Title: Loose Leaf Gridiron
Author: Caitrin Torres
Fandom: Stargate SG-1


"Colonel, I think I have it!"

All of SG-1 jumped at Dr. Lee's sudden entrance into the crowded mess. Sam put down her fork and twisted around in her chair. "You fixed the power schematics?"

He nodded enthusiastically. "Better than that. If we reverse the inputs and throttle the reactor output by four percent, we should be able to get at least an hour from it each time.

"Really? That's incredible! I thought we might be able to get another twenty minutes from it, but that was all."

"Me too, absolutely, but the simulation ran for seventy minutes."

"That's great, Bill," Sam said, excited. "I'll come look it over as soon as I'm done eating."

As Dr. Lee headed for the food line with a jaunty step, the rest of SG-1 looked at Sam curiously. "Sam?" Daniel asked.

"It's that laser SG-22 brought back a few weeks ago," she said happily. "If we can get it to work consistently, something like it would be extremely useful for the X-302 program. It cuts through the trinium alloys we use much more efficiently than anything we currently use. We just haven't been able to keep it running for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a stretch without a long cooling down period. An hour or more would be wonderful."

"He reminds me of my sixth grade science teacher," Cam said contemplatively.

It took her a moment to change gears. "Who, Dr. Lee?"

"Yeah. It's not his personality - I hated that teacher - but they look a lot alike."

"Really?"

"No question about it," Cam said, clearly warming to the topic. "Short, balding, glasses, the works. The guy was absolutely awful. He was boring as anything and strict as hell. All we ever did was copy down notes verbatim as he wrote them up on the board. The only good part of that class was that he was blind as a bat and couldn't see the back few rows of the room."

"Which is where you sat, I assume," Daniel said.

"Hey, I paid attention whenever he talked about physics, and that got me into flight school. Meanwhile, I learned to play a mean game of paper football. It was a very educational year."

Teal'c interrupted. "I am unfamiliar with the game of paper football."

All heads swiveled towards Teal'c. Finally, Daniel said what Sam herself had been thinking. "I can't believe Jack had eight years and never taught you."

"It's a game that's vaguely based on regular football, Teal'c," Sam explained. "Two people take turns hitting a folded up piece of paper around on a table. The goal is to make it land in such a way that it hangs partially over opposite edge of the table."

Teal'c still looked skeptical. Cam reached across the table and grabbed Daniel's notebook, then flipped through it until he found a blank page to rip out.

"Hey!"

"Sorry, Jackson, but it's for a good cause," he said as he handed back the notebook. With a sharp fold lengthwise and a few more to compact the paper into shape, he had a serviceable paper triangle which he slowly twirled through his fingers before holding it up for inspection. "Here. This is a paper football. You flick it like this."

Cam sent it towards Sam with a snap of his thumb and index finger. She grabbed it mid-air as it flew by her and then set it down to send it skittering back. "If you want to win, though, you flick it like this. If you launch it, there's no telling where it might land."

"I see."

"I'd think that someone with your degrees would be able to calculate a simple trajectory," Cam said with a dangerous glint in his eye.

"The trajectory is easy," Sam replied primly. "It's the human error rate that's problematic."

"Care to put your money where your mouth is?"

"What?"

"Ten bucks says that your so-called 'human error rate' would be worse than mine."

She pointed to her nearly clean plate. "I promised Bill I'd get back to the lab."

"Oh, I know, but tell me, Sam," he taunted her, "are those calculations so important that they can't wait for a few minutes, or are you just afraid to lose?"

It was a tactic worthy of an eight year old, but she'd never been able to resist a challenge thrown down so blatantly. "Fine," she said firmly. "We play to forty. Touchdowns are six, extra points one, field goals three, and we play with downs."

"Downs and extra points? I figured you for a purist."

She grinned wickedly. "You don't think you can control your ball? I expected more of you, Cam."

He blinked. "I'm fine. I'm just not so sure that you'd be able to."

Sam heard Daniel try to smother a laugh next to her and elbowed him in the ribs as she pushed her chair back from the table. The table next to them was rectangular and just long enough to make the game interesting. She cleared the clutter from its top and kicked one of the chairs to the side. "Let's do this."

Cam moved to the other side of the table and rolled up his sleeves. He balanced the ball on the heel of his palm, hit his fingers on the lip of the table to send the ball into play, and the game was on.

Their first few hits were tentative in order to learn the weight and balance of the ball. Then, on his first real try at scoring, Cam sent the ball sliding off the edge. Sam very nearly scored with her attempt to return with a field goal. Sam saw his smirk, and laughed. "Now it's serious, buster."

The score was tied at twelve when Sam's next hit left the ball resting precisely at the edge of the table. Cam squatted down to look at it. "It's in."

"Hey!" He froze with his finger set to flick it back to her. "It's over!" she protested. "Daniel?"

"Oh, no, no, no. You're not bringing me into this," Daniel said. He held up his hands and backed away from them.

"Teal'c?"

"I do not believe that I should involve myself in this contest."

"Thanks, guys," Sam said sarcastically.

Cam looked around the room. He spotted a new control room tech at a table by the wall and caught his attention. "Airman!"

"Sir?"

"Come here for a minute."

"Russo, right?" he said once the tech joined them.

"Yes, sir."

"Have you ever played paper football, Russo?"

"Yes, sir."

"You remember the rules?"

"Yes, sir," Russo said warily.

"Tell me, Russo, would you say that this ball is in scoring position?"

He looked from the table back to the two of them, and Sam tried not to laugh at the panic that was barely hidden on his face. "Sir, I'm not sure that I'm- I mean, maybe it would be better if- whose shot was it, sir?"

Sam decided to put him out of his misery before Cam had a chance to wind him up any further. "Russo, it doesn't matter whose shot it was. It's either in or it's out, and you're going to make one of us happy no matter which it is."

He nodded hesitantly. "Yes, ma'am." He didn't move until she gave him an expectant look. "Sorry, ma'am." He cast about until he saw Daniel's notebook. "When I was in school, we tested with a book. May I?"

Daniel rolled his eyes and handed it over.

Russo knelt down at the edge of the table and carefully set the notebook against the side of the lip. It just nudged the corner of the ball and pushed it backwards. "It was hanging over, ma'am. It was a touchdown."

"Ha! I knew it. Thank you, Airman. We appreciate the help." She smirked as she turned back to Cam. "I believe that it's time for my extra point. Goalposts, please."

Cam grumbled as he knelt down to get his hands into position. "It was a lucky shot, Samantha, and I will get you back."

And he did. By the time the score was tied at thirty-six, they'd accumulated quite an audience. Russo weighed in on another call with confidence, and in the part of her mind that wasn't tied up in the game, Sam was proud of him. If he managed to step up to other weirdness without flinching, he'd be an asset to the program. The part of her that was keeping score, however, was decidedly less charitable. Her shot had teetered on the edge until one of the onlookers accidentally jostled the table, and he'd ruled in Cam's favor.

As Sam lined up and tapped the ball towards Cam's edge of the table once again, the audience around her stiffened and turned towards the door. Her shot went astray when she looked up to see what had caught their attention, and she quickly came to attention herself when she saw General Landry.

"Would someone care to tell me what's going on?" he asked.

No one spoke, and Teal'c came to their rescue. "I expressed an interest into the game of paper football. Colonel Carter and Colonel Mitchell are providing a demonstration."

"Of course they are. Colonel Carter, I see that you've just missed. Would you care to tell me the score?"

She blinked in surprise. "We're tied with four points to go, sir."

When neither of them moved, Landry motioned towards the table. "Well? Get on with it."

"Yes, sir," Cam replied. The end was anticlimatic. Someone handed him the ball and pointed to the place where Sam's shot had gone out of bounds. He carefully placed it and took aim. The shot fell short, and after a very few more volleys, Sam's return shot scored a perfect touchdown.

"Good game, both of you, I'm sure," Landry said laconically. "Colonel Mitchell."

"Sir?"

"The resource usage statistics from last month came in this morning. I'd like you to go over them and give me your thoughts tomorrow afternoon. Gate usage was down this month but electricity usage has gone up. I want to know why."

"Yes, sir."

"Oh, and Colonel," he said as he turned to walk away, "You can find the reports on end of Colonel Carter's desk. I dropped them off myself on my way here, but it seems that I had the wrong office."

Cam winced as he answered. "Yes, sir."

Sam grinned as she picked up her tray and carried it towards the exit. Victory was sweet.