I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
From The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell flinched as the boom of M-14 rifles fractured the still air, distracting him momentarily from the slick darkness that loomed in front of him. The reverberation from a second volley worsened the fierce burning in his eyes, but it was the sharpness of the third and final volley that finally forced thin rivulets down his cheeks, cracking his face's grim mask.
He sat at rigid attention in the metal chair, squeezing his hands into tight fists as a bugler began to play Taps off to his right. This isn't real. Can't be.
A black casket filled his vision, reflecting his features darkly in its polished surface. Proof. Undeniable.
Cameron's vision blurred as he watched the pallbearers crisply fold the American flag into a tight triangle. The Officer in Charge halted sharply in front of him, making eye contact with Cameron as he intoned, low and deep, "On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful Nation, we offer our nation's flag for the faithful and honorable service of your loved one."
Cameron shook his head imperceptibly as he accepted the flag, a low, incredulous snort escaping him. The young officer didn't have a clue about the service of Cameron's loved one. Not a damn clue… Gripping the flag in his lap with both hands as if his life depended on it, Cameron shut his eyes, blocking out the casket, the departing honor guard, and even the friends and family that surrounded him.
But no matter how tightly he squeezed the flag, he couldn't stop a steadier stream of burning tears from snaking slowly down his cheeks. He'd known the risks and issues that came with marrying another active-duty member of the Force. And he'd never expected to rock away his golden years on his front porch with his wife, not given their assignments and personalities. He just hadn't expected things would come to this. He saw his wife's face and heard her infectious laugh, and he lifted a hand to his eyes.
He hadn't expected to walk into an ambush. He hadn't expected his wife, Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, to step in front of him. He sure as hell hadn't expected her to be hit in the chest at point blank range as she saved his ass.
And he hadn't expected to be so damn helpless. There'd been no little grey Asgard to push a button and revive her. No magic sarcophagus to lay her in and to make her whole again. The love of his adult life was gone, just like that. He hadn't even had the chance to tell her how much he loved her; she was dead before she hit the ground.
"No!" he'd yelled, sinking to his knees beside her; full of rage against God, against everyone and everything. Take him, damn it. Him. Not her. Not her, please not her….
Teal'c, his SG-1 teammate, had stepped around him to lunge at the man who'd killed Sam. Cameron barely noticed the sound of Teal'c's staff weapon discharging as Cameron repeated Sam's name, each whisper more hoarse than the next. He caressed her cheek, let his finger linger on her lips, and then rested his hand on her chest, his cold fingers warmed by the blood that had quickly seeped up through the singed layers of her clothes.
He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to hold it together. Please God, now's the time for a miracle. You know you've always brought SG-1 through the impossible. Miracle? Please? Just this one time? Please, don't do this. Sam, no….
As the footsteps and shouts of the backup team moved farther away toward the retreating enemy, Cameron opened his eyes. Sam's blank gaze hit him like a punch in the gut. No. He shook his head and groaned, unable to turn away. No, damn it! He wanted to shut her eyes, but couldn't move his hands away, her lingering warmth being the last vestiges of life that he'd ever have of his wife.
Cameron blinked hard and looked up, his movements sluggish. Teal'c had crouched down across from him. The former First Prime's long fingers lightly touched Sam's shoulder and then, with the utmost gentleness, slowly slid over Sam's eyes, her hollow gaze finally hidden as Teal'c pulled his hand away.
"She is no longer with us, Colonel Mitchell," Teal'c said, his voice nearly inaudible over the loud pounding in Cameron's ears.
"No! No, damn it. NO!"
Teal'c observed him for a moment, the Jaffa warrior's fleeting look of disbelief and grief quickly replaced by a tightly-controlled mask. "I am truly sorry."
Cameron let loose a desolate cry, straight from his gut. "NO!"
Cameron felt cool fingers stroking his forehead and tracing his cheekbone. "Huh?" he asked, turning and twisting to search for Teal'c, but his teammate had disappeared. The landscape started swirling quickly around him and Cameron felt a wave of nausea overtake him.
"Cam." The voice was more insistent this time.
His eyelids fluttered open and he found his wife next to him. Moonlight played across her face, making her look otherworldly. "Sam?"
Her eyes full of concern, Sam wiped away the dampness from his cheeks with her fingertips. "It's okay," she assured him. "Everything's okay."
"Sam? Oh God, Sam, you're…," he said, his voice trailing off. Cameron pulled her toward him, holding her tight and burying his face in the base of her neck. He felt her stroke his hair and heard her soft shush-shushing noises.
God, she felt so good.
"Nightmare?" she asked softly after a few minutes had passed.
"Of the worst kind," he said.
His head still burrowed in the base of her neck, he heard her soft laugh. "Guess I bit the bullet again?" she asked.
Cameron held her tighter in response. He still wasn't entirely convinced this was real.
As Sam stroked the back of his neck, Cameron focused on the soft in-and-out of her breath. Sam. What would he do if something happened that destroyed all this? He lifted his head up, first slowly kissing the dip of her clavicle and then catching her lips with his.
"Love you, Sam," he said, only slowly releasing her bottom lip.
She returned his kiss. "Love you, too, Cam." Her eyes searched his. "You're still not going to tell me how I die, are you?" she asked.
He shut his eyes and shook his head. He hadn't before and he wouldn't now. He'd kept mum about the details of the nightmares that had been plaguing him, but she'd already guessed she was their focus and that she'd died. Leave well enough alone, Sam.
"Cam," she chided him, smoothing the deepest crease out of his forehead. "This has been going on for too many nights. If you won't talk to me, you have to talk to someone."
Cameron shook his head. "Nope. No shrink."
Bad dreams just came with the territory.
Sam reached over to turn off the alarm clock. Mornings came just too early. She rolled over to face Cameron who was rubbing his eyes and looking very much like a sleepy five-year old. At least he'd gotten some sleep after waking her up twice during the night with more of those damn nightmares.
"Tell me again why we both have to get up early if you're being beamed to the damn conference?" Cameron grumbled.
"Because," she answered in a chiding tone. Besides, I'm the one who should be grumpy not getting any sleep, she thought.
"Because you need to get packed for your Kansas trip," she said, "and because there's a report I need to finish for Landry before this morning's briefing."
Cameron shrugged. "I've still got one more day. What time do you leave for your con?" he asked.
"Right after today's briefing," she answered. "Vala ready to go?"
Cameron stretched the length of the bed and then pulled his arms back down, crossing them over his chest. He glanced at Sam. "Tell me again why I agreed to take her? Besides that she wouldn't take no for an answer?"
"Because your life wouldn't be complete without taking Vala on a road trip," Sam answered. She imagined Vala would hit Cameron's patience threshold well before they hit the hundred-mile mark. She pulled on the sheet Cameron had pulled away.
"But it's my class reunion," he grumbled, adjusting his half of the sheet. "The way Vala's planning and talking - you'd think it was hers. And that she was my wife."
"It's her first time," Sam said, rubbing his shoulder. "Besides, she'll be a great fill-in for me."
"An interesting one, that's for sure," he said.
"Bet you won't have a free moment to even think about me."
Cameron snorted. "True. I'll be too busy babysitting Mal Doran."
Sam shook her head and tweaked one of his chest hairs.
"Ow!" Cameron groaned, pushing her hand away from his chest. "What?"
"Be nice; she's not that bad."
"That's what you say now," Cameron said, "but you didn't used to say that."
"Cameron Mitchell, you might enjoy her company more than you think," Sam said, a hint of amusement in her tone as she winked at him.
Cameron grimaced, slowly shaking his head. "Don't think so. She's not my type."
"And your type again?" Sam asked.
Cameron turned onto his side to face Sam. "Taller. Blonder." He lifted a lock of hair that had fallen into her eyes. "Smarter." His hand traveled down her temple to her chin, and he pulled her forward to kiss her. "Sexier…."
He looked deep into her eyes. "I really wish you didn't have to go to that con," he said wistfully.
"I know," Sam acknowledged quietly. "But I have to."
"I know," Cameron echoed, and then he frowned. "Now tell me again - why can't Lee do it this year instead of you?"
"He's going, too," she answered. "It's just that Landry thinks I should be the one to introduce the commercial version of the Asgard's holographic system."
"He doesn't want Lee screwing it up, huh?" Cameron asked, smirking.
"Partly." Sam shot him a wry smile. "And partly for me to do damage control for some of this year's more public incidents."
"You think those scientists really believe that line of baloney about you developing this stuff in Deep Space Telemetry?" Cameron asked.
Sam shrugged. "Remember I'm also known publicly as one of the Force's senior consultants for applied technologies."
"And that means…?" Cameron asked skeptically.
"That means I help develop and test new products…and techniques like this," Sam explained, running her finger down his chest and beyond his navel.
Cameron shivered. "And what were the customer reviews for that?" he asked, his smirk quickly replaced with an intense interest in what her hand was doing beneath the sheet.
Sam moved her hand lower in slow, lazy circles until she found his sweet spot, and she slowly began to stroke him. She grinned as his interest cycled into desire. "You get to be my first critic," she said conspiratorially.
Cameron rolled onto his back, pulling Sam with him. "I'm a hard one," he said in warning, his voice deepening to a growl.
"Good," Sam said, straddling him and bending down to nip at his ear. "The harder they are, the better I like them," she whispered, moving down his body.
Cameron groaned. "You do know how much I like it when you talk dirty…."
"Mmm-hmm," Sam mumbled, starting to do the one thing that she'd learned would drive him quickly off the deep end.
"…Mary Poppins?" Cameron finished, half-moaning, half-gasping.
"I don't think so," Sam said as she set out to prove it to him in the few minutes they had left before they had to get ready to leave for base.
Cameron couldn't believe how tightly his mother was hugging Vala. Wendy Mitchell was positively beaming at him from over Vala's shoulder. This was not a good thing.
"Mom, this is-"
"Samantha, of course!" his mother declared, looking between him and Vala.
Cameron's eyes grew wider. "Uh, no! This isn't Sam." Glaring at Vala, he motioned for Vala to sit down.
Vala shot him an "I don't think so" look before she returned his mother's tight hug. "Mrs. Mitchell," Vala said, her smile stretching as wide as the Grand Canyon.
No, Cameron thought, not that smile. No….
"Wendy, my dear. Call me Wendy," his mother said, sounding very pleased.
"Okay. Wendy it is," Vala said, pulling back to assess the older woman. "I just want you to know that I absolutely love your hair," Vala said.
Cameron squeezed his eyes shut. Oh man….
"You simply must give me the name of your stylist while we're in town…," Vala said, hesitating as she looked at her surroundings, "er…on the farm." She smiled widely at his mother again; Wendy was smoothing a hand through her shoulder length hair and smiling tentatively back at Vala.
Cameron's father approached the picnic table, coffee pot in hand, and Cameron jumped up to take it from him. As Cameron set it carefully down on the table, he observed that his mother and Vala were still exchanging knowing nods and smiles.
"Coffee?" he asked them, tipping the pot over a coffee mug.
Wendy Mitchell blinked. "Oh goodness, where're my manners? Here Cammie honey, I'll do that," she said, releasing Vala and reaching for the coffee pot while Cameron's father slid a serving knife into the apple pie.
"Cammie Honey?" Vala mouthed at Cameron as she sat down. A wide-eyed look of amusement flitted across Vala's face, and Cameron shot her a look that dared her to go there in front of his parents. Her smile turned smug, and she turned back to give his parents her full attention.
"Pie, Samantha?" his father asked, offering her a plate.
"Why, yes, thank you, Mr. Mitchell," Vala said, reaching for the plate and flashing her toothiest smile at him. Cameron pursed his lips to hold back the smartass comments that he was itching to throw her way.
"Call me Frank, honey. It's what all the young women call me," his father said, beaming as Vala bit into a large forkful of pie.
"Okay, Frank Honey," Vala said with a mouth full of pie. She turned to Cameron who was still standing near the table. Vala pointed to the pie and made an "okay" sign with her hand. "Excellent pie, Mrs. Mitchell," she said. "What do you call it?"
Cameron felt like knocking his head against the nearest tree trunk. Vala knew damn well that those were apples in that pie.
His mother took Vala's free hand into hers from across the table. "Oh, it's just my grandmother's apple pie recipe. You like it?"
"Do I ever!" Vala responded, her eyes wide. "I had no idea it could taste like this."
"Sit, son," Frank ordered, carefully ratcheting his prosthetic legs into position so he could sit down next to Wendy.
Wendy beamed at Frank as he settled beside her. "Don't they make such a cute couple?" she asked her husband, sliding a mug of coffee over to him.
Frank nodded, smiling at the pair.
Cameron stiffened, the furrow above his nose deepening. Couple?
"Mom. Dad. This is Vala, not Sam. Vala Mal Doran," he said.
Wendy looked up at Cameron, her expression unchanged.
"Vala, from work," Cameron explained.
"You work with Cammie, too?" Wendy asked. "How wonderful. You probably save lots of money commuting together."
Vala nodded vigorously. "Especially when we ride Cammie's bike," she said with a suggestive arch of her brow.
"Still got that motorbike of yours?" Frank asked.
Cameron rubbed his forehead. "Guys… I'm married to Sam."
His mother looked confused. "Isn't this Sam? Samantha Vala Mitchell?"
Vala nodded her head as vigorously as Cameron shook his.
"No, no, no, no, no!" Cameron said. "Samantha Carter," he said, waving his hand in the general direction of Colorado Springs. "Vala Mal Doran," he said, pointing at Vala.
"My, that's a long name," Wendy said, sipping on her coffee. "Must be secret identities and all that?"
Cameron's eyes widened in frustration. "Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter is my wife," he said firmly. "She's presenting at a conference this week or she would've been here. This is Vala, Sam's…," he stopped to think for a long moment, "…best friend." Yeah, now that was the ticket. "From Canada," he added, exhaling in relief.
Frank turned to face Cameron. "They starting to allow Canadians in the U.S. Air Force?" he asked, sounding puzzled.
Cameron felt like pounding his forehead against the picnic table. "It's a special exchange program," he said quickly.
"What do you do?" Wendy asked Vala.
Vala opened her mouth to respond, but Cameron cut her off. "Payroll specialist," he answered.
Vala arched a brow at him. "Yes," she said, twirling a lock of her long hair around her index finger. "I just love the feel of money in my hands."
"I bet you do," Frank Mitchell said, laughing.
Cameron dropped the copper scouring pad into the drainage rack to dry. Nearby his mother was putting away the silverware. Rinsing the soap suds from the pan in the sink, he glanced over his shoulder to check on Vala who'd been unnaturally quiet.
Vala pouted at him from her seat at the kitchen table.
Cameron raised a brow back at her. "What?" he asked.
"You never do dishes for me," Vala responded in a slightly miffed tone.
"You live on ba-," Cameron said, cutting himself off. No, can't say that. It'd lead to even more questions from his mother. He faked a throat-clearing cough. "You live off paper plates, Vala. And you have a dishwasher," he said, turning the plastic wash bucket upside down and balancing it on top of the pans in the drainage rack.
His mother closed the silverware drawer and turned to face Vala. "He won't buy you a decent set of dishes, dear?" Wendy asked.
Cameron turned to find Vala had leaned her chest fully onto the table, one hand on her chin and the other hand fiddling with his mother's ceramic kissing boy and girl salt and pepper shakers.
Vala released an exaggerated sigh and moved the girl shaker full frontal on the boy shaker. "No, he's terribly tight with his money," she answered.
Cameron snorted and opened his mouth to respond when he saw his father in the doorway.
Cameron nodded. "Yes, sir?"
"Darrell's on the phone again," his father informed him. "You can pick it up in the living room."
As Cameron strode toward the door, he saw Vala maneuvering the girl shaker into more obscene poses and he reached over to pluck the shaker from Vala's hand. "I don't know why you won't let me buy you all one of those digital handsets," Cameron grumbled as he put the ceramic girl in his father's hand.
"Talk to your mother," Frank said, setting the shaker on the edge of the table near Vala who swiftly snatched it back. "She won't listen to a word I have to say about it," he explained, following his son out of the kitchen.
Wendy Mitchell smiled at Vala. "The boys are gone," she said with a smile. "Now we can girl talk."
"Excellent idea!" Vala said, pulling out the chair beside her for Wendy to sit in.
As she accepted the seat, Wendy eyed her salt and pepper shakers. Vala had managed to balance the bent-over girl shaker's puckered lips on the boy shaker's crotch. Wendy wasn't able to keep the surprise from showing on her face.
Cameron had certainly picked some very interesting young women in his time, quite unlike his more conservative brother. This one, she thought, eyeing the young woman's striped dress with the "v" neckline that dipped well below her breast bone making her cleavage all the more noticeable now that she'd shed the jean jacket she'd had on earlier, this one had to be the most sexual creature Cameron had ever introduced to them.
"So," Wendy said, her eyes drawn back to the girl shaker who was now vibrating back and forth in the boy's crotch in response to Wendy's elbow bumping the table.
"So," Vala mimicked brightly, pushing her shoulders back and flicking her thick mane of hair over her shoulder.
Wendy's eyes locked on Vala's breasts; she was amazed that they hadn't popped out of the little dress. "Little wonder they have sex all the time," Wendy blurted out, instantly embarrassed that she'd spoken the first thought that had come to her mind. She covered her mouth. "Oh! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to say that!"
Vala rolled her eyes and slowly shook her head. "It's okay, really. It gets tiresome sometimes, but he really is a stud, I'll have you know." She eyed the shakers that had shimmied to a stop and cocked a brow at the ceramic pair. "I don't think there's position that he hasn't insisted we try."
Wendy blushed. She certainly hadn't expected all that explanation. She didn't make it a habit to pry into either of her son's sexual lives.
Vala leaned forward and touched Wendy's hand conspiratorially. "Come now, certainly you and Frank have some stories to tell," Vala said, arching a brow, "especially living on a farm."
Wendy's blush deepened and she cleared her throat. "Well, no, not really. I suppose you could call us a boring old married couple," she said.
Vala looked disappointed. "That's too bad," she said. "And there I thought the apple never fell far from the tree."
Wendy's blush deepened. Regardless of her wild romps back in the 60's, she wasn't about to tell this inquisitive young woman what made Frank hornier than a bullfrog these days. And really now, what was her son doing with not one, but two women – the alleged Samantha they'd never met and this Vala creature? She made a mental note to ask Cameron if he had two wives. Maybe he'd joined one of those polygamist religions? She surely hadn't raised him to be a bigamist. Perhaps he'd joined one of those New Age sex cults? Oh dear, that had to be it. She needed to help her son, and soon, if that were the case. But exactly how did one go about getting an Air Force colonel de-programmed? She'd have to ask Frank later.
Wendy cleared her throat. "So where did you get that dear little dress, Vala?"
Cameron pressed his head back against the hard wooden slat that formed the headrest of the ancient rocking chair he was sitting in. It was peacefully quiet now that Vala had disappeared upstairs for a quick shower before they left. He needed some quiet time to try to sort things out.
He'd been happy as the dickens to see Sam, Teal'c, and Daniel when they'd shown up at his class reunion the night before, but at the same time he hated more than he cared to admit about how his classmates had been thrust into his work and personal life in a perverse kind of way. He'd always preferred to keep things separate, just as the military dictated. And now all of them, including Amy, knew he was involved with something more than a bit crazy.
Amy. Oh man…
Cameron squinted at the fields that spread out as far as he could wave his arm. When Amy had been whisked off to the auditorium to listen to the disinformation team and to sign her non-disclosure wavier, she'd given him a look; a bit confused and a touch of…of something. He hadn't been able to talk to her at all, forced to leave the debriefing and post-incident clean-up to the other Force personnel. He and Vala had returned to his parent's house, Vala triumphant over how they'd taken Ventrell down a notch before sending the man off to mess with the Alliance's power structure, but both of them exhausted from the day and night's events.
Sleep hadn't come easy, his head spinning for hours with a jumbled mix of high school angst, of happiness at seeing Amy for the first time in years, of frustration with the bounty hunters who'd managed to track him to his reunion, and of joy at seeing Sam again. He shook his head and shut his eyes for a moment, rocking the chair harder to clear his mind of the spinning sensation.
The porch floorboards squeaked louder as Cameron picked up the pace of his rocking.
"You have two wives, Cameron?"
Cameron stomped both feet down hard onto the porch. He'd gotten so caught up in his thoughts he'd forgotten his mother was sitting out on the porch with him. "Come again, Mom?"
"You belong to some New Age sex cult, son?"
"Ma! Hell no!"
"Good," Wendy Mitchell said, looking relieved. "Oh, I forgot to tell you - I invited Amy over to see you both off. She should be here any time."
"Ma!" Cameron said, getting to his feet. Time to get Vala out of the bathroom and get this act on the road.
Cameron felt the eyes of Mrs. Jones, his and Sam's neighbor, boring holes into his naked back, but he kept his focus on steadying his measuring tape on the two-by-four in front of him. It was amazing how Mrs. Jones always seemed to find some reason to putter around in her yard whenever he was outside. He'd remarked to Sam only the week before that the woman had the most weed-free yard in the neighborhood. Sam thought her curious neighbor's interest in him was amusing.
He found it all just a bit creepy himself, especially when Mrs. Jones was in her backyard doing what he knew she was doing right now – lifting her chin up over the privet hedge and ogling him, her lips curled up into a hungry little smile that he took to mean that she wanted to jump into his pants. Cameron shook his head and pulled on the plyboard sheet he'd popped across the two sawhorses that he'd knocked together. There was only one woman he'd allow in his pants and she was off on a week-long mission with another team and wasn't due back until tomorrow.
He wiped the sweat off his brow with his rolled-up t-shirt and studied the skeleton of the shed he was building. Their motorcycles would have a damn fine home if he could just get it done. He was nearly done the hard part; throwing up the plyboard sides and roofing would be easy. It was a good thing he had one more day to work on it because he'd promised Sam for weeks that he'd finish the project. He let the measuring tape slither and snap back into its metal container. Carpenter Cam, yes I am, he thought, a smirky grin plastered over his face.
Suddenly he felt a touch on his shoulder, and he twisted around, hands reaching out to disarm whoever was behind him. Stupid sucker, I'm so not the guy to sneak up on, Cameron thought, and then he jerked to sudden stop after he realized he was facing an unarmed woman.
He squinted. Amy Vandenberg?
"Oh man! Amy! It's just you!" he said. Then he eyed the nearly see-through sundress that skimmed her curves. Amy, Amy, Amy….
He grinned and offered his hand to her in greeting.
"Just me?" Amy asked, wrinkling her nose at his hand. "Now, Cameron Mitchell, after that goodbye kiss at your parents, shouldn't you be greeting me more like this?" She reached both hands up and pulled his face forward to give him a kiss similar to the one she'd given him just before he'd left his parent's house. As she pushed herself up against him, he felt her flimsy dress cling to his sweaty chest.
"You probably shouldn't - I'm a little sweaty and all," Cameron said apologetically, looking down at his chest and then over at hers. As she pulled back a little, her dress stuck to his chest and he was rewarded with a view of her bare breasts. Holy sweet mother of Moses….
A wave of goosebumps swept up his back as he met her gaze, and all his old feelings, especially the horny lust for her that had never totally disappeared, surged back to the surface. "How'd you find me?" he asked, carefully avoiding looking any further south than her eyes.
Amy's face lit up into a smile that gripped him right there, exactly where it used to when she'd been along the sidelines when he'd played ball. He forgot everything for a moment, swimming in the familiar old feelings and remembering the furtive looks, the "accidental" touches… A lopsided grin spread over his face as her voice sliced into his pheromone-generated brain fog.
"Don't you remember?" she asked, setting the envelope she held on the plyboard. "You told me to look you up if I was ever in the area. I forgot to get your address before you left, so I called your mother. And since I was in the area visiting a friend before I head on to California…I just thought I'd stop by and see you," she explained, moving a hand from his shoulder down to his lower back. "You know it's been too long," she said, searching his eyes.
"That it has, Amy," he agreed, somewhat embarrassed. "Too long." Twenty years too long to be exact.
She laughed, touching his cheek, and then suddenly kissed him again, this time deep and hard.
Really long, he thought, not moving at all, surreal kind of long, like break for air woman kind of long. His mind swirling, he broke the kiss, stumbling back a step and bumping into the plyboard sheet. He reached out behind him on both sides to keep the board from falling off the sawhorses.
"It's so good to see you like this," Amy said, giving him an indecipherable look as she glanced down at his chest as he leaned backwards over the plyboard.
"Yeah, well…," Cameron said, experiencing a serious brain freeze as Amy's index finger slid down his collarbone to his navel.
"Still play ball?" she asked, her finger slipping down another inch below his navel.
Cameron stifled a groan. "Ah, what?"
"You haven't changed all that much since high school I'll have you know," she whispered in his ear. "Didn't get to see as much of you at the reunion as I wanted, with all the crazy stuff that went on."
He could hear her as she continued talking, but her words barely registered. He couldn't respond; his eyes were completely focused on her fingertips that were positioned to do business in that sensitive area below his navel. His body had already reacted in ways he couldn't control, a result of too many years of pent-up lust and X-rated daydreams that he'd had about her. His forehead wrinkled as he looked back up and tried to focus on her face and her words.
"I'm here, you're here," he heard her say as she moved to fill the space between his spread legs, "so why not play catch-up now that all the reunion craziness is behind us?"
"Ah, sure…," he said, a confused look on his face as the fingertips of her other hand traced a line across the top of his jeans. "Maybe over dinner tomorrow when-"
Amy snorted softly as she kissed the tip of his nose and slowly worked her way down to his mouth. "Sorry, but my flight to L.A. leaves before then," she said, probing deeper into his mouth, her one hand suddenly dropping down behind his jeans. Cameron then remembered that he'd gone commando, shuddering as his brain shut down everything but the nerve endings in that region.
"I'd prefer a quick lunch today," she said, the touch of her hand feather-light against his skin as she popped the button on his jeans.
Yes. No. I shouldn't. No. As his zipper released, Amy bit his lower lip and both her hands worked down and around to free Mr. Happy. He shut his eyes, biting back a moan. Oh yeah. Yes. Shit. No….
He leaned back farther over the plyboard that was already quivering under their combined weight, and Amy yelped in surprise as the board bent in a deep "V," causing his brain to snap out of its hormonal haze. Suddenly chilled as a shadow blocked the blazing late afternoon sun, it came to him in the next second that he was getting it on with Amy Vandenberg. In his own backyard. For real. What the…? Cripes, he was a married man now!
The following second he let loose a frustrated howl as he caught sight of what had blocked the sun, and he pushed Amy away.
"Sam!" he yelled as Sam started to turn away.
In the final second, the plyboard cracked, the sawhorses popped out to the sides, and he hit the ground with a hard jolt. Amy stumbled backwards, arms akimbo as she struggled to stay on her feet. Cameron lifted his head up to squint at Sam.
Sam didn't respond as she walked toward the back door, dressed in civvies, a bag from his favorite Italian takeout place in one hand and a bunch of flowers in the other. He wasn't sure what she was thinking, but he knew it couldn't be good. He caught sight of his erection, straining to be free against the last bit of his nearly-unzipped jeans. Crap. Even he'd have a hard time explaining this one.
He saw Amy taking in Sam's stiff stride. When had Amy learned to do all this, he wondered, and what had possessed her to do it now?
Sam threw the flowers to the ground as she neared the back door.
Lifting his hips, he adjusted his jeans and yanked hard on the zipper, catching a good amount of hair and skin in its track. "Saaaaaam?" he bellowed in pain as she slammed the back door shut behind her.
Amy finally turned around to look down at him, her mouth half-open in surprise. "Who was that?" she asked.
Cameron was breathing heavy, tears forming in his eyes from the pain in his groin and from the growing realization that things literally were falling apart around him and fast. Ignoring Amy, he pushed his erection further down in his jeans and finished zipping.
"Who is she?" Amy asked again.
He slowly stood up, cupping his sore crotch with one hand and rubbing the back of his neck with the other. Amy was looking him over much in the way Mrs. Jones had. Speaking of whom… Cameron glanced at the privet hedge. Mrs. Jones was still there, taking it all in, but her mouth no longer formed a smirky smile, but a little surprised "o" instead.
His hands dropped down into clenched fists, and he turned back to Amy, his breaths sharp and shallow. "Amy. Just go. Now," he said through clenched teeth.
"But your mother never mentioned you were married.…"
"Leave my mother out of it. I don't know and don't care what she said."
"But you didn't mention it either!"
Cameron tilted his head back, surprised. Yes, I did. Didn't I? "Please just get the hell out of here," he whispered, a sick feeling sinking to the pit of his stomach.
Amy moved close enough that Cameron could smell the sweetness of her perfume again. "But you told me to look you up," she said, searching his eyes for understanding. "Come on, Cameron, what's a little innocent remembrance of good times past between friends?"
Her words turned like a knife in his gut, and he shook his head. "I really am married, Amy," he said roughly. His thumb sought the warm metal of his wedding band and then he remembered with a grimace that he had taken it off in preparation for their last mission and had forgotten to put it back on.
Her face registered a fleeting surprise. "So?" she asked, reaching out to touch his arm. "You can't tell me a man like you doesn't have other women. You had your girlfriend, Vaylayah or whatever her name was, with you at the reunion, and she seemed like she was the understanding type, so why not the wife? And remember I used to be married, too." She massaged the twitching muscle in his taut bicep. "What's the big deal?"
"Leave me alone!" he said, twisting his arm away from her, his face now beet red. "Amy, I don't know what the hell is going on, but if you don't leave now, I'm calling the police."
She took another step toward him. "Cameron, I don't understand. You…."
He whipped his cell phone out and held it out in front of him, waving his thumb threateningly over the dial button.
Amy squinted at him, standing her ground. Cameron wondered how this could be the same girl he'd nearly given his heart to so long ago or even the same one that he'd lusted after again during the reunion. But one dance, a kiss, a couple words - what the hell did he really know about her? Amy finally turned away and slowly walked toward the front of the house, stopping several times to give him a look that he, for the life of him, couldn't read.
He took a deep breath. Now what?
"Oh, get a fucking life!" he growled at Mrs. Jones, who was still standing wide-eyed and open-mouthed on her side of the hedgerow, and he stomped off toward the house, hoping to save his own.
Cameron scanned the kitchen.
The takeout bag and its contents were strewn across the countertop where Sam had thrown them. He sniffed the air; she'd bought his favorite primavera sauce. Kicking the baguette at his feet out of the way, he strode over to her office. Empty. He found her in their bedroom, angrily stuffing her keys and wallet into the pockets of her leather jacket.
She ignored him.
"Sam. Come on, I can explain…," he said, approaching her.
Sam shot him a look that could kill. He backed up a step or two in response. Shaking her head in disgust, she picked her helmet off the bed and turned for the door.
Cameron backed out of the door ahead of her and down the hallway, his eyes on her face and her hands. She tried to go around him, but he moved with her, blocking her passage. "Talk to me, Sam!"
Her eyes told him to "fuck off," and she rammed her elbow into his shoulder, pushing past him and shaking off the grip he'd tried to get on her leather jacket.
"Damn it, Sam, don't do this!"
At the front door she turned to face him, her mouth already formed around an expletive, and then she yanked her helmet over her head, slamming the door shut as she stormed through it.
He opened it right behind her. "Sam!"
Ignoring him, Sam revved her bike hard and sped off.
As the sound of her bike's muffler faded in the distance, Cameron reentered the house. He picked the baguette up, salvaged the food that was still edible, and stuck it all in the refrigerator, making a mental note to clean the rest up later.
He walked out through the open back door and looked at the unfinished shed, wondering what had just happened. He blinked. Had anything happened? The pain in his groin said so. He saw the cracked plyboard and the toppled sawhorses. Yeah, something had.
He shook his head as he approached the mess. God, I'm such a stupid ass. Then he noticed the corner of an envelope sticking out from beneath the plyboard. He remembered Amy had it in her hand before…before all the mess happened.
Cameron pulled it out. The return address was for one of his old high school buddies that had made it big during the Internet boom, or so he'd heard at the reunion. It had Cameron's name on it, but had been marked by the post office as undeliverable. He checked out the mailing address - it was his, but from three moves ago, back before he'd gone out to California which figured then that he hadn't gotten it - he'd lost track of the guy years ago. How then had Amy gotten hold of it?
He ripped open the side of the envelope and pulled out a hot pink invitation. His classmate was having a big all-expenses-paid post-wedding bash on a cruise ship. "Bring your wife or your girlfriend…or bring them both," was scribbled at the bottom. Cameron frowned and ripped the invitation in half. Asshole.
His cell phone vibrated in his pocket and he whipped it up to his ear. "Sam?" he asked, relieved.
"No." He heard his mother's voice. "It's me, your mother."
Cameron didn't say anything for a minute.
"Hello? Cam? Cammie, honey? Hello?" He heard the mashing of buttons on his mother's end. "Can you hear me now? Hello? Cameron?"
"I'm still here," he said quietly.
"Are you okay? You don't sound so well."
"Fine, Mom," Cameron bit out. "Just fine."
"Good," his mother responded, still sounding a little unsure. "I was just calling to see how you were doing. And wanted to check to see if you got that thing from Ricky. That darling Amy brought it by. I offered to send it to you, but she said she would mail it for me, so I gave her your new address."
"Yes," he said tightly. "Amy…came by here this afternoon."
"She was out there?"
His mother was silent for a moment. "That's interesting. I'm certain she said she was going to mail it to you." She paused and laughed. "Guess she got to meet your wife before we did then?" His mother continued chuckling softly.
Cameron glowered, ready to hit the "end call" button.
"Didn't she?" his mother asked.
He took a deep breath before answering. "Yes," he answered. "Briefly."
"Good!" his mother said brightly.
"No, it's not."
"What did you say?"
Cameron rubbed his forehead. He couldn't talk to his mother right now. "Mom, I'm in the middle of something, and I've got to go."
"You're sure you're okay, Cammie? You don't sound right. I'm worried about you."
"Stop worrying. Bye, Mom."
He hit the end button and stuffed the phone back into his pocket. He'd make amends later, but right now, he just couldn't deal with her. Or this. He looked at the backyard. Best he could do this evening was to drape plastic back over the shed frame and store the lumber underneath until he could finish it.
Whenever that would be.
General Jack O'Neill gently touched Sam's hand. "Everything okay, Carter?"
Sam blinked. "Sir?"
She nodded, giving him a wan smile.
"Then why don't I believe you?" Jack asked.
Jack turned away to stare out the conference room window. "Married life not quite what you expected?" he asked softly.
Sam sucked in a breath. She couldn't lie to Jack, but she couldn't talk to him about it yet either. Too much pain. Too much hurt. Too much she simply couldn't articulate. She loved Cameron, she really did, and she'd gone into the marriage knowing he could do some pretty stupid things at times. She just hadn't expected that stupid, especially not given how Cameron had described with awe and respect his feelings about his parent's long marriage.
Jack probably would understand her situation as his own marriage had fallen apart, albeit under different circumstances. "I don't know," she finally answered, shrugging again.
Jack harrumphed and tapped his fingertips for a long while against the conference room table. "Things happen, Carter," he said, gruffly at first before his tone softened. "We get swept up in something beyond our control and we react the only way we know how, some of us worse than others."
His flying fingers came to rest for a moment and he glanced around the empty room, his eyes picking out the hidden recording equipment. He leaned forward as if to look at something on Sam's small laptop. "Take it slow, Sam. I don't know what's going on, and God knows I'm the last person to take advice from, but just take it slow," he said quietly. His hand brushed hers as he pulled slowly away. "If you need anything," he whispered. "Anything…."
Sam nodded. She knew Jack would do anything she asked of him, and it gave her some measure of comfort. She was almost ready to start sharing with him when the conference room door opened and a familiar face peered around the door.
Major Paul Davis stepped in. "General, Colonel," he said, his face relaxing as he dropped his salute. His temples were tinged with grey now and he'd grown a mustache.
"Paul," Sam said warmly, rising to meet him and taking the hand he offered. She leaned forward to give him a quick hug. "Long time, no see…."
"Or talk," Paul added, grinning.
"And that would be a good thing, yes?" Jack asked, clearing his throat.
Paul turned to Jack. "General O'Neill," he said with a nod. "That it would be." He turned his ear slightly toward the open doorway. "The Chiefs will be here shortly," he announced, "and congratulations on getting them to assemble on such quick notice," he added.
Jack shrugged. "I seem to have that effect," he said, deadpan.
Sam gave him a look.
"Oh, alright, Carter - it's you they really want to see," Jack admitted.
"Damn right, O'Neill," said a booming voice from the doorway, and the first of the Joint Chiefs entered the room.
"What'd I tell you…," Jack said with a lift of the brows as the Chiefs took their places at the table.
Cameron entered Sam's base quarters, his small backpack nearly bursting with the things he thought he'd need for the week he'd be spending in her - formerly their - quarters. After leaving him, Sam had lived on base for a week under the guise of completing a special project for Landry. Then she'd just showed up one day at the house, hit the shower, and Cameron had taken the cue to pack a bag and head to base, taking over the vacant room.
They'd switched off between the house and base quarters too many times now for him to count, sometimes for a day or two, once for almost two weeks when he'd landed in the infirmary; it depended on what was going on at the SGC as to who took the house and who holed up on base. He didn't think anyone but Landry had any idea that something was going on.
Sam walked into the small room, flinching when she realized Cameron was standing at the mirrored dresser, unloading his backpack contents into the top drawer.
Cameron looked down, not wanting to scare her off. It'd been two months since they'd been alone and in this close proximity. He nodded. "Sam."
"Cam," he heard her faint reply as she pulled her pack out of the bottom drawer and began to stuff her dirty clothes into it. He shut his eyes for a moment. She was going to make this even harder, complicated as it already was. But so be it - nothing in his life had ever been easy.
"Sam," he said, bending down next to her as she pulled from the bottom drawer. "Can you just give me five minutes?"
She ignored him.
"Please?" he asked, looking up at her as she stood up. "Please? Can't we be adults and just talk this out?"
She mutely considered him as he looked up at her, his eyes pleading with her. His forehead furrowed. Didn't she want this too?
"Five," she said, going back to stuffing her pack.
"I'm sorry," Cam said.
"So?" he echoed. "That's not discussing!"
"So?" she reiterated.
He stared at her, his mouth open.
"So…talk," she said, whipping her underclothes out of the next drawer up. "And talk fast. Honestly, what were you doing, Cam? What could you possibly have been thinking about, fucking some other woman in our backyard?"
He had no answer for her. Not one that made sense anyway. He shrugged.
Sam's eyes darkened. "Why? Why Cam? I'm not woman enough?"
God no, never that. He opened his mouth. "I'm just a guy," he blurted, wincing as soon as the words came out of his mouth.
"Aw, fuck you," Sam bit out, standing up again. She turned away from him, slinging her pack over her shoulder.
"A stupid, stupid guy," he said morosely as his wife slammed the door shut in his face.
He walked over and dropped onto the bed, pounding his fist into the mattress. Of course, damn it, she had a point. How could he? How could he forget he was married?
But he had. It wasn't the first time he'd forgotten, but this particular time, he'd done the unthinkable. It didn't lessen his commitment to Sam, but…he was a man. And there were things that were just hard to control once they were in motion.
He snorted. And that was no excuse with his wife as he'd just proven once again.
Cameron turned onto a little-used side street, gliding off the sidewalk and onto the dark asphalt at a slow jog. It'd been a while since he'd made a run this far and he surely needed it. Things were no better with Sam than before; whenever he tried to talk to her, she cut him off. And when she had no alternative but to deal with him, she was nearly as stiff and clipped as his father was on a bad day.
Dad. Sam and his father would be thick as thieves once they met. He wished again that he'd made a point of introducing Sam to his parents. He'd handed the phone to Sam only long enough for her to say "Howdy" to his parents the day after they'd gotten married and that had been that. And he hadn't even sent his mother the long-requested picture of the two of them together.
He winced. Little wonder his mother didn't believe he was married, especially if she remembered that one night when he was home on leave after the convoy incident. Stumbling home from the bar and just raising a generally drunken ruckus, he'd awakened his mother who'd fallen asleep in front of the television.
As she'd led his wobbly ass up the stairs to his bedroom, he'd boasted that he'd gotten married to some chick he'd picked up at the bar that night. Told his mother he couldn't remember her name, but he sure remembered her measurements all right, producing a bra and panties out of each pocket of his jeans. His mother had pitched a fit and his father laid the law down to him the next morning - one more stupid move and he'd be out, banned from returning to their home. Fighting a pounding hangover headache, Cameron had solemnly sworn to his father that it had been a joke and that he'd never do it again. His father had believed him and forgot about it. Cameron wasn't so sure about his mother.
He groaned. Regardless of his assurances, his mother must've thought Vala was his latest elaborate scam. She'd have been more than happy to send Amy on a mission of mercy to save him from his depraved life. He groaned again and stepped up his pace as the incline steepened.
He hadn't been straight with Amy either, not at the reunion nor at his parent's, and definitely not when she came to Colorado Springs. And he should've nipped her come-on in the bud. But then to finally have in the flesh that one woman who was all he'd ever dreamt of and had jacked off to throughout high school and college - and then to actually be doing those things - it had been too damn easy.
Cameron slowed as he neared the top of the hill, his energy flagging. It was twenty years too late; he wasn't seventeen anymore. He knew there was no fricking excuse. None. Sam wasn't buying it - no sudden mid-life crisis. No wild and crazy hormones. Nada.
They'd been living this separate-yet-together lifestyle for three months. Long enough for him to repeatedly apologize for his stupidity. Long enough for her to tell him she didn't want to hear it. He wondered when she did want to hear it - when they were old and grey?
His clamped his mouth into a firm line. No way he'd let things go for that long. He'd take action now and he'd move out. He'd already checked out one of those extended-stay motels a few miles out of town. When he got back to the house he would pack up his stuff and give them a call. Best to do it while Sam wasn't there and then just tell her she had her house back to herself.
As soon as he hit the front door he'd started peeling off his damp sweats, and it wasn't until he'd shut the bathroom door that it registered that Sam was home on the computer in her office. He shook his head and turned the water on. Didn't matter. He was still moving out.
Pulling on a clean pair of sweats after showering, he analyzed the situation. He really didn't have that much to move; mainly clothes, an unpacked box or two, and his bike which he was going to have to leave for now in the half-finished shed until he found a more permanent place to live. Lifting an armful of undershirts out of the dresser drawer, he walked over to the bed and mashed them into a plastic trash bag.
He heard the toilet flush and wasn't surprised to see Sam peering around the door jamb not long afterward. He slammed the now-empty drawer shut and turned away from her.
"Long trip?" she asked, her voice neutral.
Cameron shook his head, glancing at her. "Moving out."
Sam looked surprised.
He shrugged and opened his sock drawer, scooping half the drawer up against his chest, and then he dumped them unceremoniously into the bag.
"You don't have to move out," she said softly.
He shook his head more emphatically this time. "You've made yourself pretty damn clear, and I'm tired of trying to work things out. Tired of it, understand?" Stopping between the dresser and the bed, he turned to face her. "You don't need the stress right now. I don't either. Call it a breather. Besides, it's your house - makes sense that I'm the one doing the moving."
Sam walked to the edge of the bed and fingered the nearly-full trash bag. "Don't do something this drastic," she said even more softly than before.
Cameron looked at her. So she finally wanted to talk? "Why not?" he asked gruffly as he stuffed the last of the socks into the bag and pulled its drawstrings tightly.
Sam shrugged, turning slightly away. "I don't know. Just don't do this."
Cameron observed her profile, searching for clues as to what she meant. He opened his mouth and closed it, not trusting what might come out of it.
Sam turned to him, waiting for him to respond.
Cameron waited a moment longer before he spoke, trying to hit on the right words. "So…you…uh, so you're saying…what you're trying to tell me is…that you're willing to forgive and forget?" he finally asked.
Sam's face hardened. "No," she said sharply.
Cameron felt like she'd smacked him upside the face. He turned away and yanked his underwear drawer open and grabbed two fistfuls. Fine, then.
Cameron had to admit some surprise at seeing Jack at the SGC, although not much, given the information he'd brought to them. Leaving Landry's office, Cameron waved the General ahead and remained a respectful half-step behind him as they wound down the circular stairs, through the control room where Jack winked at Walter before heading down the final set of stairs, and then toward the elevator shaft.
"All's well with you and Carter?" Jack asked suddenly, slowing his pace so that Cameron was now ahead of him.
Cameron zeroed in on Jack's face. "Sir?"
Jack looked around the nearly empty corridor, wincing as he threw a hand up in the air. "Cut the "sir" crap, Mitchell. Everything okay between you and Carter?"
Cameron looked around the corridor, his jaw taut with tension. What was it to the General? "I'm not sure I understand what you mean, General O'Neill," he said slowly.
Jack's lips pursed and flattened into a thin, hard line. He squinted at Cameron. "Carter seems out of sorts lately. Nothing you've done to cause it, I assume."
Cameron's hands tightened into fists as the two men neared the elevator shaft. "What's it to you?" he muttered under his breath, immediately adding, "Sir."
Jack came to a stop at the elevator and punched the up button before turning back to face Cameron. "Sam's well-being is my business," he said, his voice bristling with warning. "You just watch your step and keep her from getting hurt, Colonel." Jack stepped past Cameron into the elevator.
Cameron's head snapped around and he glared at Jack. "You act like you love her, General," Cameron quietly hissed through gritted teeth, knowing full well he was pushing the boundaries of professional conduct with the older man.
"More than life itself," Jack said softly as the elevator doors shut between them.
Cameron stared at door's middle seam for several minutes and then turned to leave.
"All is well?" Teal'c asked.
Sam looked down on her teammate and friend who was bench pressing his final set. She spotted him as he slowly pressed the bar back up to the rack. "Yes. Why do you ask?" she asked as Teal'c sat up.
Teal'c slowly massaged his biceps. "I believe I have detected a change in your relationship with Colonel Mitchell."
Sam sat down on the bench across from Teal'c. "It's nothing," she said after a few moments. "Really."
"You are certain?" Teal'c asked, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the towel Sam tossed to him. "I must apologize then for misunderstanding the tension I believed I sensed."
Sam took a deep breath and shook her head. "No, you're right, Teal'c. There is some…tension."
Teal'c's brow arched. "I will talk to Colonel Mitchell immediately," he said solemnly.
Sam shook her head. "I'm handling it." She ignored the heightening of his brow. "Really," she assured him.
She stood and nodded for him to get off the weight bench. "Come on, dinner's on me."
Teal'c stood up and considered her for a long moment. "Colonel Mitchell will be joining us?"
Sam shook her head. "He's busy." She faked a smile for her friend's benefit. "Besides, when was the last time just the two of us had dinner?"
"Last week," Teal'c answered.
Sam grimaced at him and moved toward the weight room door. "Come on!" she ordered.
Teal'c bent his head down, a small smile creeping over his face. "As you wish."
Something was going on; Vala just hadn't been able to get exactly what out of either Sam or Cameron. And Vala hated to admit it, but if those two couldn't work things out, how would she ever convince her Daniel that a relationship with her would work?
Vala smiled as she stopped at the entrance of the next store. She was certain this particular store would be of immense help to her two teammates.
Sam walked on past her, swinging the bags in her hands and looking in windows. A half-block away Sam realized she'd lost Vala and she turned around.
Vala pointed up to the sign that proudly proclaimed "Our Little Secret" in fancy gold script against a deep fuchsia background.
Okay… Sam thought, frowning as she slowly made her way back to Vala.
Vala held the door open, smiling widely as she pushed Sam through it. "Oh, come now. Think of this as an adventure," Vala said brightly.
Sam looked at the richly-colored bras and panties that clung to the headless, but very well-endowed mannequins dotting the store. It reminded her of the Victoria's Secret they'd been in a few hours earlier, but a bit more - no, way more - tawdry.
Vala waved amiably at the saleswoman who approached them. "It's okay, I'll show her around," Vala said. The woman smiled and returned back to refolding a stack of lacy tank tops near the check out counter. "Nice girl," Vala whispered, "but this being your first time, I think it's better if you let me help you."
"I've been to stores like-"
"Not like this one," Vala said, picking up a pair of crotchless panties in a burgundy lace and wiggling her fingers through the crotch slit. "Have you a pair of these babies?" she asked.
Sam felt a warm flush cross her cheeks. "I don't need holey thongs to have a good time," she said brusquely.
Vala laughed, fingering the lace on the matching cut-out bra. "When was the last time you had a good time?" she asked.
"Well…," Sam started to say.
"By yourself doesn't count," Vala warned her, squinting into a nearby mirror as she held the bra up to her chest.
Sam's flush intensified. This was almost entirely too personal.
Vala turned to face her, the lacey bra still tucked under her breasts. "Do you honestly think no one has noticed your…marital distress?" she asked, her tone entirely serious as she placed the bra back on the table.
Sam thought that she and Cameron had done a damn good job of keeping work appearances professional. Vala was just too suspicious. "It's nothing," she said.
"It?" Vala asked.
Sam lifted a pair of pasties off the table and examined their dangling silken tassels closely. "Nothing. I really don't want to talk about it."
Vala reached over to grab the pasties away from her. "Obviously," Vala said, handing Sam a tube of florescent-tinted gel. "And that's what you should have been doing a long time ago."
"Lubricating?" Sam asked.
Vala rolled her eyes. "No. Talking about it."
"What's there to talk about?" Sam asked.
"You tell me."
Sam opened and shut her mouth. She'd repressed her anger about what she'd found happening in her backyard for so long now that she was unsure if she could speak rationally about it. It wasn't exactly rocket science; it was illogical and messy, like what happened when a rocket blew up after takeoff.
Vala shrugged off her half-jacket and slid on a housecoat so sheer Sam only knew it was there by the small tufts of black ostrich feathers trailing down to the tie ribbons at her breasts. Vala smirked as she slid the housecoat off and draped it over her arm. Her smile became more empathetic as she looked at Sam. "You do still love him?" she asked.
"Yes," Sam said automatically, surprising herself. For months she hadn't thought about loving him, only about the anger, the hurt, and the betrayal. She'd pushed all of the good things out of her heart: the love, the friendship, the companionship. Sam stared at the table of pleasure enhancers, not seeing them. It took a moment for her to register that Vala was gently rubbing her shoulder.
"Don't walk away from a good thing," Vala said. "They don't come along too often," she added quietly, an empathetic smile on her face.
"How would you know?" Sam asked.
Vala's smile widened. "We'll save that story for some other time, my dear," she said. "Right now we've more shopping to do. My treat this time." Vala threw a small vibrator at Sam that Sam caught easily with one hand.
Sam laughed and threw it back to Vala. "Too small," Sam said.
Vala's eyes widened in surprise, and then she burst out laughing and hugged Sam. "You'll be fine," Vala said. "Just fine."
Sam glanced down at the deep "V" neckline that seemed to stretch beyond her navel. Wiggling her shoulders self-consciously, she felt more of her breasts move free of the clingy material. She winced and tightened her grip on the two fistfuls of shopping bags she was helping carry back to Vala's base quarters. She pushed at the side seam of the dress with her thumb.
"You look fine," Vala said, casting an appraising eye over her as they left the main corridor. "You're a very beautiful woman." She eyed Sam's cleavage and arched a brow. "You really should play up your assets more often."
"Air Force regs…."
"Ppffbt," Vala interjected. "A tight t-shirt here, a little more eyeliner there, a dab more lipstick…."
Sam caught the eyes of several young grunts bugging out at her chest and her regret at changing into the new street clothes back in the city deepened. Particularly for the barely-there underclothes from the "Little Secret" shop that Vala had insisted she also put on under the new dress. "I don't know…," Sam said as they turned another corner into a larger corridor.
Cameron turned the opposite corner with Sergeant Siler, commenting that his favorite sci-fi show had been canceled when he caught sight of Vala and Sam approaching from the other direction. "There's something you don't see every day," he commented to Siler about the pair's civvies before Siler turned away, walking head-on into an open door. Ignoring the injured man, Cameron turned back to Sam.
He'd never seen Sam in a dress quite like that one, and…oh sweet mother of Jesus…was she wearing anything beneath it? He surreptitiously squinted at her body, trying to ignore the aching need he suddenly felt. Sam giggled and he looked up at her face; her eyes were twinkling in amusement at his reaction. It'd been months since she'd been like this. He forgot everything he'd been talking to Siler about, focusing on her girlish giggle. Oh man, he'd really missed that.
The two women continued to approach him, both with smug ear-to-ear grins.
"That's a nice outfit," he finally told Sam, his eyes locked on her very full and nearly uncovered breasts.
Vala nudged Sam hard and grinned more widely.
"That's very, uh…," he said, unable to complete his sentence.
"Civilian?" Sam offered.
He nodded. He barely heard what the women said after that, as focused as he was on Sam's cleavage. Only the blaring klaxon and the sound of Walter's voice over the loudspeaker warning the base that there was an "unscheduled offworld activation" brought him to his senses. He followed at a safe distance behind Vala and Sam, his hands tucked carefully behind his back, eyeing his wife's ass through her skintight dress as they hurried to the control room.
Vala watched with interest as Sam quickly downed another flute of champagne. Vala had been surprised to find Sam at her door bearing a bottle of the most expensive champagne for what Sam had called a "girl's night in." Vala had thought it quite sweet of her teammate to come cheer her up after Vala's father's disastrous visit.
She watched Sam fill the delicate flute again; it nearly was a bit too much cheer for her. She wondered if this visit really was more about Sam's off-hand comment about Cameron having his own place than anything else. Personally Vala wondered if there was another woman.
Then Vala remembered Cameron's reaction to that Amy-woman at his school reunion - goofy and love-struck. She remembered it all - the conversation they'd had shooting cans with Darrell and then Cameron's subsequent refusal to talk to her about the Amy-woman after they left his parent's farm. All were portents of bad things to come in her experience.
Vala knew well the power of suppressed longing - she'd been battling it for several years with Daniel - the only man who she'd ever desperately wanted and who equally desperately didn't want to have anything to do with her, even when she employed her most skilled advances. If the Amy-woman had shown even the slightest bit of interest in Cameron, then the gods only knew what might have happened...
Cameron Mitchell may have been one of the very few men of honor that she'd met and trusted in her lifetime, but he was still just a man. An extremely flawed man who'd been suppressing a twenty-year hard-on for a woman he couldn't have. Vala sighed as she saw Sam working on a fourth flute.
"You have eaten?" Vala asked.
Sam shook her head.
Rolling her eyes, Vala reached over to the nightstand for the only food she had stashed in her room at the moment - a large box of Recchiuti chocolates that she'd ordered on-line. She offered Sam one of the expensive chocolates. "Go ahead."
Shaking her head, Sam pushed the box away.
"No, I insist," Vala said, pushing the box back.
Sam shut her eyes and shook her head more emphatically.
"Open up," Vala ordered, reaching for a square of Honeycomb Malt.
Sam ignored her.
"Open up," Vala ordered again, more sharply than before. A surprised-looking Sam complied and Vala slipped the small square onto Sam's tongue.
"Uh-uh-uh," Vala chided as Sam started to chew the square. "This is a delicacy to be savored like...," Vala paused for a moment, "…like the beauty and strength of a finely-muscled man," she finished, popping a square of Rose Caramel into her own mouth. Vala shut her eyes. The buttery caramel combined with the sweet rose and the bittersweet chocolate was simply to die for. Oh yes, this planet had perfected its sweets in a way few others had.
"Finely-muscled men don't taste like this," Sam remarked, speaking around the lump of chocolate melting in her mouth.
Vala's eyes popped open, and Sam laughed, a mix of a high, girlish giggle and a snort at a joke well-delivered. Vala reached for her champagne flute and took a sip. "So," Vala asked, "just how do muscled men taste?"
"A little salty," Sam answered, finishing off her champagne with a grin and a giggle.
After a moment of surprise, Vala burst out laughing. "Oh really?" she asked. "What secret life are you leading, Samantha Carter?"
Sam's grin disappeared, replaced by an uncertain frown. Vala instantly regretted her question.
"No secret life," Sam said, sighing and looking down at the wedding ring she still wore. "No life actually."
Vala put the chocolate box back on the nightstand and sat down next to Sam. "Surely things can be patched up with Cameron?" she asked softly, lightly touching Sam's hand.
Sam yanked her hand away. "Who said it had anything to do with him?"
"I just thought…," Vala said, shrugging as her voice trailed off. "I don't believe anything else in this universe would bother you so much."
Sam's frown hardened as she stared at the floor.
Vala reached out again to lay her hand on Sam's. "It's okay," she assured Sam.
"No. It's not," Sam said suddenly. "It's not. Do you know what I found him doing with Amy? And with the neighbors watching? Do you?" Sam asked, her voice trembling slightly. She shook her head and shut her eyes.
Vala closed her own eyes for a moment. Okay, so Cameron had failed Sam in a much bigger way than she had first thought. "No, I have no idea. Tell me," she said quietly.
Sam shook her head.
"It's not good to hold something like that in," Vala said. "Trust me, I know."
A thousand emotions swept across Sam's face as her eyes searched the room. "Vala. Tell me again what happened at that reunion."
Vala shrugged. "Nothing interesting, that was for sure," she answered dryly.
"Seriously. Did anything happen? Between him and…."
Vala shook her head. "No," she answered. "Nothing. They looked. They talked. They danced. A single dance. Then Ventrell showed up."
Sam shot her a doubtful look.
"Scout's honor," Vala said, holding up four fingers.
"You've never been a Girl Sco-"
"Okay, a woman's honor then. Cameron never had a moment alone with the woman," Vala explained. A smile slowly spread over Vala's face as she remembered Cameron's mother. "In fact," she said smugly, "as much as I was with him, his mother thought I was his wife."
Sam squinted at her.
"No, not like that! I only talked like I was. The poor woman didn't know what to think by the time we left," Vala explained.
Vala returned Sam's doubtful look back at her. "Have you never met your in-laws?" Vala asked.
"No," Sam admitted sheepishly.
Vala bit back the lecture that she wanted to give Sam about staking and marking one's territory so all other females in heat would back off and instead just smiled at Sam. "Then you must. They're actually very sweet people, although a little repressed, if you know what I mean."
Sam looked at her.
As he reached his free hand into the darkness, Cameron shivered again. The cave was colder than any he'd been in since he'd been on SG-1. He grimaced as he pushed at the boulder pinning his shoulder to the damp ground. As he finally wrenched it away, he bit back the curses that sprung to his lips at the bolt of pain that shot through his chest.
"Sam?" he inquired into the darkness, holding his breath as he waited for an answer.
There was none.
He used his uninjured arm to push his torso up. "Sam!" he called out, sucking in a shallow breath at the pain deep in his chest. Probably bruised a rib or two, if not worse, he guessed. He tried pushing up on his knees and howled at the pain, falling back to the dirt. He rested his forehead against his forearm. Damn it, Sam, where are you?
Teach you right, Mitchell, for insisting they not wait for back up. He should've learned his lesson about caves on the mission to that planet where the sleeping bug had nearly killed them all. He dug his feet into the ground and pushed, scraping his torso along by a few inches.
When he waved his arm again, he made contact with the edge of something drier than the wet sludge that was oozing through the front of his shirt. He forced his body forward a few more inches, and hit what he guessed was Sam's thigh. He heard her half-moaning, half-sighing response to the jolt.
Relief washed through him as he echoed her sigh. She was alive and breathing. That was a good thing. A very good thing.
"Sam. Talk to me, Sam," Cameron ordered, grunting at the effort it took to talk.
No answer again.
He wasn't sure how he would get them out, his mobility limited and her knocked out. And Jackson wouldn't come looking for them anytime soon, not as engrossed as the boy'd been in the sanctuary ruins closer to the gate. He'd originally planned to prove to Jackson that the caves wound back to the sanctuary and held the answer to their quest for the Ancient's Ori weapon. At least he had before the cave-in.
Sam had been kneeling down next to her pack after they'd found odd statuettes tucked into manmade alcoves, looking for the camera Daniel had insisted she carry. He'd reached out to touch the smooth surface of the closest statuette when the ceiling had suddenly started to disintegrate above their heads.
He huffed a huge sigh. What he wouldn't give for some light. His flashlight was long gone in the rubble and he wasn't able to reach around to get the flares out of his backpack. He pushed closer to Sam, angry it took so long to move so little distance. When his injured shoulder finally bumped against hers, he howled in pain. Yep. This is most definitely not a dream.
He ran his uninjured hand over Sam, his frown tightening. She was twisted into a position he didn't much like and for which he fully blamed himself, having tackled her out of the path of the largest boulders that had rained down on them. He held his hand over her nose and mouth; shallow, but breathing. Thank you, Lord. His hand stopped as he felt a warm wetness on her scalp and he felt her jerk her head away from him.
Damn it. Open head wound.
His gut tightened as flashes of the nightmares that still intermittently plagued him flooded into his consciousness. No. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Marital problems or not, he'd been raised to believe in the 'til death did them part stuff of marriage and there was no way in hell that he was going to loose her this way. No way.
"Come on, Sam. Talk to me, baby. Yell at me. Punch me. Tell me how bad I fucked up this time. Come on." He swore some more under his breath and promised her he'd try his damnedest to fix things, if she'd only just wake up.
Still no response.
Cameron laid his head down against his arm. God, he needed some strength right about now. He was running on empty….
He jerked awake with a start. He'd intended to rest his eyes only for a minute or two, but damn, just how long had he been out? Cameron only remembered the damage to his wrist watch as he flipped the top off it. He wiggled his shoulder, testing the arm that had been trapped earlier. Its range of motion was only slightly better and it was still painful as hell.
But it would be enough.
With great effort he slid his pack off and slowly riffled through it. Most of the pack's contents were destroyed, having protected his back from the falling rocks, and both his and Sam's radios were useless, but he was able to light one of the flares. Holding it out, he looked over the masses of rocks that had blocked both the entrance and exit. Maybe if he got to the top of the closest rock pile he could dig back out the direction they'd come in. He was pretty sure he remembered the way.
Setting the flare a safe distance away from Sam, he then slowly and painfully shoved a man-sized path up and over the bottom boulders. He supposed it probably had been a little too easy to walk into a cave like this without being tested in some way. Look at the sword in the stone back in that first cave, Cameron thought as he tested his weight against a larger boulder. And those other tests in Merlin's cave. There always had to be tests, he thought, grunting loudly as he rocked the boulder out of the way. Always.
He just hadn't pegged Merlin as the type of guy to leave the goods in a cave out in the middle of nowhere to be protected by a bunch of Neanderthals who'd literally rigged their cave for a cave-in. Hidden, yes. Neanderthals, no. Cameron grimaced and spent several minutes rocking another large boulder until it slowly rolled to the side. Well, okay, so maybe Merlin might; it kept the riff-raff away. With the two largest boulders out of the way, he inched up to the top of the unstable pile, more easily able now to move the smaller rocks of the way.
He stopped; a wisp of cooler air tickled his cheek. He held his hand out, trying to judge where it was coming from. Hot damn. His fingers chafed as he grappled with several watermelon-sized rocks, and, as he slowly moved them to the side, he caught sight of a small opening in the rocks ahead of him.
After throwing a handful of smaller stones up through the gap, he heard them bounce faintly down the other side.
Cameron barely heard the voice. Daniel?
"Hey, Jackson, that you?" Cameron yelled into the gap. "Teal'c there, too?"
"Yeah," Daniel called back, louder than before.
"I am present," Teal'c answered at the same time. "You are unhurt?" he asked.
"I'm okay," Cameron responded. "But Sam's hurt bad."
Sam moaned from the cave floor at the sound of her name. Cameron was happy to hear it; she'd been quiet for too long.
"It's okay, Sam. I got you into this, I will get you out of it," Cameron promised her from the top of the rock pile.
"How bad?" Daniel asked. Cameron could hear rocks falling on the other side and hoped it was Teal'c at work and not another cave-in.
"Unconscious," Cameron answered, pushing rocks off to the side more slowly as his adrenaline level started to waver. "Don't know for sure, but it looks like a head injury," he added.
He heard more scrabbling on the other side, and a sudden shift at the top of the rockpile revealed Teal'c's golden forehead tattoo. "She is responsive?" Teal'c asked.
"Moans every so often," Cameron explained, pulling more rocks away from the opening. "But not much else."
Cameron started to push on a larger boulder that was between him and Teal'c, but Teal'c reached through the gap to grab Cameron's wrist. "That would not be wise," Teal'c informed him, his hand the only thing visible in the strong light Teal'c flashed through the opening. "It would appear to be bearing the weight of the ceiling at this time. I believe it is better to concentrate on widening the opening only far enough to pass a body through."
Cameron shivered; the idea of passing Sam's limp body through a small hole reminded him too much of his nightmares of Sam's death. This wasn't how either one of them ever wanted to go out. "Sounds good to me," he said, pushing the thought to the back of his mind. "Just tell me where you want me to pull from."
After several minutes of effort, Sam managed to open her eyelids long enough to make a quick assessment of her surroundings. Dim lighting. Muted beeps. Blinking monitors. Antiseptic odor. Infirmary. Early morning.
She closed her eyes and felt along the mattress edge for the bed control. As the bed back slowly lifted, the pounding in the back of her head intensified, and she grimaced, stopping at a forty-five degree incline.
Muffled snores rose from the side of her bed, and she turned her head, opening one eye a fraction.
Cameron. He had leaned onto her bed, his head nestled down inside his crossed arms. She wondered how long he had been there. Pressing the control button again, she raised the bed up to seventy percent and adjusted her position with some difficulty.
Entering the room with x-ray films in both hands, Dr. Carolyn Lam smiled at Sam. "Glad to see you're awake, Colonel," Lam greeted her. "How're you feeling this morning?"
"Sore," Sam said. She gingerly touched the back of her head, where a bandage still pulled on her hair. "Headache."
Lam nodded and lifted the films up to the light box. "I want to run one more test later. If it checks out, you're free to go - with supervision."
Sam sighed. Supervision; yeah, right. She couldn't go to her brother's. Both of her parents were dead. Cassandra was off at college. She could stay on base, but she really needed rest and she wouldn't get it if she stayed; the temptation to work would be too great. And she was estranged from the one person who could care for her, she thought with a look at the dark, spiky hair on the back of her husband's head.
Lam flipped through Sam's chart as she stood at a workstation near her bed. "Hungry?"
"Maybe a little," Sam answered, uncertainly rubbing her stomach, her elbow accidentally nudging Cameron's head.
Cameron snuffled and ran a hand over his face as he pushed up off the bed. Standing and rubbing his lower back, he squinted at Lam in the low light. "Did someone mention breakfast?" he asked.
Lam smiled. "I'll make it two, then."
"Appreciate that," Cameron said, exaggerating a stretch as Lam walked away. He yawned.
"Morning," he greeted Sam with a sleepy smile as he sat down on the bed next to her. It was the same innocent morning smile that had led to many a lovemaking session.
"Morning," she echoed, searching his face for a clue of what to do.
They were quiet for several long moments.
"You had me worried," Cameron said suddenly.
"I did?" she asked.
"Yep," he answered, covering the hand she'd rested in her lap with his. He gently rubbed the top of her hand with his thumb. "Real worried."
"It was that bad?"
"Looked that way at first."
"And then?" Sam asked.
"We got you out of there and back here."
Sam shivered as a sharp blast of wind buffeted her toward her front door; she was moving as fast as her sore muscles could carry her. "When'd it get cold?" she asked as she waited for Cameron to unlock the door.
Cameron nudged the door open with his shoulder and moved her bag in, holding the door open with his feet. "I know," he snorted. "Seems like we've been off-planet more than on this past year. Barely had time to finish putting the weather sealant on the bike shed before this cold snap."
Sam shivered again and held her crossed arms even tighter to her chest. He'd been gone for a while; when had he snuck back over to finish the shed? Why hadn't she even noticed? She shivered again. The house was cold. It'd be a cold winter, she'd bet. She stood slouched in the entryway as Cameron moved around the house: shutting doors, turning the thermostat up, carrying her bag back to the bedroom….
They'd eaten on the way home so she could take her meds again and she could feel the heaviness of sleep coming over her all at once. She shut her eyes for a moment.
Cameron had stopped and was looking hard at her. She quivered side-to-side a bit and raised a brow at him.
"Bed," he ordered, approaching her and taking her hand to lead her back the hallway. "You need to sleep this off."
"Whatever you say," she said, not particularly caring where she rested so long as it involved blankets, warmth, and sleep.
"Rise and shine."
Sam squinted into the bright daylight streaming into her bedroom. "Do I have to?" she asked, groaning as she stretched her still-sore limbs. She shut her eyes and moved her forearm over her eyes to block out the bright light.
"I'd be mightily disappointed if you didn't."
She smelled something warm and yeasty and opened her eyes. Cameron was holding a croissant to her nose.
"Breakfast is served," he said, sweeping his arm over a tray full of food. She had to give him credit; he knew how to cook a hearty breakfast.
"And in bed, no less," she added, impressed.
With the morning sun heating the room, it was considerably warmer than it had been the evening before and she pushed the blanket away as she sat up. Cameron was busy spreading some of what she knew was his mother's raspberry preserves on the croissant.
"Think you can handle this alone?" he asked, offering her the croissant.
Sam mock-pouted. "You're not going to feed me?" she teased.
She swore he looked positively shy as he broke her gaze. Then he shrugged and mock-sniffed under his arm. "You weren't the only one who slept things off. I need a shower. If you're okay with it," he said.
Sam waved her hand. "Go ahead."
While he was gone, she slowly savored the meal he'd prepared, thankful he'd made no big deal about Lam's assumption that he'd be the one to take her home. Finishing off the orange juice, Sam eyed the strawberries. They looked good. As she bit into the biggest one, Cameron came back into the room, towel wrapped loosely around his mid-section. Sam stopped, her teeth sunk halfway into the berry, and watched him rummage through the pack he had left on the dresser.
Prickles of goosebumps rose on her skin; it'd been months since she'd seen Cameron naked, and she'd forgotten how much she missed his body. She watched the muscles in his back ripple as he pulled a t-shirt and underwear out of his pack and she scanned the rest of his body, looking for the familiar moles and scars. She didn't even notice when he stopped moving.
"Sam?" Cameron's voice was low, nearly inaudible.
Sam looked at the back of his head, and then realized he'd caught her staring at him in the dresser mirror. She finished biting into the strawberry and, clearing her throat, made a show of chewing it.
Cameron walked over to the bed, holding his t-shirt and underwear in each hand. "You okay?" he asked.
Sam nodded, showing an intense interest in her strawberry, but watching him in her peripheral vision. He'd lost weight since the last time she'd seen him unclothed and his abs that he'd worked hard to tighten over the past year were even more defined because of it.
He returned her nod, and let the towel drop to the floor, reaching up over his head to pull on his t-shirt. Immediately Sam's eyes were drawn to the dark line of hair on his chest, down past his navel, down to where the pale pink of his penis emerged from a tangled thatch of darker, curlier hair. Even flaccid she thought he was still as impressive as ever.
She felt that old familiar twinge of vaginal muscles contracting. Oh damn.
Underwear in hand, he moved back a bit toward the window, his body becoming a dark silhouette against the bright light. She blinked, no longer able to make out anything beyond his contour.
"Sam?" This time his voice was even softer and deeper than before.
She squinted at him, lifting the hand holding the berry to shield her eyes.
He moved toward her, blocking the sunlight, and she dropped her hand to the sheet. He moved the breakfast tray onto the floor, lifting the berry away from where it had stained the sheet. Sitting down next to her, he lifted it back to her mouth, offering it to her.
Sam bit into it, her eyes not moving from his. His irises were like pinpoints in the bright light, making the blue of his eyes startling at such close range. She couldn't move her gaze away.
He dropped the half-eaten berry onto the tray and she could hear it clank as it hit the dishes and rolled onto the floor. Part of her wanted to laugh at the image he presented; tight t-shirt covering the torso she'd only glimpsed at the past few months while his naked trunk, still red and pink from the hot shower he'd taken, glowed in the sunlight, in full view for all to see.
The other part of her wanted to eat him up.
He broke her gaze only once, to quickly look over her body. She knew he was as unsure as she was about what to do next. Was everything finally water under the bridge?
He finally broke the gaze and stood up, giving his head a single shake.
She grabbed his hand and pulled him back toward her. It had been long enough.
"Sam?" he asked, surprised.
"Come here, Cam," she whispered. She'd never forget what had happened, but she would forgive. That much she could do.
He fell to his knees beside her, his arms circling her waist. "God, I love you. You just don't know how much," he said, looking up at her.
Sam saw the glistening of tears in his eyes in the bright light and she tousled his hair and smiled.
Vala eyed the tray that Teal'c slid onto the table; he'd left no portion of it not filled with some foodstuff from the SGC's Thanksgiving Day buffet. She eyed the crispy brown thing that jutted up in the middle of the heap of food - surely he wasn't going to eat the entire bird himself?
She daintily sliced another small square of white meat off the thin sliver she'd selected for herself. "Enough, you think?" she asked.
Teal'c's smile was smug. "We shall see," he answered.
Vala looked around the nearly empty mess hall. Apparently this annual celebration was reason enough to not be on base if you could possibly avoid it. "Is it always like this?" she wondered aloud as she sipped on the sparkling cider she'd been offered; she planned a toast with Teal'c later with the harder stuff that she'd hidden in her quarters.
His mouth overflowing with breadcrumb stuffing, Teal'c raised a brow.
"I've never seen the base this empty. This celebration - it's comparable to an Ori purging."
"Indeed. And it shall be repeated twice again in several weeks." Teal'c chewed thoughtfully on a large buttered roll. "Did you not partake of Thanksgiving in prior years?"
Vala shook her head. "I believe I was inhabiting someone else's body this time last year."
Daintily wiping her mouth with her napkin, Vala looked at the empty seats next to them. "I wonder how the Mitchells are reacting to Sam."
His mouth full, Teal'c raised a brow again.
Vala smiled mischievously. "For a time Cameron's parents believed I was Mrs. Mitchell."
Teal'c grunted in response, continuing to nosh on the edible mountain before him.
"I know, Muscles," Vala said, smiling. "I'm a tough act to follow."
Teal'c lifted a glass of cranberry juice from the edge of his tray. "Did you not inform them of their misassumption?" he asked.
Vala shook her head. "Didn't need to - Cameron disowned me every opportunity he had."
Teal'c nodded before biting into his dinner roll. "Most interesting."
"Very," Vala agreed as she slowly stirred her fork through the dollop of mashed potatoes the cook had insisted that she try. "It will be even more interesting to find out if they're sleeping together in that little bed of his."
Teal'c stopped chewing, looking genuinely surprised. "I do not understand."
"His mother insisted we sleep together," Vala explained, "however he insisted on sleeping on the floor the entire time we were there."
"The bed parameters were inadequate?" Teal'c asked.
Vala shook her head. "It would've been a tight fit, but doable. He just didn't want to be near me."
"So you theorize that he does not wish to share his bed with Samantha Carter?" Teal'c asked.
"More like the reverse," Vala observed, popping bite-sized pieces of her dinner roll into her mouth.
Teal'c folded his hands and carefully scanned the vicinity. "I believed their…period of marital dissension to have ended," he said quietly.
Vala shrugged. "I thought so, too."
"You do not seem entirely convinced."
Vala nodded. "Excellent observation, Muscles," she said, flashing him a teasing grin.
"What gives you cause to doubt their reconciliation?" Teal'c asked.
Vala massaged her bottom lip between her thumb and index finger. "I haven't been able put my finger on it yet."
"Do you believe they require an intervention?" he asked, taking biting into a large chunk of turkey.
Vala shook her head. "No. They are having sex. That I'm certain of."
Teal'c choked on his turkey chunk.
Vala looked innocently up at the ceiling. "I happened to see certain things in the shower room a few weeks ago. Apparently the two thought they were alone."
Vala thought Teal'c looked surprised.
She studied his face. "All the years you've lived here on base and you've never caught anyone in a…compromising position?" she asked.
Teal'c shook his head. "No, I regret to report that I have not."
"I regret your loss, too," Vala said. She stared at her plate as she contemplated what she had observed. "Unfortunately, while it was quite interesting for technique value, it was a little too quick for my tastes." And their liaison was interesting for still something else, that something she couldn't put her finger on. She replayed the scene in her head several times, but still came up with nothing.
She blinked and turned back to Teal'c who'd taken the opportunity of no conversation being required of him to finish eating the remainder of his food. He looked very content now. She smiled.
"Enough of them," she said, pushing her tray away and lifting her sliver of pumpkin pie to her mouth. "What about us?"
"Still planning to come share a bit of holiday spirit with me later?" she asked.
"Sharing the evening with you shall be the highlight of my week," Teal'c told her.
Vala batted her eyelashes at him. "Teal'c, you sweet talker, you." She looked at the clock on the wall. "But you must give me few hours to get ready," she said. She had some serious pre-Black Friday shopping to do on the Internet.
"As you wish," he acquiesced.
Vala smiled. Yes, it would be a most delightful evening.
Knock, knock, knock.
Cameron stiffened. It was Sunday night and they'd barely been home for an hour after getting back from Thanksgiving with his folks. Seriously, who'd be out and knocking on their back door at that hour?
The knocking continued, slowly turning into an insistent rapping.
"I swannee," he hissed under his breath, pulling back and separating from his wife.
"Swannee?" Sam asked, her fingers trailing over his bare chest.
"Yeah," Cameron said, leaning into her to give her a deep kiss and reaching behind her for the large, full-length apron Teal'c had given them as a housewarming-after-the-fact gift. "It's a Southern thing," he explained, putting the frilly, ruffled pink apron on and grabbing a whisk from the nearby crock full of utensils. Behind him, he heard Sam slide off the countertop where they'd been making out since they'd hit the front door and his cheeks reddened as he heard her wolf whistle softly from her vantage point behind the refrigerator. He yanked at the bottom of the apron that just barely hung below his balls.
He opened the door with one hand and waved the whisk out in front of him with the other. The insistent rapper was none other than their nosey neighbor, Mrs. Jones. She had lifted her hand back up to knock on the door again, but instead hit his waving whisk.
She yanked her hand back as Cameron intentionally rapped her hand a few more times with the whisk. A look of surprise slowly crossed her face as she took in the frilly apron stretched tightly across his chest and the bulge of Mr. Happy, who Cameron was pleased to see was still quite happy. Cameron arched a brow at his neighbor. "Mrs. Jones," he said smarmily, "whatever brings you over to our humble abode at this damn late hour?"
Balancing the whisk between his fingertips, he smirked as Mrs. Jones quickly hopped backwards as he moved out the door into her personal space.
She blinked several times and shook her head in a nervous twitch. "I, uh…."
Cameron leaned an elbow onto the door jamb and posed suggestively for her as he put on his best shit-eating grin. "You…?" he asked, imitating her tone. He ran his whisked hand up through his hair and nodded at the doorway behind him. "I am a bit…busy," he said.
Mrs. Jones stared at his hairy armpit and her eyes slowly traveled over to the shock of chest hair that curled above the apron's ruffled trim. Her mouth was open, but she still was unable to talk. Cameron wasn't sure whether to kill Teal'c or to thank the big man next time he saw him. He tried his best smoldering look on her and nearly burst out laughing when the woman's eyes immediately dropped to the ground.
After a moment, however, her eyes started moving up from his bare feet and over his hairy legs, coming to rest on his now-drooping bulge. "Busy?" she finally squeaked.
"Yep, but I could get busier, if you know what I mean," he drawled slowly, winking at her. "You're welcome to join us."
She took another two quick steps back, her hand at her mouth and her eyes wide. Reaching in her overjacket pocket, she quickly withdrew two small envelopes and threw them at Cameron.
"Mrs. Jones!" Cameron chided her, bending at the waist to pick up the envelopes.
As he straightened up he found she'd already backed ten more feet into the yard, and he had to bite back a loud guffaw. He knew she'd caught sight of his lily-white bottom and probably more than a passing glimpse of Mr. Happy. Cameron lifted his chest so the apron lifted up just enough for Mrs. Jones to fully see Mr. Happy without him flashing the rest of the neighborhood. "You won't reconsider?" he asked, thrusting his hips at her.
Mrs. Jones turned and fled into her yard.
Chuckling, Cameron shut and locked the door, walking back to Sam who had come out of hiding. After throwing the envelopes on the countertop, he lifted the bottom of his apron with the whisk. "Huh," he said. "Would you look at that?"
"Oh," Sam said, sounding crestfallen. "Mr. Happy looks a little sad."
Cameron tapped Mr. Happy with the whisk. "Nobody wants to play with him now."
"Well," he said, with a low chuckle, "Mrs. Jones certainly didn't want to."
Sam smiled at him, and she started tracing the top edge of the apron ruffle with her index finger. "Well, I'm not Mrs. Jones."
"And it's a damned good thing you aren't!" he said, reaching for his wife as he let the whisk fall to the floor.
"Cameron," Sam said, slowly pronouncing his name in a gently chiding tone, "you've been running nearly all day every day we've been here. You need to take a break."
Cameron smirked. His wife didn't have much room to talk - she'd been using the Asgard computer core nearly non-stop the past week that they'd been stuck on the Odyssey, hellbent on finding a way to get them off the ship. But this evening he was totally enjoying the payoff for all the time they'd spent apart. Totally.
She'd started off with a gentle rub down of both of his feet, and now was beginning the firmer, deep massage. A contented smile filled his face.
Sam tweaked his big toe. "You trying to get ready for the Boston Marathon?"
"Actually," he said in a deadpan tone, "I was thinking about doing the Iron Man triathalon this year when we get back."
Sam shook her head and pushed hard on his instep.
Cameron groaned in response. "Don't know where you learned to do that, Sam Carter, but I…," he said, stopping to moan softly as Sam hit one of his sorest spots. She continued to knead and stroke the bottom of his foot. It hurt like hell, but he'd take this kind of painful pleasure any day, especially if Sam was the one delivering it.
"You…?" Sam asked, interrupting his mindless wandering through the sensations that flowed up through his feet and into the rest of his body.
"I…," he said, barely able to think. "I something. Don't remember. Don't matter."
Hitting a rectangular button on the corridor wall with the back of his hand as he and Sam passed Landry's newly-designated "greenhouse" at a dead run, Cameron grabbed Sam from behind and pushed her into the now-open doorway. As the door shut behind them, he spun Sam around by the hips and up against the wall, breathlessly kissing her and pressing his full weight against her.
Equally as sweaty and breathless as he was from their run around the ship, Sam's eyes darted around the room, a look of recognition forming in her eyes as she identified the foyer to Landry's greenhouse. She pushed Cameron's shoulders back away from hers, interrupting him as he locked onto her ear lobe. "Landry.…"
"Is napping back in his quarters two corridors away," Cameron said, straining against Sam's straightened arms, trying desperately to reach his lips to her skin.
"How do you know?" she asked, locking her elbows to keep him from gaining ground.
Cameron rolled his eyes. "Only because I spent the entire week helping him move all the stuff he needs in here and setting up the damn room. It's sixteen hundred hours - he's napping. Believe me." Unable to get his mouth near his goal, he ground his hips into Sam's, grinning at the wide-eyed look the action elicited from his wife.
"Come on…," he drawled out. "Doesn't Mrs. Mitchell want a little?" he asked, leering at her. "All work and no lay makes for a boring astrophysicist."
"No lay?" Sam repeated, laughing. "Don't you mean play?"
Cameron felt Sam's arms relax somewhat. "No, I meant lay," he said, his eyes boring into hers.
"You're sure he's not going to come in?" she asked.
Cameron pressed a leg up between Sam's thighs as much as she would allow him. "Yep."
Sam's arms bent a bit more, and Cameron was able to get his face back within range. He nipped at her ear lobe again, moving up her ear and tasting her hair as he ran his hands up under her t-shirt to push at her sports bra.
Sam looked at the door again, her face more worried than lustful. Cameron rolled his eyes and sighed loudly, reaching out with one hand to punch a code into the keypad next to Sam's shoulder while his other hand held her in place by her bra.
Sam arched a brow at him.
"Lockout code," he explained. "I programmed it in case we needed to quarantine this room."
Her eyebrow lifted higher as Cameron shed his t-shirt.
"Yes, Sam…I promised to tell him what the code was…soon. In case he might need the room for, you know, other…things," Cameron said.
Sam tilted her head slightly to the side.
"What? You don't think Landry's got needs?" he asked, mock-serious, while pushing her sweat-dampened t-shirt over her head.
Sam shut her eyes tightly. "Thanks for the visual," she said.
"My pleasure," Cameron said, finally removing the dastardly sports bra from her glistening chest. He shot it like a rubber band through the foyer and into the greenhouse beyond.
Sam snickered softly. "No, it's mine," she said, pulling on the front of Cameron's sweatpants. "C'mere, Mr. Mitchell," she ordered.
"Yes, Ma'am, Mrs. Mitchell," he responded. He stood motionless for a moment, appreciatively eyeing Sam's breasts. God, he loved his wife.
"Sir'll be fine," Sam said, her hands roaming under Cameron's waistband and over his ass as he complied with her order.
Cameron involuntarily jerked forward as her hands moved around to just beneath his stomach. Oh yeah, this was more like it. "Really, Sir?" he asked, trying to ignore what her fingertips were doing to him. "Something you'd like to share about the Asgard technology and sex?" he asked, gripping the front of her sweatpants and pulling her forward, slightly off the wall.
Sam laughed. "No!"
"No?" Cameron slid a hand down the back of her sweatpants and gave her butt cheek a light slap. "Then I'll have to investigate this matter further, you know," he said.
"Not if I beat you to the investigation," Sam said, grinning as she pushed the waistband of his sweats down, suddenly freeing his reddening dick. "You know how I like to handle things."
"So, how you think you'll handle this…thing?" Cameron whispered, his nose touching Sam's, his mouth flirting with hers, as he pushed roughly at her sweats. As soon as the material cleared her ass, he pressed her back against the wall again, his forearms against the wall as he rubbed up against her, reveling in the feeling of their sweaty bodies connecting again, slick and tight.
Sam's gaze was direct. "Like this," she said, reaching down between them to grip his dick tightly in her hand without breaking her gaze.
"Oh my God, Sam," he said, failing to hold her gaze any longer and pressing his face down into the nape of her neck as Sam started to squeeze and stroke him firmly and methodically. He ached to move his forearms off the wall and touch her, but he was unable to do more than sway with the rhythm she was setting.
"No, your goddess," she corrected him as she increased her pressure and speed.
He threw his head back, groaning. He wanted her to slow down, wanted to be in her; it was happening too fast this time. "You can be whoever you want to be…goddess, investigator, colonel, wife, just sl-," Cameron's voice caught as he felt her fingertips scraping sharply under his head. He held his breath as she circled a finger up to the tip, and shivered as she did it again. And again. Slack-jawed and lost in sensation, he didn't know what she was doing; he just wanted her to keep on doing it. Then, unable to hold back anymore, he came, pressing hard into her hands, and before he tipped his head back he caught her smile, smug and full of the knowledge of the power she had over him.
"Love you, Sam," he whispered when he could speak again.
"I know," she whispered back.
A man can't survive by the gym alone, Cameron thought, walking back to his quarters from Landry's. The more manual the labor, the better. But unfortunately, unlike his parent's farm, there wasn't much dirt to dig on the ship, just some fresh wood-chip mulch in Landry's greenhouse that he'd just helped him make.
Cameron had already moved their supplies several times over for Vala and Teal'c as they kept revising their running inventory of the fresh stores. He'd helped Landry move more equipment for his greenhouse into an adjoining compartment. Landry's itch to grow things while Sam worked on a solution was growing exponentially. Cameron teased him about how long and hard it was going to be to get a working greenhouse up and running, but he actually envied the guy that he had a goal that was productive and time-consuming. Not that he'd ever admit it to Landry.
But Landry seemed to think they'd be stuck here for a while. Cameron snorted; he didn't much like that idea.
He pulled the tool kit out of the small room the team had lovingly dubbed "Siler's Closet" and headed toward the mechanical room. He was sure he could lose himself there for a while - it was a room full of the ship's heavy ventilation machinery. He'd be the first to admit he was no Siler, but since Sam fixed everything else with the Asgard-upgraded computer systems, it didn't leave him much to do otherwise.
Grease and hard metal it was then.
Sam sat on the edge of their bed, looking out the window, her eyes rimmed in pink.
Cameron rubbed his forehead; Sam didn't just cry over nothing. He hugged her, but when she stiffened in his arms, he quickly pulled away. "Damn it, Sam," he said, huffing hard through his nose and crossing his arms. "Don't you trust me? Why don't you trust me enough to talk about this?"
Sam looked up at him. "I trust you."
Cameron shook his head emphatically. "Wrong. You've done this before - shutting me out and acting like I'm not good enough or smart enough to understand." His gaze turned into an accusatory squint. "And then you'll act like nothing ever happened."
Sam looked away. "You won't understand, Cam."
Cameron snorted. "Try me."
Sam's head snapped around. "I have tried! You just don't want to understand." It was her turn to glare at him.
Seared in her memory was his reaction the very first day they'd been stuck on the ship. When she'd announced to the team that she could adjust the beaming technology to make everything they needed, he'd glared at her and snorted, "Except a way off this ship." His feelings hadn't changed since then, his glares and accusatory looks only worsening. Can't he understand how inadequate I feel to the Herculean task of recreating Arthur's out-of-phase technology and from scratch?
She'd never had a problem stump her like this one had. She'd modeled hundreds of solutions already, but each new simulation supported her growing body of evidence that .86 seconds were not enough time to save them. Not enough to go out of phase, not enough to put themselves in the transport buffer. She was out of options, damn it.
And Cameron was expecting miracles. She was just plumb out of them anymore. Everything revolved around those damn .86 seconds. Such a short time, but so damn long a one.
"Fine," Cameron said, "you don't want to tell me what's bother you, then I'm going running."
Sam didn't turn to acknowledge him. He would do whatever he wanted no matter what she said. She'd just have to break the bad news about being unable to take the ship out of phase to the others at supper, after a nice long shower and a change of clothes. Cameron would find out when he found out.
Vala watched Daniel and Sam as they sat shoulder-to-shoulder, their foreheads nearly touching as they pored over the touch screen tablet in front of them. There had been a number of times over the past four months that they'd been stuck on the Odyssey that Vala had wondered, given the same circumstances they were in now, had Sam not been married to Cameron, if Sam and Daniel would have pursued a relationship. Pretending to read a romance novel that she'd found in the quarters of one of the crew who'd been beamed off the Odyssey, Vala watched as Sam shook her head, lifting Daniel's finger to another part of the touchpad.
Vala wrinkled her nose. Most SGC base personnel thought the two had a cute sibling-style relationship, but as a woman and as former Goa'uld host, she knew otherwise, identifying the small spark of romantic interest between Sam and Daniel that had been suppressed into friendship. A spark she knew would have ignited soon given SG-1's current circumstances, since he'd told her in his quarters a few weeks ago that he was finally in a place where he could actually get close to somebody.
She returned Daniel's quick and knowing smile as he lifted his head to glance over at her, his gaze softening as he looked at her, and she settled back into her chair. She pushed at the plastic chair her feet rested in; it had to be the most uncomfortable chair on the ship. But regardless, she was thankful that at least in this reality there was no chance in Netu of them becoming a couple. Not given that Daniel was finally her Daniel once and for all.
A faraway look and a soft smile filtered over her face as she recalled the romantic interludes she had been enjoying with Daniel in his quarters over the past week and she let the book fall forward to rest on her breasts. Her smile widened. No chance in Netu.
Hearing heavy breathing and stomping in the doorway, she turned. Cameron had entered, wearing a sweat-flecked t-shirt and swigging a bottle of water. Teal'c followed him in, barely a bead of sweat on his brow. Another afternoon sparring session, she guessed, lifting her book back up.
Cameron cleared his throat.
Vala looked up again, but saw that he'd meant it for Sam who hadn't acknowledged him yet. Cameron whipped one of the chairs around to straddle it facing Daniel and Sam. Lifting his chin, he squinted at the tablet that both Daniel and Sam were frowning over.
Cameron reached over the table to flick the top edge of the tablet. "Hey," he said.
Daniel glanced up at him and back at the tablet, but Sam… Vala found her expression most interesting. Sam was holding Cameron's gaze, her face expressionless, but her eyes literally were on fire, and not the kind of passionate fire Vala expected to see, but an intense "bugger off" kind of fire that surprised her.
Vala sat up straighter and looked over at Teal'c to see if he had caught the exchange. Muscles was watching all right, but he wasn't reacting as usual.
Cameron reached over to touch Sam's hand and she quickly pulled her hand back in response, resting it protectively under her chest.
Vala arched a brow. Very interesting. She closed her novel and stood up, making an exaggerated stretch. "I'm hungry. Muscles, you want to help me prepare a feast?"
Teal'c nodded. "I would be honored to assist you. What menu do you have planned?"
Vala shrugged. "I thought we'd go see if General Landry had any preferences."
Teal'c's brow raised in question.
"It's his birthday today," she explained.
"Crap!" Cameron said, slapping the table.
"Problem?" Daniel asked without looking up.
Cameron jumped backwards out of the chair and flipped it around, slamming it against the table. "Hell yeah," he said. "I thought I had more time to finish the…well, you'll see," he said, jogging out of the room past Teal'c and Vala who were walking toward the kitchen.
"Dinner in three," Vala called out brightly to Cameron's retreating back.
"Sam?" Daniel asked for a third time.
Sam looked up from the console she had been working at, removing her earbuds. She smiled. "Daniel."
"If you don't want to be bothered…," he said, waving his hand at the doorway behind him.
Sam shook her head and wound the earbuds around her MP3 player. "I was just trying to concentrate," she said, pointing at the console.
Daniel moved closer to examine the console top that she'd turned into a touch screen panel. A stylus pen rested nearby. The screen was full of half-completed formulas and fully scratched-out sections. "Not going so well, huh?" Daniel asked.
Sam shook her head. "You don't know how unbelievably stupid I feel right now," she said.
Daniel laughed softly. "No, I do. Believe me." He leaned a hip against the console. "Incredibly stupid," he added with a grin.
Sam shot him a small, empathetic smile.
Daniel took a deep breath. "And that's why I'm taking a vacation."
Sam's eyes widened. "Really? Where to?" she asked and then she winced. "Forget I said that."
Daniel nodded. "See - that's what I mean," he said. "We've been at this non-stop for almost a year. I need a break. And if I do, I know you do," he said, noting that the rings beneath her eyes were darker than his. She was suffering from serious bed head and he was worried that she just wasn't taking care of herself.
Sam sighed. "I don't know, Daniel. I feel like I'm on the verge of a workable solution. I hate to break that rhythm."
Daniel considered asking her just how close those scratched-out scribbles were to that solution, but then thought better of it. He knew she was her own worst critic, even worse than he, and she didn't need him feeding that self-doubt. "But how close can you get if you burn out, Sam?" he asked softly.
"I take breaks," she protested.
"When Sam? When was the last time you took a week off?" he asked pointedly.
"A week? I'd never take a week…."
"Ah-ah," Daniel said, shaking his head at her, a "You can't bullshit me" grin on his face. "When?"
Sam looked away. "Six months before this mission," she finally admitted.
Daniel gave her one of Jack's patented "there you go" looks.
"I know," she said. "I can't help it."
"So we'll have Landry order us to take R and R," Daniel said.
Sam shook her head. "I'll still end up in here in the middle of the night," she told him.
"So we'll lock out this room," Daniel said triumphantly.
"And I'll just access the core from somewhere else," Sam told him, matter-of-factly.
"Sam!" Daniel said, exasperated.
Daniel laughed; he loved hearing her giggle - she'd done so little of it lately. He pushed off the console and offered his hand across it to her. "Come on. You've got a husband who I know would love to see you more than just when you're asleep."
Sam didn't look sold on the idea.
He tried another tactic. "Christmas is coming," he said, opening his eyes wide and giving her a cheesy grin.
She wrinkled her nose at him.
Daniel waved his hand at her. "Okay then, Sam. How about the fact that the best ideas come to you when you're relaxed and aren't trying so damn hard?"
A momentary defeat flickered in her eyes. She shook her head at him, smiling widely as she slid her hand into his. "Thanks, Daniel."
He shrugged. "What're friends for?"
Swinging his hand companionably back and forth as they approached the door, Sam asked him, "So, what are you doing during your…vacation?"
Daniel winced, not happy to admit the truth. "I…told Vala I was out of ideas."
"And…?" Sam asked.
"She said to leave it up to her. I'll find out what I'll be doing tomorrow morning," he said. "I have a feeling it has something to do with using your matter converter to create some tacky Christmas decorations."
Sam laughed and squeezed his hand as the door shut behind them.
Sam slammed into the far wall dead-on and full-speed. She heard Vala burst out laughing behind her and she couldn't help but laugh, too. Nothing could beat the flat-out exuberant feeling she experienced rolling around the corridors of the ship as Vala taught her the finer points of the art of rollerskating. It certainly beat the early stages of the fine art of cello-playing, she thought as she turned the corner, swinging out too wide and barely missing being creamed up against one of the bulkheads.
She saw Cameron approaching them at a full-out run. Catching up with Vala, she nodded at Cameron.
Vala nodded and grabbed Sam's hand, dragging her along as they picked up their pace down the long corridor.
As they passed him, Cameron did a double take and he made a quick u-turn to join up with them. "Thought you'd be working," Cameron said, out of breath.
"All work and no play makes for a-," Vala said.
"Boring astrophysicist," Cameron interrupted, finishing her sentence.
Vala swiveled around in a circle. "No," she said, grimacing at him. "I was going to say a dull girl."
Sam pushed out ahead of Cameron. "So you think I'm boring?" she called over her shoulder.
"No, I didn't say that," Cameron said, sprinting ahead of her.
"Yes, you did," Sam said to his back. His shirt clung to him like a second skin and there was a dark blue line down his spine where the sweat was collecting.
"Nuh-uh," Cameron said without looking back.
"Yes, you did," Vala said. "And I quote - "boring astro-""
"I ask you, Mal Doran?" Cameron huffed, slowing down his pace for a moment.
"Leave her alone," Sam warned him.
Cameron shot her a quick look over his shoulder.
Sam gave him a look to let him know she meant it. "Goodbye, Mr. Mitchell," she said.
"Hey, I was just starting to enjoy our little conversation," he said, lengthening the distance between them.
"Goodbye, Cam," Sam said.
Cameron suddenly tripped and fell in a heap on the floor. "Help a poor man up?" he groaned.
The women didn't answer as they neared him, staying out of arm's reach as they passed quickly by.
"Cruel women," Cameron commented from the floor.
"Boring women," Vala corrected him.
"Goodbye, Cam," Sam said again.
As they turned the corner at the end of the corridor, Vala glanced back at Cameron who was still on his back far behind them. "Think we should help him?" she asked Sam. "What if he really was hurt?" she asked, her eyebrows knitting slightly together.
Sam shook her head. "Nah."
"Okay," Vala said, a smile swiftly replacing her more serious look. "Race you to the end of the next corridor. Loser cooks the other dinner the rest of the week."
"You're on," Sam said, pushing off her toes.
Cameron slammed into the doorway of the computer core room, his chest heaving. Sam didn't like the wild look on his face as he stood there, saying nothing while his rippling chin muscles communicated countless accusations. He stomped over to the console she was working at and knocked the oval Asgard modules off it. He reeked of the synthetic alcohol they'd been testing.
"Sleeping with the Asgard, Sam?" Cameron asked. "Damn it, it's after three in the morning. What the hell are you doing this late?"
Lots, Sam thought, standing her ground as he leaned towards her. "Stay away from me," she warned.
"Why?" Cameron asked, snorting as he moved closer to her. "Whatcha gonna do if I don't? Huh?" He made a show of swinging his head around at the grey walls. "Where you going to hide?"
Sam detested his drunken threat, but empathized with his anger. He wasn't the only one going stir crazy. She was too. They all were. That's why she'd been working into the wee hours lately. She knew she was getting close to a solution.
"I don't like being stuck here any more than you do," Sam said matter-of-factly, turning slightly away from him.
Cameron snorted. "Coulda fooled me, woman."
"Cam, you're drunk," Sam said in a conciliatory tone. "Maybe you should just go back to bed and sleep it off. Before you say something you regret."
"I'm not drunk," he replied. "You haven't seen me really drunk."
"Yes, I have," she reminded him.
His brows knitted together. "Bitch."
Cameron shook his head back and forth like a dog shaking off water. "No. I'm tired of it, Sam. You put me off and off and off and off. You barely talk to me any more and when you do, it's about this damn stuff." He waved a hand at the console and the scattered modules.
"That's not true," Sam said, looking down at the overturned module closest to her.
"Okay then, answer this - when was the last time we had sex?" Cameron asked.
Sam was quiet for a minute or two as she counted back. It had been a while. A long, long while, now that she thought about it.
"Screw it," Cameron said finally. "I don't know why I came here anyway."
Sam was still speechless as he strode to the doorway, where he turned to shoot her one last accusatory glare.
"Sam, do you still love me?" he asked suddenly.
Sam wrinkled her brow. "Why do you even have to ask that?"
A look of vulnerability crossed his face. "Is that a yes or a no?" he asked slowly.
Sam responded just as slowly. "Of course, it's a yes."
"If you do love me…then why in God's name are you making me live this marriage alone?" he asked.
Sam opened her mouth, but there were no words. Alone? She wasn't making him live alone. He wasn't alone – why would he...?
His vulnerable expression hardened quickly, his eyes brightening with an internal fire, and he waved a dismissive hand at her before he stormed out into the corridor.
Sam threw her head back, shaking her head slowly side-to-side. She spent time with him. She did. She shut her eyes to keep a sudden rush of tears from falling. It wasn't as often as she wanted, but she did.
Didn't he understand how she felt? There was no word that could describe how frustrate she was about not finding a win-win solution in the three years that they'd been stuck on the damn ship. Three long years holed up in her work quarters picking Thor's programming apart and spending what little downtime she allowed herself visiting Daniel to see if he'd found any useful data amongst the Asgard's vast library of knowledge.
She wanted that perfect solution; the one that'd bring them all off the ship safely and as soon as possible. Didn't he understand that? Sam sniffed the tears down the back of her throat. She'd never be able to live with herself if she got them all through this only to have their minds, their bodies, or, worse yet, their timeline screwed up.
Didn't he understand time was relative? She could fix everything with time. She just needed more of it in the present.…
Landry slowly shuffled along the largest aisle in the lush jungle in his greenhouse. Carter had been nattering to him for the past half-hour about her concerns and fears. He'd always encouraged her to share her thoughts with him, both as a release mechanism and, he hoped, as a conduit for a solution to form in that marvelous brain of hers. No such luck so far however. He grunted as he heaved a hip-high tropical bush onto his potting bench.
"I know there's a simple solution. A perfect, simple solution," she was saying as he tuned into her conversation again. "I'm afraid I'll never figure it out and this mission will have turn into a death sentence," she admitted.
Landry looked up from the bush he was carefully sliding into a larger pot and over to where the slim woman stood rigid, tightly gripping one of his water spray bottles. Landry gave her an exaggerated closed-mouth smile. "You will figure it out. I have the utmost faith in your skill and intellect."
"Thank you, Sir. I wish I had your faith," she said. She frowned and looked away. "I wish others did, too."
Landry slowly straightened up and reached out to gently pry the water bottle out of her hand. "I assume Mitchell is giving you a hard time?" he asked.
She nodded, still staring at the blooming bush she was supposed to be misting.
"Pay him no mind," Landry ordered. "Someday his hot head will cool off."
"You're not married to him," she said softly.
"True," Landry conceded, and he thanked God for that. The colonel was a much better person than he. Had he been in her shoes, there was no telling how many ways to Sunday he'd have knocked the boy down a peg.
He squeezed Carter's elbow. "Have a little faith in him. He'll get over it, and you will find that perfect solution."
She slowly turned back to Landry, smiling. "Thanks."
"For what?" he asked gruffly, shuffling back through the maze of plants on the floor to put the repotted bush back in its place.
"For listening to me. And giving me the kind of advice my father would have."
"You're welcome." An ironic smile on his face, Landry looked up at her. "Without Carolyn here, I was afraid I might be getting a little bit rusty," he said, his tone a little softer than before.
"Not rusty at all," she said, shaking her head.
"Good," Landry said, plucking the largest bloom from the hibiscus he'd trained into a large tree.
Carter accepted it, smiling, and tucked it behind her ear.
Heading toward Landry's ever-expanding greenhouse, Cameron realized what he really missed. Wide, long fields, full of crops. Endless blue skies. Forests and their damp, musty smell. The change of seasons. The cycle of nature and the wild things in it.
The tropical profusion in Landry's greenhouse just wasn't the same. Shriveling, yellowed leaves dying indoors weren't the same as a tree full of brilliant yellow leaves nearly blinding you in bright autumn sunlight. A ten-by-ten carpet of scissor-shorn grass wasn't the same as a mower-cut acre. Fifteen varieties of tropical trees weren't the same as oak or maple or black walnut. And the expanse of black space outside the Odyssey's hull definitely was not the same as the big sky of Kansas where brilliant deep blues stretched out to infinity.
Cameron stood outside of the entrance to Landry's greenhouse. Maybe he could convince the man to experiment on a grand scale in the empty room next to the weight room. A few modifications to the room's environmental controls and they'd be good to go. They could simulate the seasons. Grow real trees. Tall ones. Make a real water feature. Plant a real flower or two. It would take some time. No, correction, it'd take a hell of a long time.
He pressed the door control. They'd been there ten years already. What was another ten? Or twenty, or more?
For longer than he could remember Cameron had purposely avoided the corridor Daniel's room was located on so that he wouldn't run into either Daniel or Vala half-clothed as he had done one long night he'd been out running the ship's corridors. The fact that Sam had been refusing him sex for over a year now really exacerbated things since he knew Jackson was getting some and he wasn't; he didn't need reminded of it by the only two people having real sex on the ship.
Sam had first started to rebuff his kisses, and then began to flinch at his touches, which had then quickly progressed to refusing all sex. Beyond group meals, she barely spent any time with him, instead keeping to the rooms in the computer core corridor that she'd claimed as her workspace and eventually as her bedroom. As far as what was now solely his bedroom…he'd destroyed more of the ship's bedroom furniture in anger than he cared to admit to and this evening had been no different.
With no bed to sleep in tonight, he'd decided to wander the ship. He kicked off his sneakers and lobbed them down the hallway in back of him. He'd take them to the matter recycling room later. The floor felt ice-cold to his bare feet. He tried jogging for a bit, but settled for a fast walk; the floor was too hard without cushioning.
The side corridor that led to Daniel's quarters remained a few yards ahead; he could still turn back. He frowned. Oh, why the hell not? He'd avoided the two for long enough and besides, what else did he have to do? There was only so much maintenance he could do to the 302's, only so much his body could endure with the workout schedule he kept, and self-pleasuring only got a man so far.
He turned the corner and flinched as he saw someone in the hall. Quickly jerking back, he only slowly peered around the corner. Vala stood naked in Daniel's doorway, her short, sheer housecoat emphasizing every single curve and pointy place. A passle of black feathers floated down her chest, leading Cameron's eyes to Vala's nipples, and he felt a familiar heat and then a throbbing twinge in his groin. Oh shit. This was not the gum-cracking, pony-tailed girl he was used to seeing. Uh-uh.
This was a woman. A goddamn gorgeous adult woman. Cameron took in the length of her slim body as she tucked a lock of her long, dark hair behind her ear. She looked back into the room, her back pressed against the door jamb and a soft smile lit up her face as she placed a finger to her lips.
"No, Daniel. My turn. The usual, plus…," she said, running the same finger down her chest, circling her nipple until her hand fully-supported her breast, "something very special." Vala stood motionless in the doorway, her eyes widening as she watched something inside; Jackson he supposed. "Back in a moment!" she whispered as her grip tightened on her breast. She flew down the corridor toward the mess hall in the opposite direction from the side corridor Cameron stood half-hidden in, her housecoat slipping back to her elbows as the balls of her feet skimmed the cold floor, and ostrich feathers slowly floating in her wake.
Cameron slid back along the wall, choking back a moan as his groin rubbed over the undulating arcs of the power conduits jutting out in this section. Mr. Happy was beginning to push against the confines of his sweatpants. Cameron cupped a hand over his erection, willing it away, and moaned softly as it hardened even more in his hand, and his eyes fluttered shut.
Come on, Mitch. This is Vala. And Daniel. Vala and Daniel. He shouldn't be getting off like this, acting like a sick Peeping Tom towards his friends. Commando like he always was, his fingertips scraped the rough fabric over the top of his sensitive head, and he couldn't contain his moan this time, only able to bite off the last of it as he clamped his mouth shut, sending a hard burst of air out his nose.
But it was Vala. And Daniel. And it was wrong, but right now it felt so damn good. Besides, he'd never believe that the rest of SG-1 had never fantasized about their teammates. He hooked the thumb of his free hand over his waistband and a tingling wave of heat ran down his abs to the base of the dick he still held. As horny as he was now, it wouldn't take long to finish it off right here.
Glancing furtively in both directions, he pulled his thumb back out. Problem. Vala had disappeared down the main corridor in the same direction as his quarters. The secluded weight room that was his next favorite place to haunt this late in the evening when certain needs hit him was also in that direction. And he'd never live it down if Vala ran into him sporting one of his foot-long boners. No way. Although it might stop her speechless in her tracks, he thought with a self-satisfied smirk.
He imagined how she would look, breasts bouncing as she slid to a halt with that see-through housecoat sliding onto the floor behind her. Her dark eyes, appraising and appreciative, taking in the bulge of his dick. Tendrils of her sweat-dampened hair curling down across her chest and around her erect nipples. Her hand reaching out and making contact, his dick lifting up to meet her in response. Her dark pubic hair glistening and he… Cameron shivered again and found he'd shut his eyes, his one hand caressing his balls while his other had spread out over his lower abs beneath his t-shirt, applying a hard pressure as it slowly slid downward.
He released the breath he'd been holding. For all his daydreams about exhibitionism, he needed privacy right now; that much he knew. He remembered a small lounge two corridors away. None of the team used it as far as he knew - it was small, dark, and had no windows; very industrial-like. More like a closet-sized conference room than lounge. Perfect.
His eyes darting furtively in all directions, Cameron sprinted down the corridor, trying to keep the bottoms of his bare feet from making slurping noises as he made contact with the cool floor and trying to keep his nearly stiff dick from bouncing painfully around. He slammed his back against the wall once he was inside the room, one hand pushing roughly beneath his waistband to grip himself as tightly as he could, the other banging against the door control to shut it. He jammed his fingers on the keypad, trying to remember the general lock code. Once it was punched in, he plunged that hand down to grip his sensitive head.
He stood there for a minute, his chest still heaving from his sprint, and then he started slowly and lightly stroking the length of his dick with one hand while gently squeezing his head with the other. He groaned as his rigid dick quivered. He hadn't felt this good since, well, since the last time he was with Sam… He released himself. No! He wasn't going to think about the past now. When the ache of the need for release got too much, he leaned forward, pressing his erection back down against his balls with both hands, and tried to blank out his memories of Sam.
He groaned at his failure to do so until he caught sight of the dark pubic hair near his wrists, and then he remembered Vala and how he'd imagined her own hair would glisten. Running his fingers through his dark curly hair and up his shaft, he imagined it was Vala's touch. As he slowly circled his head with his index finger, he imagined tracing his fingers across and under Vala's breasts and he shivered as felt a small bead of moisture well up and out. He let out a satisfied grunt.
Vala had probably returned from the mess hall with an armful of food and from her own little-used quarters with…with what? He gripped himself tightly with both hands and squeezed hard as he imagined the kinds of sex toys the host of a former Goa'uld goddess would have stowed away in her quarters. He rubbed his hands roughly down the sides of his shaft, wondering off-handedly just how deeply Vala was into bondage. He felt a small ripple and another small burst of moisture covered his hands, and, hands still working methodically inside his sweatpants, he shuffled around the worn metal coffee table to the spartan-style leather couch. It might be hard as concrete, but least it was real leather, he thought as he dropped onto it face first.
Shoving his hand down under the waistband between him and the couch, he forced his dick up past his waistband, groaning in pleasure at the obscene amount of pressure his dick withstood from the odd angles it took to get it flat up against his abs. He debated whether to do the same thing again, and feeling another drop of wetness against his abs, decided not to.
He pushed his other elbow into the padding and lifted up slightly to both grind his dick into the hard leather and to stroke himself better, feeling the veins along his shaft twist and throb in response to the unusual friction. It was too dry and the throbbing bordered on intense pain, but it felt so damn good. As he imagined himself with Vala, his breaths came shallower and quicker and he knew he didn't have much longer. He ground his hips as deep as they would go into the rock-hard couch until he felt like exploding, and he wondered how Daniel controlled coming too quickly with Vala.
Suddenly he felt his rising heart rate plummet and his dick soften. Ah hell. Nooooooo. No and double no. Shit!
As the last bits of his erection swiftly disappeared, Cameron smashed his face against the leather seat and he lifted a pounded a fist against the leather above his head. Why did he do that? Why the hell did he go and think about Daniel? This wasn't a homo-erotic fantasy, and he'd gotten off on enough of those over the years. This was purely Vala-driven fantasy. But leave it to that Christian guilt his Grandma Mitchell had instilled in him to come galloping to the fore at just the right moment.
They had to get out of there. He couldn't even begin to contemplate what a few more years of this kind of crap would do to him, and sliding off the hard couch, he readjusted his sweats and yanked his t-shirt down and back into place. Time to really go convince the old man that they had to do something to break out of this ship and to do it now.
As he stormed down the hall towards Landry's quarters, he realized he did know what being stuck on the ship would do.
This ship was going to drive him crazy.
Landry opened the medicine cabinet and plunked his bottle of shaving cream down on the countertop with more force than he'd intended. Mitchell had come storming into his quarters earlier, hell-bent as a fire-and-brimstone preacher to convert him to his way of seeing things, insisting that Landry, as the SGC commander, force Colonel Carter to immediately do something - anything - to end their long wait for that "perfect solution."
He'd entertained Mitchell's ranting for a while, genially making counterpoints to Mitchell's loud complaints. But the younger man refused to see any other point of view and had only gotten louder and angrier, and, as late as it was, Landry wasn't able to stomach another moment of mentoring. He'd finally ordered Mitchell out of his quarters and told him to go cool his heels, warning the younger man not to bring the topic up again.
Landry figured there was much that Mitchell wasn't telling him, especially about whatever it was that had been the trigger for his tirade tonight, but frankly, imagining every twist and turn of the evolving affairs of the members of SG-1 wasn't something he liked doing. He knew they'd all been living lives of duplicity while stuck on the Odyssey. Military regs still bound them all, but he'd turned a blind eye to their personal lives, letting them taste the freedom of a semi-civilian life. After weeks turned to months and months into years, he had sat down with each of them to explain they might not be going anywhere soon and that he was officially taking them off active-duty until Carter could resolve their situation.
And, of course, Mitchell had been the most vocal and unhappy of the group.
Landry frowned and squinted at the stubble on his chin. Maybe he should just skip shaving; no wife to impress, no daughter nearby to harangue him about his appearance. He missed his wife and the joys their reconciliation had brought him. He missed Carolyn, his daughter, and her sharp wit. When you got right down to it, he missed everything about what he now termed his "old life." The good, the bad, and the butt-ugly as Carolyn would have quipped just to get his goat. He wondered if she had a man in her life now. He doubted it, but now, in all likelihood, he'd never know. He thought about the future son-in-law and grandchildren that he'd never get to know and his frown turned stern. He detested the thought of spending his last days on this godforsaken ship.
He scratched at his neck for a moment, and then reached for the razor, sighing.
No mustache and beard for him.
Sam carefully tucked the bow of her cello back into its case, the one that Landry painstakingly handmade for her for Christmas one year from wood from some of the long-empty packing crates in the storeroom that hadn't made it to the matter recycler. Practicing her newest piece of music - Haydn's Cello Concerto in D - would have to wait. She was too restless this evening and the challenge of learning a new piece wasn't harnessing her racing thoughts very well.
She looked at her sneakers, carefully tucked into the nook between her bed and nightstand. No sneakers. She wanted to feel the coolness of the ship's floor on her bare feet tonight and let her feet lead her where they would. This wasn't the first sleepless night that she'd wandered the ship's corridors in search of the things that eluded her. By now every strut and beam was as familiar to her as the lines crisscrossing the back of her hands; no place to hide as Cameron had pointed out to her long ago. No new places to go either.
Sam turned down another corridor, thankful for the lower nighttime lighting settings that they'd all finally agreed upon. This late at night, the others were asleep or otherwise occupied in their quarters. As the de facto leader of SG-1 as long as they were stuck on the ship, she'd observed and noted her shipmate's habits early on and very rarely did they deviate from their established routines. Teal'c still meditated every evening. Cameron still ran for an hour before his evening chess match with Landry and sometimes even ran afterwards. Daniel continued his long hours in what they'd dubbed "The Library," continuing to absorb as much of the Asgard database as he could. At least when Vala didn't put a stop to it.
Vala. Well, she was the only one Sam still hadn't completely figured out, given her penchant for changing habits more times than a chameleon changed colors. But that was the beauty of it - in all the years they'd been stuck there together, Vala still kept them guessing, still kept them entertained. Sam hoped she never figured her out.
Running her thumb thoughtfully across her bottom lip, Sam continued on her way deeper into the ship until she reached the lower level mess, the smaller room that didn't face out toward the Ori beam. Her mind now clear and her thoughts slower and more easily contained, she smiled and entered the dark room.
The soft padding of her bare feet was the only noise she heard as she walked into the room, and her face brightened in the muted, reflected light of the stars and planets outside. To the bank of windows she went, crossing her arms and leaning her head and shoulders against the reinforced glass. She softly greeted the brightest of the visible stars. Stars she'd named for those she'd lost through death. Her mother. Her father. Janet. Innumerable family and friends she'd lost over the years….
A sad smile formed on her lips and she closed her eyes, savoring the memories of her lost loved ones and hoping to find comfort this particular evening in the unknown stars that now were familiar and dear to her as those from home.
Cameron looked at the tired old pretzels in the bowl on the table that he and Landry were hunched over. He was tired of synthesized food. Was he going to die on this damn ship without even tasting a freshly-picked, farm-raised vegetable again? He'd take anything at this point – red, raw, burnt to a crisp, however you sliced or diced it. He positively salivated at the thought of his Grandma's black-eyed peas and cornbread.
Maybe after this round of chess he could talk to Landry about raising more than leafy greens in his greenhouse.
He waited more long minutes while Landry contemplated his next move, trying to focus on sitting still as he knew his jiggling legs broke Landry's concentration. He barely could suppress himself. "You know, Sir…."
"You know what this feels like?"
"Like another game that I whomp your ass?" Landry asked, chuckling lowly as he knocked another of Cameron's pawns off the board.
"No, Sir. Although you may be right on that," Cameron admitted as he surveyed the board and the remaining pieces. He looked up at Landry who was staring him down through bushy eyebrows. "Our lives…uh, my life, on this ship…it's like someone pressed the hold button on the phone and it's stuck and I can't pick it back up to finish my conversation, uh, life."
"Good analogy, son," Landry said, nodding at him.
"Thank you, Sir, but I'm not trying to impress you. I'm serious - my life's slowly slipping away while Sam's screwing around with that hold button."
Landry's forehead wrinkled. "I don't think Colonel Carter is to blame for your predicament."
"Respectfully, Sir, then who is?"
Landry leaned back and crossed his arms. "Circumstance. The Ori. The Asgard." He nodded at the board. "Your move."
"I respectfully disagree, General Landry," Cameron said, shaking his head and sitting up straighter. "There has to be another way, like fighting our way out. Something other than this…waiting." Cameron spat the words out with as much venom as he could muster.
Landry sat straight up and cleared his throat. "Son. I've told you before to drop this subject." He eyed the younger man. "I will only say this once - if it weren't for Colonel Carter, we'd all be dead."
"Drop it, Mitchell."
Landry stood. "I've had my fill of games tonight, Colonel Mitchell. That will be all."
Cameron stood, his mouth opened to protest again. He clamped it shut and nodded in deferment to his superior officer, before turning to leave. Just before Cameron hit the door control, Landry cleared his throat again. Cameron turned around.
"Tomorrow night, same time, Sir?" Cameron asked.
"Right," Cameron said, turning to exit Landry's quarters.
Vala shook her head, unable to keep tears from overtaking her. "No, you don't understand," she told Daniel, as she hit her fist on the floor in front of their bed. He'd joined her at the foot of the bed when she'd pushed off the end to slide onto the floor.
He did understand. She had no idea just how much he understood her feelings. She sobbed louder, shaking her head, and he held her tighter in response.
"Vala, it's okay. Women miscarry all the time." He stroked her hair. "There will be other pregnancies," he whispered fiercely into her ear.
Vala pulled away, shaking her head as the tears continue to stream down her cheeks. "You don't understand," she said, her voice shaking. "I was never able to conceive until Adria. The Ori - they fixed what the Goa'uld had…," she stopped for a moment to wipe her eyes with the back of her hand. "And now I'm too old!"
Daniel could only give her the most empathetic look he could and he pulled her back close to him. Vala wasn't old. None of them were. There would be other pregnancies. There had to be others for all of their sakes.
What did he just say?
Sam's mouth fell open and she dropped the dumbbells to the gym mat. Oh no, he didn't. His smartass comments were now always biting accusations. Sam was hard-pressed to remember the last time he'd talked civilly to her. She'd finally had enough.
"Excuse me?" she asked through slightly gritted teeth.
"You fucking heard me," Cameron said, his mouth not moving.
Sam's eyes shrunk down into small slits. "So, you think that little of me, Cameron?" she asked. "Was I just another screw? Another bit of tits and ass for you?"
Cameron snorted. "What tits and ass? I haven't seen yours in years," he said. "Besides if the dumb blonde joke fits, wear it."
Sam didn't get his reference. "So why then do you keep going for the dumb blondes?" she threw back at him.
Cameron pursed his lips at the reference not just to Sam herself, but to Amy, his old high school flame. "Smartass," he said, moving to get in her face.
"Asshole." Sam didn't back down, straightening up to look levelly at him. She dared him to get closer.
"Bitch." He moved closer still, his face deep in frown, his lips a pinched little line.
"Prick." Sam took a step toward him.
They stood immobile, staring one another down, fists ready to fly if the other made the first move. Cameron's left eye was twitching Sam noted. He was out for blood. Fine then. Let him have a taste of his own.
Cameron leaned in closer. "Whore. Fucking O'Neill and God only knows who else."
Sam's face remained expressionless. "Bastard."
Cameron's fist flew up and Sam blocked it, landing her own fist upside his jaw. His eyes widened in fury and he swung back to hit her, but his fist never connected. They both turned their heads to see Teal'c restraining Cameron from behind.
Teal'c eyed both of them. "I would strongly advise against this," he said forcefully to Cameron who struggled to get free.
"Stay out of it, Teal'c," Cameron growled.
Teal'c shook his head.
"Teal'c, I can handle this," Cameron told him. "I'm okay."
Teal'c gripped Cameron tighter. "It is not you I am concerned about," Teal'c said.
"I won't hurt her," Cameron said.
Teal'c grunted. "It is for your own safety," Teal'c said, slowly releasing one of Cameron's arms. Teal'c looked at Sam, his eyes asking her to be reasonable. "Please vacate the premises, Colonel Carter."
As much as Sam loved and respected Teal'c, she didn't want to leave this unfinished. She shook her head.
"Now," Teal'c ordered, the promise of physical force lacing his monotone statement.
Sam stood there for a minute, defiantly watching her friend. She finally sighed and picked up her towel, smugly noting that Cameron was wincing as he rubbed his jaw with his free hand.
Moving closer to the noisy ventilation system, Vala smiled contentedly out the window. Gloriously real noise. Noisy, cranky, and fast noise. Something to drown out the quiet, flat stillness that was just about to drive her crazy. She suspected some of her shipmates were already there, particularly Sam and Cameron.
She had secretly admired their early relationship and was surprised when Teal'c warned the rest of them that they needed to ensure that the two were kept far apart for a while. Stress fractures. With two such pretty people as Cameron and Sam, those fractures were not a pretty sight. And now this.
What would another few years do to all of them?
Sam had to laugh that it had taken Cameron literally years to draft the document she now held in her hands. How could you think about divorce that intensely for that long and not be eaten up by hatred?
It had taken months after their near-fight before their teammates would allow them to be alone together. And when they had at last talked civilly, they'd agreed to split formally, and Cameron had moved his quarters onto a lower deck on the opposite end of the ship to be away from everyone.
Sam felt guilty that she'd still held out hope as the years passed that they'd patch things up or that she'd finally stumble onto that perfect solution and they'd be able to repair their relationship after returning home. But things hadn't turned out that way.
She'd never believed she needed a man just to say she had one, but if she chose to have a man in her life, then she knew she wanted one she could rely on. Stable and full of quiet strength, and Cameron unfortunately just wasn't that man. Not any more. Not for a long time. Sam set the papers on the bed beside her. Maybe he'd never been, maybe they'd had just enough breathing space, just enough sense of shared and of separate purpose that they could revel in their similarities and appreciate their differences.
Maybe Cameron had just been a sweet diversion that had slowly gone sour.
She wondered what would happen if she signed the papers now and then was able to solve the time bubble quandary in the next few days. She lightly ruffled the edges of the papers, much as she used to do to the fringe along Cameron's forehead. Once she signed these papers, there was no going back; the rift between them would be legally permanent and forever. Cameron had already signed in front of Landry who, acting as both a notary public and as the ship's ranking officer, was empowered with the ability to declare it a legal document. All she needed to do was to make her own signature in Landry's presence.
Why, Cameron, why?
She sighed and carefully slid the papers back in the folder and headed off to find the General.
It didn't matter anymore.
Cameron sat in the cockpit of the F302, staring out into the cavernous hangar bay, his monthly maintenance of the engines of all of small ships complete. Although he knew the Asgard replicating technology could create any part he needed, he still didn't like the idea of the more sensitive parts of the space crafts just rotting away over time. Landry called him crazy for spending a week each month poring over every nook and cranny of the ships.
"These babies need to be flight-ready if we get out of here," Cameron had explained.
Landry had chuckled. "If you say so."
Cameron flushed slightly. "Yeah, it's been fifteen years and then some," he acknowledged. "But when we get out of here, we need to be ready for what's sitting out there," he said, nodding at the hull and in the general direction of the Ori ship.
Landry snorted as he tapped Cameron's pawn. "So you think we'll survive the Ori attack?" Landry asked, a smug look on his face.
Cameron frowned at the chess board. "Yes, Sir."
"Hank, son. Hank."
"Yes, Sir. Mr. Landry, Sir."
Landry squinted at Cameron, his bushy eyebrows more a wirey grey than brown. "Fifteen years later and the boy hasn't learned a damn thing." His squint deepened. "Hank. And that's an order."
"Hank then, Sir."
Landry had only shook his head at Cameron.
Cameron rubbed his hand along the 302's side wall. There wasn't a moment when he hadn't prayed that they would be able to use these, the sooner, the better. He slumped back in his seat, his eyes shut. Just give me a little more faith, Lord, he prayed. Just a little more. And a hell of a lot more patience, he added.
Cameron snapped to attention. Sam?
"Sam?" he asked, standing upright and hitting his head on the open cockpit cover. What the hell was she doing here?
Vala? Well I'll be damned, Cameron thought. He remembered his promise to her over breakfast - to teach her all there was to know about the 302's innards. He raised a brow as he caught sight of her dark head bobbing up and down a few ships away. He thought she'd been joking.
"Over here," he shouted, waving at her.
She smiled at him, returning his wave.
Finally, something new to do and a willing audience to do it with.
"Don't give up," Landry said, wheezing what Sam knew was going to be his last breath.
Sam shook her head and clung tightly to his hand, upset about the fact she'd been lying to him for a while now, letting him think she was still working on a way to save them when she had given up and was just going through the motions. She leaned forward, checking his pulse and laying her hand on his chest. He was gone.
Rest in peace, Hank Landry, she thought as she stood up.
After one last look at the shell of the man who had been their leader, Sam turned to leave, tears flowing freely down her face now that she no longer had to suppress them in front of the General. There was nothing more for her to do. Daniel and Vala had agreed to prepare his body when the time came in consideration for the around-the-clock care Sam had given him during the long months he had slowly slipped away from them.
Still, Sam couldn't stop feeling that she was responsible for Landry's death. The man who'd become her surrogate father was dead and it was all her fault. Her vision blurred as the door opened, and she walked straight out into the corridor.
Blinking hard, she saw Teal'c walking toward her, and she opened her mouth to tell him it had finally happened, but she couldn't and he swiftly engulfed her in his muscular arms. Her sense of loss intensified as she realized Landry's would be only the first of many deaths that would occur in the coming years, and she shut her eyes, trying to push away the nauseous feeling that was sinking through her body.
Sniffling hard as the tears flowed, Sam burrowed deeper inside the warm cocoon of Teal'c's arms. Teal'c had been such a godsend. The last few months would have been unbearable without his quiet presence, without the meals he brought to her when she hadn't even realized she was hungry, without the sleep she stole the nights he relieved her when she could barely keep herself upright in the chair by Landry's bed, and without the companionship he offered to her and Landry while quietly sharing stories of his childhood and youth during Landry's few lucid moments. She just hoped Teal'c's strength was enough to keep her from careening off-center; Landry's death had been the pinnacle of a very long and very rocky emotional rollercoaster.
Hearing the low rasp of Landry's last breath again, Sam flinched and stiffened, until she realized it had been her own voice that she'd heard, hoarse and rough as it caught in her throat mid-cry. Memories of her father's last moments rushed back, and she started to shiver, remembering the pain he'd been in. Now both were irretrievably gone. Her father. Landry. Gone.
"Dani…," she whispered, unable to finish Daniel's name. She'd lost all sense of time. Was it the middle of the night or day? How would he and Vala know to come to prepare the body?
"Do not think of it," Teal'c whispered, his hands lifting to slowly stroke her hair. "I have already alerted the others." She felt his hand gently guide her away from Landry's doorway. "Come," he directed quietly, shifting to gently loop an arm around her waist. Sam nodded and, leaning heavily into him, slowly started down the corridor.
Cameron hated to admit it, but he missed the gruff old man. Missed the time spent playing chess in his quarters and spent just bullshitting in general in Landry's greenhouse. The man had kept Cameron sane, even when he'd given the man every reason to put him in lockup, and for that he'd be forever grateful to him.
With Landry gone, Cameron barely had contact with the others. He recognized it as unhealthy, but he couldn't stomach it all anymore, not after twenty years. His mind still taunted him about what he'd had with Sam and what they could have had if things had been different. He knew that wasn't healthy either.
But things weren't different. They were as fucked up as they'd always been since they got stuck there, and he couldn't take it anymore. Just couldn't.
Couldn't do it. Couldn't take it. Couldn't survive. Couldn't live.
He hunched over his knees, his chin molded into his chest, his gun precariously balanced on the flat plane of his upper thigh.
Grandma had had his number he realized. During her last serious illness, he'd spent a long night at her bedside, giving his father a much-needed break.
Grandma'd been having a bad night, the worst Cameron had recalled her ever having, unable to sleep, nearly unable to breathe. He'd felt helpless, unable to do any more than hold her hand tightly and tell her everything'd be okay in the morning.
Late in the night she'd shaken her head vigorously. "No, Cameron, it won't be," she'd wheezed, her blue eyes piercing through his.
"Come on, Grandma," he'd said, trying to smile, and he squeezed her hand.
She shook her head, wincing with the effort it took to take even the shallowest of breaths. She looked deep into his eyes, so deep he'd sworn she'd seen directly through to his soul and maybe even a bit beyond.
Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears and she closed them, beads of moisture zigzagging down the crisscrossed crevasses of her cheeks. Cameron realized with a start just how frail and old she had become while he wasn't looking.
Her chest had stopped rising and Cameron reached up to feel if any air was coming out of her nose and mouth. "Grandma?" he asked, unable to keep the anxiety out of his voice. He didn't want to be alone with her when she died. "Grandma?" he asked again, choking back the knot in his throat.
Her eyelids sprung open, and Cameron jerked backwards, nearly dropping her hand.
"Cameron…," she said faintly.
"Grandma?" Cameron bent down close to her.
"Don't you ever do something stupid," she said.
She looked at him, a mix of love and worry, and, with great effort, lifted her hand to ruffle a shock of hair on his forehead. "Things'll get bad," she promised him. "Real bad." Her hand dropped back down to her chest. "You just work through it. Keep those you love close by. Life ain't worth throwing away, Cameron." She stared at his large hand covering her much smaller one. "Idle hands…devil's workshop," she wheezed, dropping her head back on her pillow and gasping for air.
She eventually recovered from the illness, but for the remainder of her life, she never again mentioned that night or her warning by way of conversation or explanation. Cameron eventually forgot about it.
Until tonight. He shut his eyes and felt his grandmother's presence envelop him, and it comforted him.
He clicked the safety of the gun he'd been holding up to his head off and on all evening, and let it drop out of his hand onto the bed beside him. He laid his hands in his lap, making tight fists and slowly releasing them.
"Only for you, Grandma," he whispered. "Only for you."
Teal'c had watched as the relationships of his SG-1 family ebbed and flowed around him over the years. He felt like an island, solitary and unchanging. But that was not a new feeling for him, given the time he had spent isolated in his position as the First Prime of Apophis and then later for a time as the lone alien at the SGC. Those periods of time had stood him in good stead as had his meditative abilities.
Teal'c tried to focus on the glowing center of the single candle he'd lit this evening. The flame twisted and bent, dancing up and down the wick before its energy thinned to a mere thread before winking out. Time appeared to be wearing equally thin the threads of relationships of some of those around him.
His unwillingness to participate in most of the ever-changing trivialities had distanced him from the others, but his goal was to survive, as it always had been. However there had been moments, especially the most recent years, when he would have gladly set aside his self-imposed separation, especially where it involved Cameron Mitchell and Samantha Carter.
Colonel Mitchell had learned well during the years of sparring and combat practice, and had come to the point of nearly decapitating Teal'c. Teal'c had been hopeful that the impulsive man would absorb his lessons about discipline and focus, but in recent months the younger man had only shown more and more disregard for those rules of conduct and, when he did join the group, displayed a complete disrespect for others, a trait that served no one well in such close quarters as they lived.
Teal'c understood the man's emotional crisis given the personality deficiencies he surmised the Colonel had and the defense mechanisms Teal'c felt the man was lacking. The impact of the slow decline and death of General Landry had been a major source of stress to Colonel Mitchell. Indeed, it had been to all of them, but particularly to the Colonel and to Samantha Carter.
And with Samantha he acknowledged that his non-intervention had reached a termination point. Their friendship had grown into something much deeper and more complex since the General's death, and it had been for her well-being and safety that Teal'c had chosen to continue to monitor and mentor her ex-husband this long. However he could not do that any longer, because for her, he would do anything.
Teal'c snuffed the flame out between his thumb and index finger. He feared for Colonel Mitchell's life should it ever come to that.
Warm blood welled up along the twisted crevices of his skin, and Cameron knew the scars covering his knuckles had cracked open again. He'd given up on wearing gloves months ago, preferring instead to feel the raw pain of his punches. He turned his hands over to examine his equally-battered palms. He winced as he slowly flexed his fingers, other fissures splitting open.
This is what I'm reduced to - fighting against myself, he thought angrily. Teal'c had finally refused to practice hand-to-hand combat with him when Cameron had started making it very personal and nearly lethal.
"I will not be party to your self-destruction," the larger man had informed him, sidestepping a parry that would have crushed Teal'c's windpipe if it had connected. Teal'c had bowed respectfully to Cameron before turning and leaving. Cameron had then learned what it felt like to be truly alone even in the midst of others.
Things had only worsened this week when Teal'c and Sam had suddenly stopped attending the evening group meals that Cameron had only recently rejoined. He'd ignored their absence the first day, because they'd all gone through days when they didn't feel like facing each other at yet one more meal. But at dinner the second day, after asking if they were sick, he caught an exchange of knowing looks between Vala and Daniel and immediately understood where they were and why.
Cameron imagined Sam in Teal'c's quarters, in his bed, in his arms, and Cameron's right fist involuntarily shot back out, connecting with the ripped punching bag, deep and center. He pulled his hand back, the steady stream of blood now flowing from his right knuckle leaving a deep red smear across the bag, and he leaned forward, resting his forehead against the bloodied bag for a moment.
It'd been years since their divorce and he still couldn't stop thinking about her. He thought about the noise Sam made through her nose when he'd brought her to a climax. He wondered if the Jaffa knew how to take her there. He imagined Sam showing Teal'c his and Sam's favorite positions. God, Sam, why?
He slammed both fists into the bag, the bag rocking forward and then swinging back to hit him in the face. Fuck it all. This was really going to drive him fucking crazy.
Moving her hand in slow lazy circles along Teal'c's back, Sam was mesmerized by the contrast of the pale creamy pinkness of her hand against the rich cocoa of his skin that still shimmered with sweat. She'd learned so many things, some surprising, some not, since Teal'c had formally started to court her. They were so different, but yet so similar.
Teal'c had approached her a few weeks after the one year anniversary of Landry's death, nearly three years after Cameron's divorce from her. She still couldn't call it "her" divorce - Cameron had wanted it and she had granted it. Regardless, she had been both amused and flattered when Teal'c had made his intentions clear, carefully feeling her out to see if she had plans to ever get back together with her ex. He'd been clearly relieved to find out that she didn't.
She'd been equally as relieved when Teal'c had explained that he wanted her to take things at her own pace, not wanting her to feel pressured or uncomfortable at any stage of his courtship. Six, now five, friends more like family than teammates, had been trapped on this ship with only a finite amount of space to live in and play in, and mazes of relationship threads had unraveled as time passed, making things the past twenty years interesting to say the least. She was grateful for the time he'd allowed her to think things through.
She began to lightly massage beneath Teal'c's shoulder blade with her thumb.
So here they were.
Sam smiled; she'd actually been the one trying to pressure him into having sex the past few weeks. It hadn't worked well at all; the man was as patient as he'd promised he'd be and it had been on his terms, and only in the past week, that he'd even started entering any type of sexual relations with her.
Sam's hand slipped off Teal'c's body as he turned over to face her. Very much awake, his brow arched ever-so-slightly, his eyes glistening brightly.
Sam responded with a slight brow arch of her own. She was suddenly envious of his enhanced lifespan. He seemed to have barely aged; more in shape now than he had ever been and only a streak of the lightest gray on his temples. She felt ancient in comparison.
Teal'c observed her for a long moment, crinkles like the rays of the sun emanating from the corners of his eyelids, acknowledging he knew she'd intentionally awakened him from his nap.
She felt her pelvic muscles tighten as he leaned his head closer to hers, his dark eyes, intense and direct in their desire for her, never leaving her own. As his lips lingered on hers, his free hand slowly traveled up her hip, down and back up the dip of her side, coming to rest on her breast. He kneaded her breast with his thumb, slowly, carefully, methodically; much in the way she had been kneading his shoulder moments earlier.
"You are ready?" he asked softly.
Sam considered the question for a moment. She'd literally been holed up in Teal'c's quarters for the past week, cocooning herself in his attention and love, and nearly having a fit when her Jaffa lover had refused penetration, always instead insisting on pleasuring her as she'd never been before. It had been driving her crazy in the best of ways. As Teal'c's thumb applied more pressure, Sam offhandedly wondered if Bra'tac had mentored Teal'c on this too.
Sam said nothing, but smiled widely, lifting a hand to caress his taut jaw muscles that twitched randomly under her fingers. She was ready for their relationship to move on.
"What?" Cameron rasped as he stood just inside the Asgard library confronting Daniel.
Cameron bent down to rest, his hands on his upper thighs. He finally had to admit that age was catching up with him. He could only run half as far in twice the time these days. Most of the slow down had been in the past year, but for the life of him, he couldn't figure out why. He still felt like a lean, mean, fighting machine. Maybe if he would actually allow the damn Asgard hologram to diagnose him he'd know why, but he couldn't stand being around Thor, or any of the other little digitized grey aliens.
"Sam's given up, too?" Cameron asked, lifting his head up to look at Daniel.
Daniel's eyes shifted away, and Cameron got the distinct feeling that Daniel was uncomfortable betraying Sam's confidence.
Cameron could understand Daniel finally calling it quits after several decades of poring over the same old archeo-mumbo-jumbo in the Asgard database, but Sam? No. That was unbelievable. "When?" he asked.
Daniel placed the Asgard modules into a padded box and then turned around to face Cameron, his expression sharp and hard. Pursing his lips, Daniel looked past Cameron. Daniel had been zapped, snaked, whumped, and ascended, but one thing was certain - the man was no Mr. Nice Guy anymore. Eons ago, Daniel always had been the one to reason things out with Cameron when he'd felt Cameron had been particularly harsh to Sam, but these days Daniel lit right back at him, his language worse than a sailor's on shore leave, if he didn't just outright ignore him.
Daniel waved his hand over the Asgard light control and the room dimmed behind them, the bright artificial light from above replaced by the soft light from the Ori power beam looming ever closer outside the ship. "She's tired, Cam. We're both really tired," Daniel said curtly, moving out into the corridor as the door shut behind them.
"Like the rest of us aren't?" Cameron asked, snorting.
Daniel took a deep breath and then clamped his mouth shut and started walking away.
A smirk spread over Cameron's face. No sailor today, he thought, the edges of his smirk curling upward as he caught up with Daniel.
"Don't you understand? She's been working on this for thirty years straight," Daniel said.
"But if Sam can't find the answer, then no one can," Cameron observed, straightening up, his breathing back to normal.
"Could be," Daniel said, walking slowly down the corridor past Cameron. "Might not, though."
"Well, I don't buy it," Cameron said.
Daniel stopped and walked back to where Cameron stood. He leaned in, only inches away from Cameron's face. "What's this all really about?" he asked. "Jealousy?"
Cameron shook his head, but was unable to hide the pink flush that colored his cheeks. "Jealous of what?" he asked as innocently as he could.
Daniel pursed his lips, furrowing his now deeply-wrinkled forehead. "Coyness doesn't suit you Cameron Mitchell. Not this late in the game." Daniel paused, squinting hard at Cameron. "Jealous. Of Sam. Of Sam and Teal'c, and what you lost."
"Awfully presumptuous there, aren't we?" Cameron asked snidely.
Eyebrows arched, Daniel said nothing.
Cameron glowered at him for a few moments, until Daniel shook his head and walked away. After Daniel disappeared, Cameron let his chin drop down to his chest. Okay, so he was a bit jealous. Sam and Teal'c had been together nearly ten years.
Cameron's hand tightened involuntarily into a fist. No, he was more than jealous and even more pissed off. It could have been him getting old with her and sharing her bed.
It should have been.
Sam slowly walked back from the computer core, long after what was now their last dinner together, the last of the localized time field reversal calculations tested and ready to be input. She found it hard to believe that Vala's prompting and a simple cello concerto was all it had taken to unlock the solution. The answer to their salvation had been there all along, so beautiful in its simplicity.
If only it didn't involve one of them staying old.
She walked into the quarters that she'd shared with Teal'c and felt a chill as the impact of the solution hit her. She would forget all of this and Teal'c would always remember every detail. Always. She would be back with Cameron and Teal'c would be….
Shivering, she rubbed her arms. Teal'c slipped off the bed where he'd been meditating, and took her into his arms and held her, just as he had done a lifetime ago when Jack had been lost with Mayfield. She continued to shiver. She was thankful he didn't question her; she wasn't sure now that she'd be able to go through with the plan if he did.
As he rubbed her back and her body slowly warmed, she sniffed back tears. "Teal'c."
"You know how much I love you?" she asked, looking up at him.
Teal'c nodded, a gentle smile on his face. "The feeling will always be mutual."
"No matter what happens, I want you to know you were always my rock…my strength," Sam said, sniffling louder.
Teal'c bent his head down. "I only did that which I believed was right."
Sam smiled. "Teal'c, I will always be grateful for my time with you," she said, sliding her hand up to caress his check.
Teal'c considered her hand for a moment, and then turned his face into her palm, lightly kissing her hand. "As will I," he whispered. "As will I."
Sam searched his eyes. "Never forget any of this," she said, before finding his mouth with hers.
"I shall not," he said, as he led her to their bed.
Cameron eyed Teal'c as they waited for the gate countdown to finish. "You know, I like to think that I handled myself well, but I imagine I went a bit crazy cooped up on that ship for so long."
Teal'c responded only with what had become his permanent, all-knowing smile. His ability to keep silent would be sorely tested for the foreseeable future; the burden of knowing how his friend had squandered his years would be his alone to bear.
He looked around at his teammates, vibrant and young again. He was proud to be counted amongst their numbers. They were formidable allies and his friends.
His smile widened as they started quoting clichés.
Daniel looked at Vala. "Silence is golden."
Cameron looked smug. "Jack of all trades; master of none."
Samantha smiled. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
"Life is too short," Vala said, exchanging looks with Daniel.
Teal'c smiled at his friends. "Good things come to those who wait."
"It must be torture for you not to tell us," Sam told him.
Teal'c searched her eyes for a moment. "Indeed," he acknowledged.
And indeed it was, especially to have been loved the way he had been loved and then to have lost it. But he gained some comfort in the scientific knowledge he'd gained from the Tau'ri: of how time bent, twisted, and folded back in on itself, and the knowledge that some other place, in some other reality, he was in a relationship with Sam and that comforted him immensely.
And if all else failed, he was a patient man, should Colonel Mitchell squander his second chance with the woman Teal'c loved.
Cameron shook his head as Vala threw her hands up, unable to get information out of Teal'c. She'd harangued the poor man during the entire first mission after their return from the lost Odyssey mission. She'd pestered Cameron about whom he thought had hooked up with whom in the other timeline. He slid his t-shirt over his head. He wanted to know what had happened, too, but he respected the man's right to keep his peace on the subject.
Daniel waved a hand at Cameron as he followed Vala out the locker room door, and Cameron turned back to Teal'c. "Come on, Teal'c, my man," Cameron said, zipping his jeans up. "Jackson's got a point - you're going to spill the beans sooner or later. Might as well be sooner, right?"
Teal'c didn't answer him.
Having zipped up her leather jacket, Sam came up beside Teal'c and laid her hand on his bicep. "Just one little tidbit? Please? You know it's going to eat at us for months! What if not knowing caused us to split apart?" she asked, her tone teasing as she gently rubbed his bicep.
"And you wouldn't want to be responsible for that, now would you?" Cameron asked, laughing. He didn't even want to consider a life without Sam's stability grounding it.
Cameron stopped laughing and Sam's smile disappeared as Teal'c stood immobile, solemnly staring at them and raising his eyebrow a miniscule amount.
"Oh," Cameron said, finally realizing what the man was saying through what he wasn't.
Sam looked concerned. "Teal'c, what happened?" she asked softly.
His expression softening a fraction, he answered as softly as Sam had. "I would hope…in this timeline…that it would never come to that." He nodded his leave of Cameron and gently placed a hand over Sam's, removing it from his bicep and holding it briefly in both of his hands before bowing deeply to her and turning to leave.
After he left, Cameron and Sam stood still, watching the empty doorway for several minutes.
"Now that really makes me wonder what happened," Sam said.
"I don't think I really want to know now, to tell you the truth," Cameron said, coming around the bench to stand beside her. He took her hand in his and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
She smiled at him. "I'm sorry," she said.
"For pushing you away back when Amy-," she started to explain.
"No," Cameron interrupted, looking down at the ground and shaking his head. "I'm the one who should be apologizing to you for that. For anything stupid I've done and ever will do."
Sam lifted her hand to touch his cheek. "Will do? Something I should know?"
Cameron didn't lift his head. He knew he would make mistakes, he just hoped he'd be big enough to own up to them, and that she'd be even bigger to forgive him. "I know I do stupid things sometimes. Hopefully it won't ever be that stupid."
Sam hugged him and laughed. "Cameron Mitchell, you're a funny one."
He smoothed her hair back, a small, closed-mouth smile on his face. "I tell you how much I love you lately?"
"No," she answered, pulling away and motioning toward the door. "But you've got the drive home to tell me as many times as you'd like."
Cameron pulled on his leather jacket. "Home. Feels like we haven't been there in years."
Sam slid her hand back into his as he joined her in the corridor. "According to Teal'c, we haven't."
"Plenty of time then to make up for lost time," he said, squeezing her hand.
"Indeed," she responded with a smile.
Sam bent over, trying to pick up the congratulations card that had fallen off the table full of gifts and couldn't. Her stomach was just too big now.
"Time to retire when you can't bend over," one of the nurses from the infirmary joked.
"You never retire from the program," Sam retorted, laughing. But she knew she really couldn't; any child of hers would be a hot commodity in certain quarters for study or for ransom. It was an unfortunate fact that the program could protect her child better than she and Cameron could afford to do so alone.
Teal'c appeared at her side and picked up the fallen card. Sam was a bit surprised to see him at the baby shower; she'd assumed this wasn't his kind of thing.
"Thanks," she said, easing into the stiff plastic seat. After she was settled, Teal'c continued to stand next to her, a huge grin on his face, as he observed the large crowd of base personnel mingling and eating what remained of the cake that had been in the shape of a large yellow rubber duck.
"Teal'c? Are you okay?" she asked.
His grin widened and from behind his back, he pulled out a long rectangular box which he carefully presented to her.
Sam's brow wrinkled. A wall hanging? She carefully peeled off the large bow and opened the box and her mouth fell open.
A miniature staff weapon?
She looked at Teal'c and started to laugh. "Where? How…?"
A full-fledged smile covered the Jaffa's face. "You are not offended?" he asked.
Sam smiled. "Of course not!" She carefully turned the weapon over, noticing its fine detail and workmanship. "It doesn't work, does it?" she asked, slightly concerned.
Teal'c took the weapon from her hand. "No, it is not fully-functional." He pressed the activation lever and the cover opened and colored glass shot up and Sam heard the distinct sound of staff weapon fire.
She looked up at him, smiling.
"However, it does mimic my weapon in every other way," Teal'c said, sounding extremely pleased.
"Who…?" Sam asked.
"Sergeant Siler, Doctor Lee, and several others who wish to remain anonymous were most helpful in its creation," he acknowledged.
Cameron came up behind Teal'c and slapped him companionably on the back. "Whoa!" he said, catching sight of the miniature weapon. He nodded appreciatively. "That's for the baby?"
Teal'c nodded. "A godparent must ensure his ward begins training at an early age."
Cameron snatched it up from Sam's hands. "Does it work?" he asked, pushing the activation lever. "Oh man!" he chortled at the cover popping open in front of him. He aimed it at Dave Dixon, who was approaching pulling a red wagon filled with a huge bow-topped teddy bear, and fired, looking suitably impressed at the sound effects. "Too cool," he said, holding it up to inspect the weapon more closely.
Lying next to his wife who was napping amongst a mountain of pillows, Cameron looked at her swollen abdomen with an immense pride tempered by an intense fear. Was he going to be a good father? What if his SG-1 experiences had screwed with his sperm? What about Sam and all she'd been through? Regardless of the assurances of the base doctors, he still worried if their child would be normal.
He snorted. Where he and Sam were concerned, would anything ever be normal?
As her pregnancy had progressed into its final stages, Jack had sent orders taking Sam off active field duty with SG-1 and had even gone so far as to prohibit her from stepping foot in R&D, an action that had really pissed her off. Cameron smiled as he saw the bulge of a fist or a foot - he wasn't sure which it was - ripple across her tight skin. The SGC was turning his Sam into an administrator whether she liked it or not. His grin grew wider. He wasn't sure yet how he liked that, but Sam hated it, only grudgingly handing SG-1 over to Cameron and assuming an administrative position under Landry.
Cameron reached out his hand to lightly touch the next bulge. Recent talk of an assignment to the Pegasus galaxy and Atlantis hadn't piqued her interest - this past week especially, Sam wasn't interested in anything. Work. Him. Food. Nothing. She'd slowed to a mere waddle and hadn't slept much, unable to find a comfortable position anywhere in the house. The doctor said she still had another week, possibly two, but Cameron wasn't so sure.
He touched his forehead to her stomach. "Hey little one," he whispered. They'd intentionally asked not to be told the child's sex.
He felt fingers ruffle through his hair. "Hey, Daddy," he heard Sam say.
He looked up. "Did I wake you?"
She shook her head. "Never really fell asleep. Just resting my eyes."
"Not a good day?"
"Not a good week."
"No labor pains yet?" Cameron asked.
Sam's brows knit together as she thought about it. "More like cramps…and I think my water may have just broken."
Cameron shot up off the bed. "Really? Are you sure? Are you okay? Should I get the car started?"
Sam laughed, holding her hands around her belly. "Yes. I think. Well… maybe not yet…," she said, stopping suddenly to catch her breath. She winced and swallowed hard.
"Saaaaaam…," Cameron said, moving forward to touch her shoulder and then her stomach. "What is it, Sam?"
"Maybe you should go and get my bag."
"Hot damn!" he exclaimed, grabbing his keys and the bag tucked into the corner next to the bedroom door. He ran out of the room.
"Sam?" he called from the hallway.
"Oh yeah, right!" He ran back into the room and dropped the bag to the floor, reaching down to help her get out of bed.
As she slowly straightened up into a pained slouch, he kissed her. No matter what would happen to them, he would always love her.
"Love you," he said, his eyes searching hers.
She smiled. "Love you too."