A Nice Trip to the Forest

Kate McCaye

Disclaimer: Usual spiel. Don't own em.

Rating: PG for very very mild language.

Chapter 1

"I'm giving him another ten minutes and that's it," Jack O'Neill said firmly as he plodded uncomfortably through marshy, Florida-like swampland on P6X293.

His 2IC glanced at her watch and said, "We're not due back for another four hours, sir."

"Right little ray of sunshine, aren't you, Carter?" Jack said sarcastically, slapping at his own neck as he felt another alien mosquito drill into his flesh.

She chose not to respond to that comment.

Jack clicked his radio on and said, "Teal'c, report."

"We are well, O'Neill," Teal'c's voice replied calmly over the radio. "Dr. Jackson is hopeful that he will find something important in the immediate future."

"Yeah, yeah," Jack muttered, looking at Carter thoughtfully. Four hours in this unbelievably hot humidity. The only interesting thing about the entire day was the fact that the sauna-like planet had made her hair, at least the bit sticking out from underneath her hat, go all curly. He found this amusing, for some reason, especially because she seemed so irritated by it.

"All right, tell Danny boy he's got two hours, not a minute longer," Jack barked to Teal'c, clicking his radio back off without waiting for a reply. At Carter's questioning look, he shrugged. "Compromise. This way I get home in time for 'The Simpsons.'"

"You know, sir, I'd be happy to program your Tivo for you if you..." she started to offer for the fifth time since he'd bought it.

"I can program my own Tivo, Major, thank you very much..."

"Like you hooked up your Playstation all by yourself?" she asked in a suddenly playful tone.

The heat must be getting to her, he thought. At the grumpy look on his face, she hastily added, "Sir," with the cheeky grin that let her get away with a lot more than she should. Hmm, if Carter was suddenly in a good mood, even if it was only a fake one meant to cheer him up, he was going to take full advantage of it.

Ever since the Zatarc test incident a month ago, things had been so awkward between them most of the time; they had been avoiding any non-essential interaction with each other like the plague, both to ensure that General Hammond didn't further pursue their confessions and as self-preservation. Jack had missed the varying levels of camaraderie and teasing he had grown used to with Carter over the years, and wondered if she had as well.

He suddenly paused, leaving her to continue walking two paces before she stopped as well and turned to him with a questioning look on her face. She didn't bother to verbalize an inquiry, but her eyes widened in surprise at the sudden creeped-out look on her CO's face and the fact that he was pointing at her shoulder.

"On your back, one of those big things..." he said quickly in a terrified tone of voice.

The Colonel had confessed an intense hatred for bugs ages ago, so Carter only felt slightly girly as she yelped and hastily started swiping at her shoulder and back, turning around in place trying to get a look at the offensive creature.

After a few seconds, she realized there was nothing there and turned to look at her CO, who was grinning like a little kid waiting for the ice cream cone he knows is on its way. She narrowed her eyes at him and said, "Very funny. Sir."

"Thank you," he said with obvious satisfaction, hurrying off ahead of her again. She glared at his back and began plotting her revenge.

Fortunately, nature seemed to be on her side that day, and her imagination was not required to come up with a suitable revenge for her CO's juvenile behavior. Thirty yards away from the sight of the fake bug incident, he slipped on a particularly slimy area and landed flat on his bum in the disgusting marshy goo that covered a good portion of the planet.

His look of complete surprise and disgust as he sat in the sludge, combined with the fact that his sunglasses had fallen off his face and were now dangling by their cord lopsidedly, the cord having draped itself over one of his ears in the fall, gave Major Carter the best laugh she'd had in a good long while.

She was still clutching a nearby tree to keep herself upright as she laughed hysterically when O'Neill finally barked, "Major Carter! That's enough!" and tried to get up. Still suppressing giggles, she went over to him and offered him a hand up.

He had intended to accept the hand and get to his feet, he really and truly had. But then he had got an idea and in a split second decided he couldn't live with himself if he passed up the opportunity... so instead of accepting the hand up, he gave her a good hard jerk and she joined him in the goo.

After swearing like a sailor, she fixed him with a look that would have made a lesser man pee in his pants. Unfortunately for her, he found that the sight of her sprawled in the swampy sludge next to him, her hat now hanging down her back by its strings, her curly hair wet and dripping with murky water, her eyes bright with anger directed at him, and the blob of goo strategically dotting the end of her nose all combined to completely counteract the effect of the look she was giving him.

He burst into laughter loud enough to send every strange furry alien creature within fifty miles scattering in all directions. The laughter only made her look intensify, if that was at all possible. Still chuckling, he scrambled ungracefully to his feet and hauled her to hers despite the fact that she tried to jerk her arms out of his grasp.

Once on her feet, she wrenched her arms free and stalked out onto slightly firmer ground, brushing herself off as much as she could. He followed, trying to clean himself up a bit as well, although he really didn't see the point. Hurrying after her, he said with a big grin, "You look good wet."

This time he caught the full blast of the glare and fell silent, walking quickly beside her to keep up with her brisk pace.

Ten minutes later, she gave up wringing her hair out and plopped her floppy hat back onto her head, muttering, "That's it. As soon as we get back I'm getting a haircut. This is getting ridiculous."

"Don't," Jack said quickly before he could check himself. She looked at him curiously, whether due to the fact that she was surprised at his comment or the fact that she hadn't realized she had been speaking out loud, he wasn't sure.

"Sir?" she prompted. Oh well, he figured. Might as well go for honesty; she was still pissed off about the mud incident.

"Don't cut your hair," he repeated. "It looks good like that."

She looked at him skeptically. He noticed that there were still several droplets of mud clinging to the tips and grinned. "Well, okay, maybe not right NOW, but in general it's... oh fer cryin out loud do whatever the hell you want."

Suddenly irritated with the fact that between the two of them the compliment he'd been trying to give her had gotten all messed up, he sped up his own pace, so that now she had to work to keep up with him. Serves her right for once, he thought grumpily, suddenly keenly aware of an unpleasant squishing between his toes. His socks were wet and full of mud, at the very least.

"Hang on a second, Carter," he finally requested, stopping to swap out his socks for some dry ones. She waited impatiently, determined that it was some sort of victory that she was not swapping out HER damp socks, and took off before he was done re-tying his boots.

He scrambled after her and squinted as he got closer to her. It was hard to tell among the camouflage and various stains from the fall earlier, but there was definitely something on her bum, something that did not belong there. Not that he routinely spent time looking at her ass, of course. But there was one of those big mosquito things on it now, and it would be a crying shame if she was stung in such a sensitive area...

Carter jumped about a foot in the air as what could only be her CO's hand slapped her on the ass. "Sir, what the HELL do you think you are doing?" she hissed, wheeling around to glare at him yet again, her eyes and cheeks bright with fury.

"There was a bug on you," he said defensively, holding up his hand, which was smeared with the remains of the bug, as evidence.

She looked like she was trying to restrain herself from shooting him with great difficulty. Finally, after counting to ten slowly in her head, she turned around and kept walking. Jack wiped his hand off on his pants and tried not to laugh as he imagined himself giving Hammond a report of this mission.