Better Left Unsaid

by Domenika Marzione

"One hour before Arboreal Retreat on Account of Hostile Feline Activity. Or one hour after." A little more than an hour after, since the walk home took at least that.

John had been off negotiating a peace treaty between the marines and the Archeology unit when the gate room officer had radioed to tell him that Major Lorne's team had returned and were headed to the infirmary. Maguire had assured him that nobody was too damaged and everyone was operating on their own power, but it still seemed like a good idea to check things out. Especially since Lorne had come back from a mission with Eriksson last week sodden and muttering about leeches.

It was not schadenfreude because he actually liked Lorne -- and Eriksson seemed like a good kid, even if he rooted for USC. If Lorne had brought Appleman back bitching about the itch from leech bites, that would be schadenfreude. Because Appleman would have bitched, as opposed to Eriksson, who had stood there quietly vibrating with the urge to scratch until they'd realized he was miserable and sent him off.

But this wasn't Appleman nor was it Eriksson again (thankfully) and so John was prepared to take seriously whatever had happened on what should have been a completely uneventful mission. Maguire hadn't mentioned Wraith and John was sure that Lorne would have said if there were, so there was that, at least.

"Drop your pants, Lieutenant." Safir's came voice from behind the curtain as John entered the side room Nurse Reilly had directed him to. "I want another look."

"Am I old enough for this movie?" John asked no one in particular. Lorne's marines, looking more well-used than wounded, grinned as they stood up straight and Lorne gave him a tired, wry look. Lorne had taken Gillick off to meet the locals to see how he did with the diplomacy angle of off-world missions and John hoped that this wasn't a direct result of that turning sour. Matt Polito really wanted Gillick to get the job as envoy to Ipetia and this mission had been almost all that stood between him and approval.

"We ran into some difficulties on the way home," Lorne said and John could almost taste the understatement. "I don't think M4Y-77K is going to be a viable trade partner."

It had only been a couple of months, but John thought he knew Lorne well enough to distinguish between Lorne being reticent because he didn't want to discuss things in front of others and Lorne not wanting to talk about it all until he had to. This was the latter and John might have been worried, but Lorne's marines were in far too good a mood for Lorne's reluctance to be from anything but embarrassment. Which brought them back to why Safir had taken Gillick off behind a curtain.

"Does this tie into why Lieutenant Gillick is dropping trou?"

"The first part, yeah," Lorne replied, ignoring his marines doing their best not to break out laughing. "The last part, not really. Lieutenant Gillick performed admirably under trying conditions."

The public commendation was as much for Gillick and the marines as for John's information; John nodded to acknowledge both purposes.

"The locals are harmless, if perhaps a little difficult," Lorne went on and there was that understatement again. "They have plenty of surplus grain, but aren't interested in trading any of it. At least not to us."

"Cultural difficulties?" John asked. It was his preferred euphemism for almost every failed negotiation. "They didn't like your hair? Your guns? Your charming personalities?"

John was going to be very disappointed if his team was the only one who had ever gotten chased off of a planet because his sarcastic scientist sidekick couldn't keep his yap closed. Safir had been behaving himself according to Lorne, but it was still early.

"No clue, sir," Lorne replied with a pained sigh. "We showed up and asked them about the fields of wheat surrounding the village and they said 'what fields of wheat surrounding our village?' and it went downhill from there."

"Ah. One of those." John nodded sagely, not having any clue about what 'one of those' might be. He'd had plenty of lies told to his face, but usually about stuff that could plausibly be the case -- we're simple farmers (with no underground nuclear bunker), for instance.

"So we had our tea and went on our way," Lorne went on. "Without finding out that large pumas are indigenous to the planet and, unlike pumas on Earth, travel in packs. Packs that rove around the area between the village and the stargate."

John knew that it was funny only because nobody had been seriously injured. "Well, it's good to know that you all made it back in one piece. Or mostly one piece -- how are you doing, Lieutenant?"

Rustling from behind the curtain. "Just a bruise to the ego, sir."

"And some claw marks that will make you treasure your future children," Safir added. "Stop squirming."

John chose to hang out until he could get the unedited version from Lorne -- Elizabeth wasn't going to be too thrilled with the settlement he'd brokered with Archeology -- and so was witness to a flushed-from-embarrassment Gillick escaping the curtained exam bed while still tucking his shirt into his pants and Suarez and Reletti finally giving in to their laughter when Ortilla was ordered to take off his shirt so that Safir could look at his scratches. If Gillick had apparently come close to becoming the author of the sequel to The Escaped Tiger, then Ortilla had lucked out in the opposite fashion.

"Dude, your back looks like you took a tour on the Bang Bus," Suarez whistled in appreciation as Safir quickly cleaned and covered the shallow gouges to the back of Ortilla's shoulders. In context, it looked like he'd been jumped from behind by one of the pumas and the cat had gotten its claws in just above where the protection from the back of the vest ended. Out of context, it looked like Suarez was right.

"Too bad there wasn't an actual human female involved," Reletti said, looking over. He was holding his left hand oddly, up and partially cradled against his chest.

"What happened to you, Sergeant?" John asked, gesturing with his chin toward the hand.

"Splinters, sir," Reletti answered with a grin, turning the hand outward. His palm and fingers were coated in what John knew was antibacterial goop.

John looked over at Lorne, eyebrow raised in question.

"I'll tell you about it later, sir," Lorne replied, not quite meeting his eyes.

One of the 'list of books' jokes is The Escaped Tiger by Claude Bawls. (The others include classics like The Yellow River by I.P. Daley and many more. I always forget what great piece of Russian literature we can thank I. Kachakakov for.)

feed me on LJ?

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30 July, 2006