a planet called Earth," Carter explained. "Our government is negotiating with your government. So we can trade with each other."
"We had not heard of visitors," the older woman said. "Welcome. We come from one of the tribes in the hills above the city. We journey down for the market."
Carter was looking at all the merchandise they were selling -- beaded and braided jewelry, mostly. She picked one up and Jack had a crazy urge to buy it for her, so he started thinking instead that maybe the medicines they were offering in the negotiations could help these people.
"You made these?" Carter asked.
"My people did, yes," the girl said. "We suffer from hereditary blindness. It affects most of us by the time we are full grown." It was obviously a rehearsed speech to help boost sales -- but it was also obviously true. "Those who are afflicted make these ornaments to help us support ourselves."
"You raise the cows for the leather, too?"
"Yes, of course. The boys herd them. We raise goats as well."
Carter looked at Jack, and he knew what she was thinking: they'd heard nothing from this planet's government about such a widespread medical problem; they'd have to mention it to SG-9. Jack gave her a quick nod, not liking the implications any more than she did.
It was one of the worst things about this job, and he knew Carter thought so, too: they couldn't always help the people who really needed it.
She put down the blue beaded necklace she'd been fiddling with and picked up a simple braided bracelet. Hell, he was pretty sure she could wear that on duty.
"Do the designs mean anything?" he asked. Damn, he really had spent too much time with Daniel over the years.
"Whatever you wish them to mean," the woman said. "A reminder of this day, perhaps?"
He shared a little smile with Carter. Caldwell had certainly ensured that they wouldn't forget this day anytime soon.
The girl was watching Carter with the bracelet. She picked up a much wider one, also simple braided leather, and held it out to Jack. "See? For men, as well. You can wear this one."
He could only see half of Carter's face -- it was turned down, intently studying the table -- but he knew exactly which smile she was wearing.
"Okay," he said. "We'll take 'em." He liked these people. He wanted to help them out, just a little bit.
She looked at him, and quickly back down. "I'd like to buy two others," she said. What? She wasn't thinking of -- "Smaller ones. For children."
"My niece and nephew, sir. I'm going to San Diego next week, remember?"
She picked out another bracelet for her nephew (who, if Jack remembered correctly, was about the same age as the local girl) and a pretty necklace with red beads on it.
"It's just leather," she explained. "They'll never know they aren't from home."
"Okay. But I'm still paying."
"No, you're not, sir."
He sighed. "Carter, I'm not going to argue about this."
"You don't have any local currency, sir."
Oh. Yeah. That. He'd known letting Carter take over from Daniel as team treasurer would eventually bite him in the ass. He scowled, but saw that she recognised it for the joke it was. She held back her laugh, though. Damn.
The girl did laugh. She was a cute kid. The old woman put an arm around her shoulders and whispered something, making her laugh even more.
"It is customary for you to tie them on each other," she said.
"Uh huh. Sure it is." But he was having fun playing along. He held out his right hand and Carter offered one of her big, gorgeous smiles before wrapping the band around his wrist. She knotted it with practiced skill, fingers lingering maybe a second longer than they should have.
Then it was her turn. God, her wrist was so thin, which was pretty amazing considering how many Goa'uld asses he'd watched her kick. He held her hand in his and brushed his thumb over the vein. She met his eyes and said nothing. He could feel her pulse and thought fleetingly, dangerously, that losing her, after losing Daniel, would probably kill him.
He turned towards the two hill people to stall for time. "We're not going to be secretly married or anything, are we?"
They just laughed, and now Carter was raising that eyebrow that said, "Do you *want* me to kick your ass, sir?" So he sighed and tied it around her wrist, squeezing her fingers a little before letting go.
Their radios crackled again. "O'Neill. Major Carter. Are you in need of backup?"
Carter reached for her radio. "Sorry, Teal'c. We're coming." She hurriedly paid for their purchases and they said their good-byes. Jack looked back at the woman and the girl as they walked away. The girl waved.
He couldn't help but check out the new ornament on his wrist. It didn't look too bad. Neither did hers, where it rested on her P-90. And he knew she'd caught his glance.
"You know what this means, don't you?" he asked a little evilly as they headed back to the pedestrian-filled city streets.
She eyed him sideways. "Sir?"
"Next time," he said, "*We're* going to have to babysit the geek."