A/N: Here's another story that's been sitting around on my hard drive for a while. Read and review people, it makes my world go round: )
Gritting his teeth, Teal'c focused on taking deep breaths. The steady, even rhythm helped him stay focused on the task at hand, soothing him. Determinedly placing one foot in front of the other, Teal'c pushed on, all the while doing his best to ignore everything but the forward momentum needed to get him home. He had no idea how long it had been since he'd set out on his trek, but one thing was for certain: never had the journey back to the stargate felt so long.
Summing up every last shred of his determination and self-control, Teal'c pushed on. Ignoring the sounds of pursuit coming from behind him, he listened instead for the telltale rustle of leaves or snapping of a twig that would alert him of someone closing in from the front. Despite his best efforts to block out the sounds coming from behind him, Teal'c couldn't help but grimace as the voices of his pursuers drifted over him, carried on the wind. It seemed the cosmic forces at play in the universe wouldn't let Teal'c forget about the threat on his rear flank.
"For the hundredth, thousandth, however many times, the answer is no! You are not coming with me Vala! You caused more than enough trouble to last a lifetime the first and only time we made the mistake of unleashing you on Washington," Daniel raved at the woman traipsing along beside him.
"My lifetime or your lifetime, darling?" she questioned hopefully. "Because if you mean your lifetime, I'm due another trip since you technically died a few months ago," she reminded, a spark of mischief lighting her eyes.
"Again," Cameron added helpfully. "You died again, which brings the total up to nine. He owes you eight more trips Vala… Ow!" he yelped suddenly, rubbing his arm.
"You deserved it," Sam stated calmly, justifying the smack she'd just issued.
"Women," Cameron sighed heavily, rolling his eyes. "Ow!" he yelped again, this time rubbing a spot on his other arm.
"You deserved that one too," Vala assured winking before turning around again to resume her favourite past time: pestering Daniel.
He was not being overdramatic, Teal'c thought to himself vehemently. Jaffa didn't do overdramatic; he really and truly was facing a threat – to his sanity. Over the years, he'd gotten used to the eccentricities of the Tau'ri, as well as the original members of SG-1. Although he didn't always understand what possessed them to behave like children, he'd developed a number of strategies to cope with their… less than mature moments. His initial tactics had included deep states of kel'no'reem, playing up his ignorance of Earth culture or subtly encouraging that the team be divided, in the hopes of sobering up whomever he was paired with. When Cameron had joined the team, Teal'c had discovered that the younger man was likely to be kept from regressing back to childhood if he was under physical strain and power walking on missions had become an integral part of Teal'c's repertoire of coping mechanisms. Unfortunately for Teal'c, that particular strategy had ceased working as soon as Vala had joined the team. He'd quickly learned that Vala had the uncanny ability to make those around her act their shoe size rather than their age, and Teal'c had yet to find anything short of enemy fire that could reverse the effect.
For the briefest of moments, Teal'c found himself wishing for a band of Ori warriors to stumble across him and his teammates. Almost before the thought had fully formed, he had banished it, mentally chastising himself for thinking such things. He cared deeply for each one of his teammates, eccentricities and all; he never wanted to see them in dangerous situations.
Still it couldn't hurt for him to pretend he'd heard something, could it?
"You know Vala, Daniel's going to an archaeological conference in Mexico next month," Sam piped up suddenly, the innocent tone she'd adopted catching Teal'c's attention and bringing him back to his teammates' conversation. "I'm sure hot, sunny, beach covered Mexico is way more fun than boring, stuffy Washington."
Teal'c almost grinned to himself – he'd known that no good could ever come from Sam using that "who me?" tone.
"Hot and sunny?" Vala exclaimed excitedly. "Darling, you've been holding out on me! Think of all the fun we'll have on the beach! Of course, I'll need your credit card to buy bikinis…"
"No! You can't come with me! Or borrow my credit card!" Daniel spluttered in exasperation. Teal'c didn't need to turn around to know that the vein on the side of his friend's neck was throbbing in time with his rising blood pressure.
Cameron chose that moment to begin a coughing fit, the words "steal it" poorly masked by his coughs.
"Not you too?" Daniel pleaded, turning around to shoot Sam a desperate look, ignoring Cameron all together.
"Darn right me too," Sam smirked, satisfied that Vala had latched on to the Mexico idea just as she'd thought the other woman would.
"What did I ever do to you?" Daniel asked in exasperation, his best "but I'm everyone's favourite archaeologist" expression firmly in place.
"McKay," Sam replied coldly, her voice hard and eyes narrowed.
"I warned you she wasn't going to let it go," Cameron gloated, earning him an icy glare from Daniel. "Well I did," he repeated when Sam followed Daniel's lead and turned her narrowed eyes on him. When both of them continued to glare, Cam gulped and said "Okay, shutting up now."
"I thought you'd appreciate the help," Daniel remarked innocently.
Clearly, they were back on the topic of Rodney McKay. Teal'c slowed his pace a little, closing some of the distance between he and his teammates. He had absolutely no idea what had happened the last time McKay had been on Earth, but Sam had been so angry by the whole situation that she'd been reduced to terse, one syllable words for days afterwards.
"It was my project Daniel," Sam ground out through clenched teeth. "I didn't need his help briefing on the subject."
"But you know how valuable an outside opinion can be…"
"It was a conference call with the Joint Chiefs, the National Security Council, and the President!" Sam exploded, throwing her arms out in frustration. From the quiet grunt that Cameron let out, Teal'c guessed that he'd been hit yet again by a flailing limb, presumably by accident this time. "And you told him where to find me!"
"In my defense, I thought it was just going to be you, Landry and Jack on the call," Daniel said meekly, knowing he was in very deep trouble with his friend.
"He waltzed in and called me 'sexy'!" Sam snarled, continuing like she hadn't heard him. "When has he not greeted me with that word, Daniel? What would make you think he'd change now?"
"Jack thought it was funny," Daniel sulked, wisely choosing not to mention that he too had found the whole situation hilarious.
"I thought it was funny," Vala pitched in helpfully, backing Daniel up.
Cameron, who at the time had laughed so hard tears had rolled down his cheeks, made the very smart decision to remain silent. He was already going to have a rather impressive collection of bruises from this mission and he was in no hurry to add another one to the mix.
"It is quite humourous, Colonel Carter," Teal'c intoned, a slight smile playing on his lips. He could vividly picture the scene in his head, as well as his friend's reaction. This certainly explained why Sam had taken to walking around with two lemons instead of the usual one for the duration of McKay's visit.
"I hate you all," Sam glowered in response, shooting each of them the type of look she usually reserved for over-the-top bad guys, smarmy politicians and Rodney McKay.
"I didn't even say anything!" Cameron cried, dismayed that his strategy of keeping his mouth shut hadn't saved him from Sam's wrath.
"You're thinking things, I can tell," Sam retorted. Her tone was so deathly serious that Cameron started to worry she could read minds.
"You're scary, you know that?" Cameron stated a few seconds later, having dismissed the possibility that Sam had superpowers she'd managed to keep hidden all these years. "How McKay of all people has the courage to taunt you ceaselessly is one of the great mysteries of the universe."
"What am I?" Vala piped up hopefully.
"Incorrigible," Daniel and Cameron replied simultaneously.
"Muscles?" Vala called, looking for confirmation of the other men's assessments.
"Indeed, Vala Mal Doran," Teal'c replied, turning to face his teammates. "You are as incorrigible as the rest of the human members of SG-1."
A chorus of "hey!"s followed the split second of silence the people in question needed to process the implications of his statement.
"You know, a few words about my charming personality or stunning appearance wouldn't have hurt," Vala informed them, quirking an eyebrow and shooting pointed looks at each of her male teammates.
"What big eyes you have," Daniel retorted immediately.
Sam and Teal'c shared an amused look, both remembering her first command. On that trip, they had come across Toonani's people and been forced to converse with the "spirits" who took animal form. Sam had been rather reluctant to speak to the animals and had taken to making Red Riding Hood references to all the "spirits" she was forced to speak too.
"What big ears you have," Cameron jumped in, missing the humour shared by the original members of SG-1 but injecting some humour of his own into the conversation.
"What big teeth you have," Teal'c added, earning him disbelieving looks from Daniel and Cameron, a glare from Vala and howls of laughter from Sam.
Turning away, Teal'c set off for the stargate once more, his teammates easily keeping up with his new, slower pace. Over the sounds of their boots crunching on fallen leaves, Teal'c could clearly hear Daniel and Cameron explaining the story of Little Red Riding Hood to Vala. Their explanation was interspersed with suggestive remarks from Vala and fresh peals of laughter from Sam. More than once, random banter and playful teasing waylaid the conversation. Unlike earlier in the day, however, this display of immaturity amused Teal'c rather than annoying him.
Warmed by the friendship and sense of easy camaraderie emanating from the rest of his team, Teal'c turned to add his two cents to the conversation once more, his words carefully selected to get Cameron all riled up.
Maybe it wasn't just the human members of SG-1 who were incorrigible after all, he thought to himself in amusement.