"This was a great idea, sir."
Those words always brought a smile to Jack O'Neill's face, and this time was no different. He glanced over at Colonel Sam Carter, his old 2IC, her face raised to the sun as she walked along the waves.
"Yeah, well, Congress gets old quick. Believe me, I know."
SG-1 had been sent to Washington to testify before the appropriations committee – again – but at least it had given Jack a chance to catch up with his old team. And some new, interesting members. The hearing stretched over a weekend, and since Vala had never seen the ocean – on this planet, anyway – they had headed to the Atlantic for the day.
Down the beach a bit further, Vala was blatantly ogling a group of shirtless men as she splashed along in knee-deep water. Daniel was getting both wet and annoyed, though Sam and Jack both knew the latter was mostly for show.
Cam and Teal'c were watching the two from further up the beach, and the group eventually came to a halt near a volleyball net. "Hey, what's that for?" Vala asked in her typical excited way.
"It's a volleyball court," Cam answered.
"That's helpful, Cam," Carter called, and Jack shot her an odd look. She called him by his first name?
"There's a ball," he continued, "and two teams hit it back and forth over the net."
"That sounds like great fun! Let's do it!"
Shrugging, Cam turned to the others. "I'm game – need two more."
The general just shook his head, as did Daniel. "I suppose I can help teach, if Teal'c will go for it," Sam said.
Mitchell borrowed a volleyball from some sunbathers nearby, and they squared off – Mitchell and Vala versus Sam and Teal'c. Everyone knew that it was really one on one, since neither alien had played before, but they spent a few minutes teaching the two how to properly hit the ball and explaining the rules.
Daniel and Jack set up two beach chairs to watch – Carter was wearing the shortest shorts Jack had ever seen her in, so it was a promising view – as the two colonels gently batted the ball back and forth with Teal'c and Vala awhile, letting the aliens get used to the run of the game. Finally, Mitchell tucked the ball to his chest and walked to the net. "Okay, teaching's over. Are we ready for the real thing?"
"Yeah!" Vala, of course, was overly enthusiastic. Teal'c nodded.
"I hope you know what you're getting yourself into, Cam," Carter answered with a smile. "Rally scoring to twenty – best of three. We'll even let you receive first, if you'd like."
He coughed. "How… generous." He tossed the ball into the air and sent it sailing over the net to a waiting Carter, who easily bumped it up and toward the net.
"Okay, Teal'c, set it as close to the net as you can," she coached. Teal'c did as she asked, and Sam ran up to the net and slammed the ball toward the ground.
Jack and Daniel chuckled as Mitchell looked up at her, aghast. "Point," she said simply."
"So that's how it's gonna be, huh?" Mitchell picked up the ball and lofted it above the net to Sam.
"You said you wanted the real thing, didn't you?" From the look on Mitchell's face, she might has well have just thrown down her glove. It was on. She stepped behind the rear boundary line they'd created with a shoe and served it easily across the net. Vala hit it first, but accidentally sent it flying over the net. Mitchell cursed.
"Ahh, she's new," Sam called. "I'll even give you a free shot." She easily bumped the ball back over the net, and this time Vala put it almost straight up, as she'd been instructed, and Mitchell spiked it to a dead space across the net.
Sam reached it easily, taking to her knees to get under it. "Send it over," she instructed, and Teal'c hit the ball a little too hard, sending it past the back line. Vala went for it, but Cam stopped her. "Point," he called.
"Error," Sam answered with a smile.
"My apologies, Major Carter," Teal'c intoned.
"No worries, Teal'c. This is in the bag."
Vala nervously stepped behind the line and served underhanded, as Cam had taught her. Teal'c put it up, and Sam set it easily, letting the larger man loft it over. But Mitchell was determined, and he dove for it. Vala set it, and Mitchell came to the net with a vengeance, spiking it past Sam and into the sand. "Point!" he cried victoriously.
"Nice," Sam agreed.
The next few volleys continued in that vein, with the two aliens learning how to play bloody, down and dirty beach volleyball. The score stayed fairly even – but not really for skill. Teal'c's aim was good, but he didn't quite know his own strength, and sent balls past the back line more than once. Vala, on the other hand, was as wild a canon as ever. And Carter and Mitchell were in each other's faces at the net over and over again.
Once more, it was Teal'c's serve, and Cam easily returned it. "Set!" he called to Vala, and she nimbly put the ball up in the air as he charged for the net and knocked it over hard. Sam hit the sand face first in a desperate attempt to return his shot, and scrambled immediately to her feet as Teal'c set up her shot.
"Nice!" Daniel called.
Carter and Mitchell both ran for the net as Teal'c's set began to fall, and Cam threw his hands into the air as Carter spiked the ball. It flew between his arms and smacked Cam square in the face before dropping to the sand on his side of the net.
"Point!" Sam called with a grin.
Mitchell walked it off for a second, shaking his head. When he turned around, he pointed at her. "That's a six-pack," he grumbled loudly.
"What does that mean?" Vala asked.
"It means there's beer in contention here," Sam answered, "though opinions are split as to whether he owes it to me or I to him."
"My face hurts," he argued.
"Well, what are you blocking shots with your face for?" she asked sweetly. "But I'll buy you one anyway, you big baby."
He shot her a dirty look and scooped the ball off the sand. "You better be ready," he warned, but he was smiling.
But the next several volleys did not go well for Cam and Vala, and he was clearly getting annoyed. Teal'c wasn't the best hitter, of course, and Sam was certainly getting a workout doing most of the digging and attacking, but her teammate was agile and tall, and both seemed to be working in his favor.
"All right, that's it," Cam announced from his new place face-down in the sand after a particularly hard spike from Carter. "Now this is serious."
"It wasn't before?" Vala asked, unsure.
The colonel got to his feet and shot Carter a long, hard look before reaching down and yanking his shirt over his head, revealing a smooth, muscled chest and abdomen. Jack swore internally. He'd had that body… twenty years ago, and Mitchell flashing it in front of his 2IC – no, Mitchell's 2IC, he reminded himself – did not make him happy.
The reproach came not from General O'Neill, but from Carter, and Jack watched her with interest as she approached the net. His interest quickly turned sour as he watched Sam's eyes do a slow, intense sweep over her new teammate.
"If you are trying to distract me," she said with an evil smile, "I'm afraid you've chosen a very dangerous tack."
"Oh, have I?" he swaggered toward her. "And why's that, Carter?"
"Because two can play that game." Before either man had time to think about that too much, Carter grabbed the hem of her tank top and slipped it off. Beneath, she wore a bikini top small enough that Jack truly feared it might malfunction.
Well, feared wasn't really the word.
Sam sauntered over to where he and Daniel sat and held out the spare clothing to the general. "Sir, would you hold this for me, please?"
"Carter, if I'd known all I had to do to get you to take your shirt off was hold it, I'd have volunteered for that years ago," he quipped.
She shot him a dazzling smile and turned back to the net. Vala, of course, followed suit and pulled her top off, not realizing that it would simply further distract her own teammate but not Teal'c.
"This game just got very interesting," Jack mused, taking a drag of his beer.
Daniel's eyes were glued to Vala, but he tried to grasp coherence. "He's gonna get slaughtered."
"Yup. But that's not what I meant."
The view from Jack's chair was extraordinary, muted just a bit by the fact that it wasn't only for him. He actually started cheering for Cam and Vala, as every time Carter brought her arms together to return a pass, her chest surged a little. It was fantastic.
"You are a dirty old man," Daniel commented.
"Yes, I am. And as soon as you drag your eyes out of Vala's breasts, you can talk."
Daniel shut up.
The match was over far too soon, as Sam and Teal'c neatly cleaned house with the other two. When she came to reclaim her shirt, he was sprawled back in his chair, arms behind his head, the tank top in his lap. "Sir?" she asked.
"Help yourself," he drawled, a small smile playing at his lips. When her eyes flew up to meet his, he gave her an all-out grin. "Turns out three can play this game."
"Fair enough." Sam bent down to take her shirt, her chest mere inches from his face. Daniel just shook his head.
"So," Mitchell said, brushing the sand off his chest as he walked up, "dinner?"
"Ooh, Daniel has been telling me all about ocean food!"
"Seafood, Vala," Sam corrected gently.
"The best place is back in town – it's a ten-minute drive or so," Jack said as they started to gather their things. They headed to the cars – the rental SUV and Jack's truck. Sam started automatically to follow Jack until he ordered, "Mitchell – you're with me."
Sam blinked, trying to hide the falter in her step, and headed for the SUV while Mitchell climbed into the passenger side of the truck. "Oooh, he's in trouble," Vala sung, and Sam's heart lightened a little bit.
In the truck, the ride was silent, stiff for the first several minutes. "I feel a little like I'm being called into the principal's office, sir," Mitchell said finally.
"You are," Jack answered.
Mitchell cleared his throat. "That… didn't make me feel better, General."
"She's your 2IC, Mitchell."
"Oh," he said softly. "That."
"We were just messing around, sir, you know that, right? I mean, you don't think we…"
"No, I don't. But she's a beautiful woman, and you're gonna be spending a lot of time with her. As her CO. I just want to make sure you're clear on that."
Mitchell hazarded a glance at the general. "Sir?"
"Permission to stick my foot in my mouth freely?"
"Are you… just protecting that territory, or claiming it, General?" The general chuckled, and while he didn't say anything, it was enough of an answer for the younger man. "Good to know."
"Mitchell," the general warned.
"My lips are sealed, General. But thanks for the warning."
When Jack spoke again, his voice was lower. "Her life is in your hands out there."
"And I'll protect it with my own. Plus a little extra, now that I fully understand the consequences." The general had just put a huge responsibility on his shoulders, and the phrase 'the fear of God' seemed fitting.
"I'll hold you to that."
Jack deftly backed the truck into a parking spot at the restaurant, and the SUV pulled in beside them.
"Everything okay, sir?" Sam asked as she got out of the SUV.
"Of course, Carter." He laughed as Vala grabbed Teal'c's hand and pulled him eagerly toward the restaurant, and he headed that direction, as well.
Behind them, Mitchell watched as the general's hand came up to Sam's back, gently guiding her – keeping her. He kicked himself that he hadn't seen it before. "You know, you could've warned me," he murmured to Daniel.
The archaeologist grinned. "What would've been the fun in that?"