Season: season 4
Series: Stargate SG-1
What do you do when saving the universe just doesn't provide the job satisfaction it used to?
No dough, no foul.
Jack wasn't surprised to see Carter back at work in the lab - not even taking a day off after their latest adventure. The lights were down. Maybe she needed it dark in there to do some experiment or other, but he suspected she'd just left them off. The instrument racks bathed her in an eerie blue glow.
Better than an eerie golden glow any day of the week, he thought, but it made her look tired. He waited until she spotted him lurking in the doorway, then said, "Congratulations, Carter."
"Thank you, sir." She didn't smile.
He stepped into the lab, determined to cheer her up. "It's not every day you get to save the Tok'ra's stuck-up butts."
Her lip twitched upwards at the alien butt reference. "And you saved the Earth, Colonel. Thanks."
He shrugged off the salvation of the five billion people of the Tauri. "I like the beaches."
That earned him a full-on smile. Sam put down her doohickeys. "Are you saying you saved Earth for the beaches?"
He pretended to think about it. "Not just the beaches - there's also the fish." Theoretically speaking, anyway.
"I see." She paused. "You're not a people person, are you, Colonel?"
"Depends on the people." Jack crossed the space between door and lab bench.
She turned away to fiddle with something on the table. Maybe the pieces of an alien Erector set, but more likely the leftover bits of what had almost destroyed them this time.
"Do you ever get the feeling," she asked without looking up, "that it's not enough anymore?"
"What's not enough?"
"Saving Earth from annihilation." She dropped whatever she'd been holding; it hit the lab bench with a metallic click. "It used to seem so important, and now it's just stressful and..."
He looked down at the table, trying to focus. The Erector Set of the Apocalypse cast little blue shadows across the pages of a mission report. He picked up a piece, flipped it over and over between his fingers.
Quietly, he said, "You feel like no matter what you do, it isn't good enough. There'll always be another crisis, and nobody is really grateful to you for getting them out of this one."
"I'm sure the Tok'ra are--"
He looked up as he interrupted her. "I mean really grateful, Carter, not half-annoyed because the primitive, snakophobic Tauri had to save their hyperadvanced butts yet again." She grinned, and he took the opportunity to advance around the table. "I mean feeling it in your bones. I mean knowing in your gut that Major Samantha Carter, USAF, is the only reason you're still alive and kicking. That's gratitude."
She had retreated from the bench, but beyond it was a wall.
"Close your eyes, Major."
"Do I have to make that an order?"
"No, sir," she said, and closed them. The light turned her eyelids blue.
He leaned forward until their cheeks almost touched and whispered in her ear. "Thank you, Carter, for a job well done."
Her eyes were still closed when he turned away; she said nothing as he retreated from her lab.
Not all missions went so well. This time Jack came back through the stargate carrying Carter; Teal'c had Daniel slung over his shoulder, with one leg dangling, oozing from a staff-weapon burn. Gurneys appeared with nurses attached and whisked their burdens away. Jack and Teal'c limped along behind them.
Jack debriefed the General in hushed tones as they stood inside the door of the infirmary. Carter regained consciousness when he said "naqahdria."
"I'm sorry, sir," she said. She wasn't quite focusing on either of them. "We couldn't reach the naqahdria."
"That's all right, Major," the General said, holding back as the doc responded to her beeping monitor.
Dr. Fraiser shone her light in Carter's eyes. "There's no concussion," she reported. "You just need some sleep."
At the mention of sleep, Carter tried to sit up. "I may be able to synthesize some--"
"The doctor said to sleep, Major." Hammond turned his attention to Daniel. "How's the leg, son?"
Jack tuned out Daniel's complaints. He watched Carter pretend to sleep. No doubt she was synthesizing naqahdria in her mind.
"Colonel?" Hammond said on his way out the door. "Is there a problem?"
Jack didn't take his eyes off Carter. "I'm just waiting for my 2IC to follow her doctor's orders, sir."
Hammond laughed softly. "Don't hold your breath," he said.
The door clicked shut, and silence descended on the infirmary. Daniel was already one with the morphine and the doc had disappeared into her office, so Jack walked over to the side of Carter's bed. She rolled away from him, her eyes still closed.
"I can tell when you're not sleeping, Carter."
She was the picture of slumber, with one hand beside her head on the pillow, daring anyone to doubt her sweet dreams. He leaned over her to put his on top of hers.
"I can even tell when you're thinking about naqahdria." Her tiny smirk quickly reversed itself into a tiny frown. "Forget about it," he said.
"We need naqahdria," she whispered.
"We need you, Carter. We need you asleep." Jack leaned down to whisper in her ear, "You deserve to rest." He kissed her cheek before backing away.
After a few minutes, he headed for the door. Only then did he see the doc standing outside her office. She curled one finger at him, and he followed her in, closing the door quietly behind him.
"Did you think the infirmary wasn't monitored?" Janet asked.
Janet sat down behind her desk. "I saw that."
"Me?" He was still standing.
Jack shrugged and took a seat.
She gave him that why do you harass your poor doctor look. "I'm going to have to inform the General."
She frowned. "You know what I'm talking about."
"Is she sleeping?" Sam was almost as difficult a patient as Jack himself.
"You said the infirmary was monitored. Is she sleeping now?"
Janet looked aside for a moment at a screen. "Yes, she is."
"Wasn't that what you wanted?" He exuded innocence.
She pounded her fingers on the desk. "Get out of here," she said.
Sometimes there were no missions at all. The gate broke or the higher-ups wanted the paperwork done; for whatever reason, all SG teams were grounded for the duration. Boredom always drove Jack back to Carter, though he ought to be lying low after his run-in with Dr. Fraiser. Instead he was invading his 2IC's personal space.
"Hey, what's that?" Jack leaned over Carter, who was sitting at her lab bench studying something round, gold, and Goa'uld-looking.
"It's a Goa'uld jamming device," she said. "SG-5 picked it up before--"
"Yeah, before." Everyone was getting restless, even Teal'c. "It won't be long now."
She didn't seem to believe him; he wasn't sure he believed it himself.
"So, what does it jam?"
"Anything and everything," she said, holding it up in the light. Carter was more diligent now about lighting the place. "It seems to be a short-range device - probably intended to counteract bugs and other concealed surveillance equipment."
Jack glanced at the camera in the corner of the lab, then back down at the globe. "How short-range?"
"I'm guessing it would handle a mid-sized throne room or a Goa'uld's private quarters." She seemed surprised at the question. "Why do you ask, sir?"
"It could provide a tactical advantage, Major." He picked up the sphere. "How do you turn it on?"
She put her hand under his to brace the bottom, then twisted the top hemisphere 45 degrees counter-clockwise. "Like that."
"Are you sure it's not going to start screeching?"
She laughed. She hadn't moved her hand away, so he trapped it under his.
"Close your eyes, Major."
She shut them immediately. He stepped forward, trapping the sphere between them, and kissed her.
When he heard the stamp of SF's in the hall, he pulled away, taking the sphere with him. He could always claim it had jammed his brain.
They slammed the door open, waving guns and looking for Goa'uld. "Sorry, ma'am," one told Carter, "but your camera went out."
"Just playing with the Goa'uld toys," he told them as he put the sphere down on the table carefully. But to her he said, "Thanks," before he left the lab.
Sometimes even the best technology failed. Often human error was at the heart of a mission gone south. Then the fecal matter hit the rotary air circulation device, and the CO got called onto the carpet. This was one of those times. Instead of Carter's doorway, Jack found himself staring into the general's office.
Hammond sat in the big chair, wearing a poker face. "Colonel, have a seat," he said.
That tone meant trouble was brewing. Jack eyed the red phone, but there would be no quarter from that quarter. "Yes, sir."
"Your team's record for the last few weeks has been exemplary--"
"Thank you, sir." It was nice to be back out on missions.
"--but we seem to have a small problem."
Jack cocked his head, but remained silent.
"I have three reports here of problems with the security camera in Major Carter's lab. On all three occasions when the SF's showed up, you were present. I will not speculate on how many similar incidents have gone unnoticed."
Or unreported. "Carter has this cool Goa'uld jamming device..."
The General nodded. "The device will be shipped to Area 51, where it belongs."
"I don't think she was quite through testing it. Sir."
"One of the SF's reported finding you in a compromising position this last time, Colonel."
"Ah." He'd gotten a little carried away and hadn't recovered from the dip in time. For want of a nail...
Hammond wasn't finished. "May I ask what the hell you think you're doing?"
"It's a minor matter of team morale, sir. I assure you, I have it all under control." But the loss of the jamming device would certainly complicate matters.
"I don't want to see any more of these reports, Colonel." Hammond tapped the folder. "If Major Carter has morale issues, she can come see me. Dismissed."
Jack seriously doubted this was a problem the General could cure.
Team morale was already low when Jack met the wrong end of yet another alien booby trap. Carter managed to defuse it, saving Earth in the process. Sometimes saving Earth was just a side-effect, but it was nice of her to do it nonetheless.
Fraiser put Jack in temporary quarters to sleep off the after-effects of near death. She warned him that security would be on his tail in no time if he so much as poked a finger out into the corridor, and he believed her.
He stared at the upper bunk and worried about Carter until the exhaustion finally hit him. When he woke up again, the base had that quiet, night-time sound to it, where the rare tread in the corridors or click of a door opening seemed out of place.
In fact, they were out of place. Someone was violating Fraiser's orders in order to visit him, moving slowly so as not to trigger the motion sensor on the room lights. Just as slowly, he lifted himself up on one arm. "Carter?" he said softly.
She kneeled down beside his bunk. "Colonel."
"I haven't thanked you for saving my life," he said. Mainly because the General would kill him.
"Or the beaches," she replied, reaching out and touching his side.
"Or the fish. Thanks for all the fish."
She leaned forward until he could feel her breath on his cheek. "You're welcome," she whispered in his ear.
Then she kissed him. Having more than the usual 90 seconds until security arrived, she took her time about it. The General would kill him, Jack thought, but at least he'd die happy.
There was a knock on the door. Carter had the good sense to stand away, triggering the lights. Teal'c walked in.
"O'Neill, Major Carter," he said, "Sgt. Siler sent me. There seems to be a problem with the infrared sensor on your camera."
"Isn't it working?" Jack asked.
Carter looked at the spy in the upper corner of the room. "I suspect that's the problem."
There hadn't been a whole lot of forethought in this operation, but who was he to criticize it? Teal'c stood by with an innocently puzzled expression; Jack felt the need to explain. "Carter and I were just discussing the mission."
"Our debriefing is scheduled for tomorrow."
"This was a personal debriefing." He looked over Teal'c's shoulder straight into the security camera. "The General said he doesn't want to see any more of these reports."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Why would the General object to your debriefing Major Carter?"
"It's a Tauri thing," Jack replied.
He probably did.
In the morning, Jack got his own personal debriefing on Hammond's carpet.
The general slammed a report down on his desk. The handset of the red phone rocked at the impact. "Sgt. Siler was unable to explain what happened to the surveillance tape for your temporary quarters. In fact, he was unable to explain how he got posted to the security station last night."
Jack said nothing. Siler had friends all over the SGC.
"I do, however, have tapes from the elevator and corridors, which lead me to believe that something even more incriminating was on the missing tape."
"It was nothing, sir."
"Am I supposed to believe that?" Hammond shook his head. "Even if it were nothing, I can't have the rest of the SGC staff covering for your morale problems. There will be no more inexplicable incidents on my base, or you'll be looking for a new line of work. Have I made myself clear?"
"Perfectly, sir." Maybe the Tok'ra were hiring...
Jack came back through the stargate smiling. Finally, they'd found what they were looking for: people with advanced technology that they were willing to share. No lectures about being young, no Tollan baggage, no exterminating humanity for its own good - just nice people with nice ion cannons.
"I think we really saved the Earth this time, folks," Jack said as the welcome-home committee lowered their weapons.
They didn't wait for the debriefing; they told the General the whole story right there in the gateroom. Daniel and Carter talked over one another in their excitement, and even Teal'c said a few words in praise of the Tauri's new allies. But it was still the military and Hammond expected a real debriefing the next day at 0900. He wouldn't even join the team for dinner, at least not until the new alliance had been cemented more concretely by a diplomatic team.
Carter hurried to her lab to play with the technology they'd brought home. Daniel had a stack of alien literature to sort through. Teal'c - well, Teal'c did whatever Teal'c did during those times that Daniel and Carter were geeking and Jack was pestering them.
So Jack made the reservations and took care of some other details. At 1800 he herded the team out of the base for dinner. Daniel drove off with Teal'c, but he found Carter in the parking lot jacking up her car.
"You'll be late for dinner."
"It'll only take a minute."
"Step away from the tire, Carter," he said, in his best command voice. She moved automatically, and he stepped on the jack to release it. "Siler can fix it for you in the morning. I'll give you a ride."
He gave her a ride to dinner; he gave her a ride home afterwards. He gave her a ride to work in the morning. They walked into the debriefing together looking a little too pleased with themselves. They didn't walk out together.
"Colonel, my office."
Jack followed the General in. "Something I can do for you, sir? Now that the Earth has been thoroughly, indubitably saved?"
"Don't think I'm ungrateful for all you've done, son." The General didn't know the meaning of grateful, but Jack wasn't about to demonstrate. "This is an unrelated matter."
"I found Sgt. Siler in the parking lot this morning, reinflating a tire. It seems someone had let all the air out."
"And here I thought Colorado was such a nice, safe place," Jack said.
"I could look at the surveillance tapes, but somehow I doubt they'd tell me anything I don't already know."
"Probably not, sir." On another day, the General's paternal disappointment might have moved Jack, but not today.
"I thought I made myself clear."
"Nothing happened on base, sir."
"You were a good officer, Jack. SG-1 was a good team. What went wrong?"
"We saved the world, sir." Jack glanced out the glass toward the gateroom. "I know you think you're grateful, the Pentagon is grateful, the President is grateful, but at some point medals and thank you's lose their impact."
"I know you deserve more, but a parade isn't exactly an option here."
Jack stood up. "When the brass falls through, it's up to the men in the field to keep one another going."
Hammond shook his head, but he was smiling.