Cameron Mitchell slumped down further on his couch, his outstretched foot knocking over a mostly empty carton of fried rice. He was almost asleep, the tv flashing image after image of a program he wasn't paying attention to and had muted a few hours ago. The Chinese take-out hadn't settled well in his stomach and Cam found himself feeling unusually morose. He stretched again and turned on his back, not really interested in getting up to walk the short distance to the bedroom and his bed; not that he slept in his bed very often anyway. It was the same reason that his fridge was perpetually empty; SG-1 was off-word or stuck in the mountain often enough that the rare night that they got off Cam spent in uneasy solitude.
It took some time and effort, when he was away from the team, to remember exactly why he had wanted this. He had no life beyond the SGC, which was pretty standard for everyone involved in the Stargate program. He and his team were nearly killed, a lot, and they saved the world more frequently than Cam was strictly comfortable with. And, in the heat of the moment as they ran for their lives or prevented a world from being taken over or destroyed, it felt really good. But, when he’s sprawled on his couch at night and looks up at the slightly sagging and spotted ceiling of his apartment, he sometimes wondered if it was worth it.
He'd never met his neighbors; some days he only barely recalled his own address, and dating was simply not an option with his schedule. Despite the closeness of the team, a closeness forged hard and fast in combat where trust was essential, it wasn't really the same as having off-hours friends. People he could kick back and have a beer with and the conversation didn't turn to how they were going to handle the Ori threat and how few allies they currently had in the galaxy. Cameron let out a sigh and dropped his feet down to the ground. He turned off the tv and made himself clean up the empty take-out cartons and beer bottles before he got ready for bed. Sleeping on the couch would make his knees ache worse than usual and they were scheduled for a mission the next day. He tried to not let on to his team how much his knees bothered him on the long treks across rough terrain, though considering that one of the other members of the team would call for a break shortly after they started to really hurt, he probably wasn't doing a particularly good job.
Cam pulled back his sheets and blankets and climbed into his bed, the pillows and blankets feeling oddly soft and foreign to him. Making a vow to make it into his bed more often, he stared up at the ceiling and waited for sleep to claim him.
Part One: Aliens (Almost) Make Cam and Sam "Do It"
The mission briefing had been short and to the point, which Cam decided had to be a good sign. No complicated scientific things to go wrong, no signs of Ori or Goa'uld occupation on the planet since the last time they'd been there, nothing out of the ordinary. Well, nothing more out of the ordinary than the fact that they were traveling through a wormhole to another planet; Cam still had a hard time getting past that some days. Then he'd look at Teal'c and Vala and remember that they'd spent their entire lives on alien planets, and that to them, Earth was an alien planet. It was mind boggling; on the rare chances when he gave himself a moment to really think about it, he just grinned and felt secure in the knowledge that he was exactly where he needed to be.
"Anything else, Colonel?" General Landry asked, looking up from the mission folder.
After a quick glance over the rest of the team to make sure no one needed to share anything, Cam shook his head. "I think that's it, Sir. Let's hit the road."
Everyone got to their feet and started out, Vala darting forward to latch onto Daniel, undoubtably asking what 'hitting the road' meant. Cam had discovered the hard way that most of expressions from Earth, English idioms in particular, did not translate well and required extensive explanation. Teal'c, for the most part, seemed to have gotten the hang of the majority of them; though Cam sometimes wondered how often he truly didn't understand and how often he was just pulling their legs. He suspected that the latter was the case more often than anyone dared to guess. Teal'c had a very wry sense of humor that Cam was coming to appreciate more and more by the day.
They went through the routine of getting ready to 'gate out; Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c moving with easy efficiency and routine that spoke of years of practice. The three of them were so adapted to each others presence and had a deep awareness of their personalities and capabilities that it was almost like watching a single organism. There was still the occasional aborted movement or phrase, part of them still expecting General O'Neill to be at their side, but that had mostly stopped. It had taken a few months for Cam to integrate, to prove that he was capable and willing to work with them and learn instead of coming in and running roughshod over the team. When Vala had joined, the team had adapted again, learned her quirks the same way they had come to recognize each others, and they became part of that seamless unit.
Cam glanced over and noticed Daniel going over Sam's pack, and Teal'c a bench over going through Vala's. They always had another person check their packs, an eccentricity that after a long and somewhat confusing explanation from Daniel and Sam about an off-world adventure during their first year as a team, Cam had just understood as 'people forget things when it comes to themselves, but not when it comes to their teammates'. Everyone was dressed, with the exception of their tac vests which would wait until they were actually ready to go up to the embarkation room. Vala was in front of a mirror and deeply involved in the process of pulling her hair back into braids; she'd been more careful about tying it back since it had gotten caught in some gears a few missions back. Of course, she would have gotten caught in them if she hadn't been messing around in there purportedly looking for 'treasure' in the first place.
Sam sat down on the bench with Cam's pack and started going through it, leaving Cam to lean over and grab Daniel's as soon as he was finished tying his boot laces.
"Everything alright?" Sam asked quietly when Cam joined her on the bench.
Cam gave her his best 'I haven't the slightest idea what you mean' expression along with a small and easy smile. "Everything is great. Doesn't even sound like we're going to have a stand off with the Ori today."
Sam's raised eyebrow as she finished with Cam's pack and closed it back up let Cam know he wasn't getting anything passed her, but she dropped the subject easily enough. She got up to finish getting ready, leaving Cam to go through Daniel's pack. It wasn't actually like Daniel to forget something or have extra stuff in his pack, years of going through the 'gate had left him too efficient for that, but he still didn't conform to the military neatness and organization that was second nature to both Cam and Sam. At least he hadn't gotten Vala's pack, he never knew what he was going to find when he dug through there.
They wound up on the ramp leading to the 'gate pretty much exactly at their departure time and Cam offered a salute and a nod to the window where General Landry and the rest of the 'gate room staff were looking down on them as the wormhole engaged. Cam stared as they approached the object that he'd been so determined to go through, along with the team that he'd been so intent on joining, knowing down to the soles of his boots that this was right and meant to be. He just wished it didn't mean he had to feel quite so lonely.
Cam pulled on his game face as the reached the edge and took one last look at his team to ensure they were all with him and ready. "Let's go," he said simply and stepped through as he mentally braced himself for the somewhat uncomfortable sensation of stepping through the 'gate.
He appeared on the other side, aware that all of the hairs on the back of his arms and neck were standing up and he was suddenly grateful to be sucking in a breath of warm air. Sam swore up and down that there simply was no way that Cam should feel anything when he went through the 'gate, that what he said he was feeling was just his brain supplying the expected sensations in the absence of actual stimuli. Cam figured that she'd just stopped feeling it after a while, or maybe his body was processing it differently; either way, he definitely felt something.
It was late spring on Turcanda, and even though they had just over eleven kilometers hike over a moderately daunting series of hills and valleys ahead of them, it didn't seem like it would be a particularly bad journey. After a quick, yet thorough, sweep of the area around them, Cam led his team in the direction of the town they'd visited for the first time a few months back. Vala was chattering about something to Daniel, who was mostly not paying attention if his expression was anything to go by, while Teal'c and Sam walked along the sides still attentive to any possible threat. Cam allowed himself to settle into the motions of keeping them on track for the town, with the help of the stone markers that were set up to guide travelers, keeping up surveillance along with his awareness of his team and let the rest of his mind drop into the calm and clear state that he'd learned on other long treks throughout his military career.
They stopped for a rest break at about the halfway point, having gone down into a small valley with a stream that pooled into a reasonably sized pond. Cam's knees had just started to move from a dull ache to a persistent throb, and from the sideways glances that he'd caught from Daniel and Sam, the rest of the team knew it too. Cam dropped his back down next to the edge of the pond, sat down on one of the smooth rocks that overlooked the water and pulled out his canteen along with a set of the more potent pain pills that he'd been prescribed.
The shade from a grove of trees covered Cam while he rested and he decided he was grateful for the gentle breeze that kept them from getting too hot on the journey. Vala already had her boots off and was wading in the shallow side of the pond, apparently too energized to actually sit still long enough to take a break. Daniel, on the other hand, was sprawled under a section of the trees and looked like he was already nearly asleep.
Teal'c was still keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings, but was also tearing into an MRE and preparing what smelled like some sort of pasta with marinara. Teal'c was the only person that Cam knew, apart from one really strange Major in his first unit, that actually really liked MRE's, instead of just finding them tolerable at best. Of course, Teal'c was also one of the only people that Cam knew who ate what seemed like enough to feed three or four guys a day. After Cam had mentioned it one day, Daniel had pulled Cam aside and told him that Teal'c had needed to eat less when he'd had a symbiote, and that it was still a rather sensitive topic with Teal'c. Personally, Cam would have thought that not having a symbiote would be a huge relief but it was obvious that Teal'c felt differently, so Cam had made a note not to say anything about how much Teal'c ate in the future.
Cam took another drink from his canteen and looked up to find Sam walking towards him. The rest of the team typically avoided him while he was dealing with his knees; in a way it was just like they didn't bring up Jaffa symbiotes around Teal'c. Sam sat down in the grass a few feet away, staying out in the sun instead of joining him in the shade, and stretched her legs out on the grass. Cam nodded to acknowledge her presence and went back to staring out across the valley, thinking of how if there were power lines stretched overhead or the sound of airplanes distantly buzzing they could have just as easily been on Earth. For all the planets they traveled to that felt alien, most of them felt very similar to places that could be found somewhere on Earth.
"The SGC is different from other postings," Sam said after a few minutes of silence.
Cam raised his eyebrows and turned to face Sam. "True enough. Most postings don't tend to include traveling to other planets."
Sam smiled, though without any real emotion behind it. "That's not what I meant. Most places, when you aren't in an active combat zone at least, you have a chance to socialize and go home almost every night. You get to know your neighbors and you're friends with the people on base."
A little wary about where this conversation was going, Cam nodded for her to continue.
"At the SGC, you know that the world could end at practically any moment, and your team is your coworkers, your friends, and your family all rolled into one. It takes a while to get used to," Sam shrugged a little. "But you do. So just give it some time."
"Not that I don't appreciate your concern," Cam said a little tensely; because he did appreciate it, somewhere deep down. "But why are we having this conversation?"
"You just have seemed a little bit down lately. Looked lonely, I guess. I've been there, I tried dating a bunch of times over the course of the years, and it never really worked out. Too many things I can't say about our work, too many times when I get stuck off-world, or on base for a week solid trying to build something that will save all of our butts. But, it stops mattering so much after a few years." Sam smiled again, this time with a little more enthusiasm.
Cam forced himself to relax, noticing that he'd been clenching his jaw during Sam's little speech. "Thanks for you concern, but I'm fine," he said as casually as he could muster.
Sam raised her chin slightly, a brief moment where she caught Cam's unspoken message passing through her eyes, and she climbed back to her feet. "Of course, sir." She grabbed her pack and walked around the edge of the pond to drop down next to where Daniel was dozing with Vala now sprawled in the grass by his feet.
Cam sighed and leaned back on the rock he was sitting on. Things had been a little awkward between him and Sam when he'd first gathered up the team. They were the same rank, with only a few months of time in rank served separating them. Sam had years of experience at the SGC and on a 'gate team, as well as having led SG-1 for an entire year after O'Neill's promotion to General. If the situation had been reversed and she'd suddenly come out of nowhere and taken over the command position on the team, Cam wasn't sure if he would have handled it as gracefully and with as little apparent resentment as she'd shown. For most part they avoided using 'sir' or 'colonel' when addressing each other, saving it for when they were in front of the brass or, like right now, when they were instinctively trying to distance themselves from the other person. It was one of the effects of rank, they'd learned. When someone was calling you sir or by your rank, it was more difficult to view the person as a friend and more difficult to take whatever they were saying personally.
Tipping his head to the side he could see that Teal'c had finished his meal and was on his feet and Vala was putting her boots back on. Cam flexed his knees and decided that the pills had kicked in enough that if he took another one in two hours he should be good to make it to the town and not be in agony when he woke up the next day. He drank from his canteen one more time before putting it away and shouldering his pack.
It took a moment to locate the next stone marker, this one up on the crest of a hill with a carving that he couldn't make out from his current location, but he knew it would be of some kind of detailed flower that would indicate the direction they were supposed to head in next. Why they didn't just use arrows, Cam didn't know, but Daniel had figured out the pattern easily enough even if it did apparently require an accompanying lecture about the use of symbology in directional carvings in a cross-cultural comparison. When Daniel had glanced back to find all of their expressions somewhat glazed, he'd merely commented that he'd saved all of their lives with things that he knew and that they might learn something important if they paid attention.
Since that was entirely true, they all just nodded and let Daniel continue with his lesson, Cam mostly just feeling glad he didn't have to take notes and there wasn't going to be a test that he needed a passing grade on. He was done with school and had no desire to get a doctorate in anything no matter how popular they were at the SGC. The team gathered up and they continued their trek, Daniel motioning up yet another hill and Cam groaned mentally as they started up the moderately steep incline.
The Turcandans greeted them enthusiastically, obviously glad to see them and glad that their plan to keep the Ori from occupying their planet was such a rousing success. Cam found himself embraced by an over-excited town leader and a glance around revealed that everyone else on his team was being hugged, or in the case of Teal'c, patted on the arms and shoulders vigorously.
"The Prior has only appeared once since your visit. They seemed quite confused when our town was no longer present, and just like you said, they didn't investigate further into our lands," Tamor was grinning and he wrapped his arms around Cam again.
The man's stature ensured that Cam's face was pressed firmly into his robes, and Cam decided that he might be allergic to the smell of the incense that was soaked into the cloth. When he was released he found the rest of his team watching with vaguely amused expressions, their own villagers having released them from their embraces with much less attention.
"We're very glad that the Ori have left your world," Cam said, not even having to fake his relief. Losing another planet to the Ori, especially one that had marginal technological advancement and a fairly large population, would have been unfortunate to say the least. The cloaking technology they'd continued to adapt in order to surround small towns and villages was proving to be effective so far, but who know how long it would take for a particularly powerful Prior to figure out what was happening.
"We should discuss more about how and when it's appropriate to use the cloaking device, so that you'll have enough power left to use it when it's absolutely necessary," Sam said, moving up so that she was standing next to Cam in order to address the leader.
The man grinned and placed his hands on both Cam and Sam's shoulders. "That would be marvelous. We are very interested in what you can tell us about, well everything!"
Cam exchanged a brief glance with Sam, receiving confirmation that they were both amused by the general enthusiasm of the people they'd met and a little uncomfortable by the lack of a notion of personal space within the culture. Pretty much everyone they'd met was eager to touch and hug and generally be as close to each other, and to everyone on the team, as possible.
"We're more than happy to trade and share information with your people, Tamor." Daniel spoke as he stepped forward, effectively rescuing Cam and Sam from the attentions of Tamor and rescuing himself from Vala. Vala had taken the opportunity of being on Turcanda to drape herself over Daniel at every available moment, much to the approval and the amusement of the Turcandans. Fortunately for Daniel, Tamor had also taken a particular liking to the archeologist and took any opportunity to pepper him with questions about a random deluge of subjects.
"Shall we go to the assembly hall to discuss everything, and tonight: a banquet!" Tamor turned to address the townspeople who had gathered. "A feast! In honor of a successful harvests, our continued safety from the threat of the Ori, and in honor of our guests!"
The gathered people cheered and the team found themselves being embraced enthusiastically, including Teal'c when a brave child dashed forward and wrapped her ams around his waist, or as far around as she could reach anyway.
After once more freeing themselves from the grips of the Turcandans, they made their way towards the assembly hall lost in the babble of excited questions and statements. Cam turned and found Sam nearby, leaning down a little and smiling to a young boy who was asking her about her vest and clinging to her arm.
When the kid dashed off, Cam gave her a wry look. "You actually enjoy this, don't you?"
Sam looked thoughtful for a moment. "Yes, I do. I enjoy seeing a world that we've managed to help. And people who aren't shooting at us or taking us prisoner. It makes for a nice change."
"It does make for a nice change," Cam agreed. "But I mean, all the grabbing and the touching; it doesn't bother you at all?" He didn't mind, in theory at least, but to suddenly be surrounded by people who were all interested in embracing him and touching his hair and face was more of an adjustment then he expected.
"Seven or eight years ago, it would have bothered me," Sam said after pausing to consider the question. "I suppose I've just adapted to accepting cultural extremes. And really, after the planet where clothing was definitely optional, a little hugging isn't so bad. Don't worry, you'll get there."
Cam narrowly avoided pointing out, again, that he wasn't worried and wasn't really looking for the reassurance. They climbed up the steps to the assembly hall, which Tamor had gone into great deal of detail about the construction and artistry the first time they'd been through, and Cam could hear him currently describing the carvings that adorned the tops of the walls and Daniel providing commentary about similar structures on Earth.
He hurried his steps just a little until he was following behind them and leaving Sam with the rest of the crowd, not really paying attention to the content of the conversation he was pretending to be interested in. Daniel gave him a curious look at his approach but turned back to the near monologue being delivered by Tamor with interest. Sometimes 'gate travel was just a matter of choosing between the least of two evils, and right now listening to chatter about methods of stone carving and artistic technique was easier than listening to Sam try to tell him one more time that things got easier after a few more years.
The set up was actually fairly comfortable, Cam decided as he rested his elbows on the table and leaned forward to take another piece of some kind of meat that tasted a little bit like lamb, and a lot like strawberries, but with a texture more like oranges. The food on a whole was surprisingly good, and the pillows and furs that were gathered around the low tables were helping his knees quite a bit. Well, the pillows and the fact that he'd taken two pills instead of just one; it wasn't above what he was prescribed but it was more than he liked to take off-world. But the town seemed safe enough that it was worth it if they were planning on heading back to the 'gate in two days.
Tamor approached, grinning broadly as he handed Cam a metal tankard and knelt down to pat Cam's shoulders. "It is a celebration! For you and your people as well as mine!" He was shouting in order to be heard over the noise that filled the large and crowded room.
"It is," Cam called back, raising his voice enough to be heard.
Tamor released Cam to place the heavy mug back in Cam's hands and waved his hands wildly to indicate that Cam should drink.
Cam sniffed at the beverage and decided that it probably wasn't alcoholic, though he remembered reading somewhere that people in the Middle Ages had died from lead poisoning by drinking out of similar mugs. Deciding it was probably safe enough, safe as anything that they ate or drank off-world even though they all carried epi-pens and other medications in case of allergic reactions, Cam took a sip and nodded his head. "It's good," he said loudly, surprised to find that it actually was good and didn't taste like it had alcohol in it at all.
"It is good!" Tamor shouted and clapped his hands above his head before springing to his feet, more agilely than was expected from a man his age, and disappeared off into the crowd.
Cam settled back onto his cushions, resting his knees out to the side, and sipped from his drink. Sam was right about one thing; this world had a lot on a lot of the places they visited. There was something to be said for a culture that was as peaceful as hippies but partied like frat boys.
Casually, Cam glanced around the room and managed to put eyes on each member of his team. Daniel was nearly touching foreheads with one of the town's scholars, both of them struggling to be heard over the party and Daniel waved his hands about as he tried to illustrate whatever point he was trying to make as the scholar nodded his understanding. Vala was nearby, the center of attention of a group of townsfolk; she was actually standing on one of the tables with what looked like a good portion of a roasted bird in one hand and grinning madly. Teal'c was sitting at the head of one of the quieter tables, deeply engrossed with the food that had been steadily directed toward him, with a group of the town council members gathered at his sides.
Cam frowned as he realized that he was missing someone; counting to four had become second nature to him as his mind ran constant checks on the location of his team members while they were off-world. Daniel had noticed him doing it once, his head catching each time before he remembered that Teal'c was on another planet at a Free Jaffa summit. Daniel had just tipped his head and mused on how far reaching the psychological effects of 'gate travel were and the potential connections between 'gate teams and military teams in long term combat situations. When Cam had raised his eyebrows, Daniel had shrugged and mentioned that it would be an interesting study before he ambled forward to catch up with Sam.
Looking around more carefully, because Sam's light hair should be easy to catch in the midst of the darker haired locals, Cam finally found her sitting on the edge of one of the tables at the back of the room with her head bowed forward until she was nearly out of sight.
Concerned that the food hadn't agreed with her, or that she'd encountered some trouble with one of the people in the town because no one was anywhere near her, Cam abandoned his drink and got to his feet. With a certain amount of relief he noticed that his knees weren't bothering him at all anymore, and he walked with ease through the raucous crowd.
"Sam?" Cam called when he was a few feet away, certain that he had been heard over the noise of the party. Sam didn't move and from Cam's new vantage point he could see that she was supporting her head with her hands.
"Sam?" he asked again, this time putting one of his hands on her shoulder and shaking a little.
With apparently great effort, Sam tipped her head back and stared at him with her brow creased.
"Are you alright?" Cam asked, leaning in closer as he noticed how dilated the pupils of her eyes were.
Sam's eyes finally focused on Cam's face and her expression brightened into a wide smile. "Cam!"
Well, if she recognized him that was a good sign. "Sam, how are you feeling? Do you feel sick?"
After a moment to consider the question, Sam shook her head. "It's kinda hot in here. Can we go outside?" Her head was already slipping back to the side as she spoke.
"I think that might be a good idea. Can you walk?" Cam asked mostly out of politeness. The way Sam's body was leaning towards his without any regard to her center of balance was a pretty good indication that she couldn't.
"Yep," Sam said anyway and managed to push herself up onto her feet, with Cam's assistance in catching her before she fell straight to the ground as she stumbled over an empty mug that had wound up on the floor.
Feeling more like he was escorting a date who'd had too much to drink at a college party instead of one of his very capable teammates while they were on an alien planet, Cam steered them both through the crowd and out onto the steps of the building. He sat them both down a few steps down and to the side so they wouldn't get trampled if people came outside, noticing that Sam had started shivering as soon as they hit the night air.
"What did you eat and drink in there?" Cam asked, pressing one of his hands to Sam's neck to check her pulse and see how warm her skin was. She was definitely warmer than usual, but it could have just been from the heat inside the building, but her pulse was a little elevated if he had to make a guess.
"Some kind of fruit thing, it was purple," Sam said as she dropped her head back to look at the sky. "Some meat that was almost like lamb but not really. Water. The water was really good."
Cam frowned. It wasn't anything that he and the rest of the team hadn't eaten, and he'd worry about it just being a quantity versus body mass thing if he hadn't seen Vala eating more than he'd eaten himself. And last time he checked, Vala was doing just fine. "Do you feel dizzy? Let me check your eyes again." He used his hand to guide her head to the side so the light from the building would illuminate her face, but he didn't get a good chance to look to see if her eyes were still dilated because she leaned in and was kissing him, using her hands to keep him from pulling his head away.
Finally managing to unhook her hands from his hair, Cam pushed her back a little and ignored how she was threading her legs around his. "Sam? What was that?"
Sam grinned, pulling one of her hands free and running it down the side of Cam's face. "Oh, Cam. Has it been so long since you've been kissed that you don't even know what it is anymore?" She leaned in like she was about to kiss him again and Cam managed to push her back again.
"No, I mean, why are you kissing me?" he asked, feeling like something had reached into his brain and muddled everything around. He was sitting on the steps to an alien ceremonial hall kissing, no, not kissing, his teammate. There was something wrong about that situation, if only he could figure out exactly what that something was.
"Can't I like you?" Sam asked. She had pushed Cam's hands aside and was now sitting astride his legs and moving to kiss Cam again.
Cam had enough sense and fortitude to use Sam's shoulders to push her to the side, but her mouth only found his neck instead, a hot warmth followed immediately by a sharp and painful nip of her teeth. "Sam!" Her question, whether or not she could like him, finally permeated Cam's mind and he realized what was going on.
A short struggle ensued, as Cam tried to get Sam off of his lap without sending both of them tumbling down the steps to the hard ground below. "Cam, please," Sam was saying as she tried to latch onto him.
"Can I get some help out here?" Cam asked as he finally managed to get a hand free to call for help on his radio. All he could hope that there wasn't some kind of orgy already taking place inside the building with his teammates very occupied. It figured, he thought as he struggled with Sam, that the only nice and friendly planet they had come across recently were fans of drug-induced orgies. Maybe his notion about frat boys and hippies wasn't so far off after all.
"What the hell?" Daniel asked as the rest of the team hurried out onto the steps.
"Do you mind giving me a hand?" Cam asked as he removed Sam's hands from his posterior, again.
Teal'c was down by them within seconds and carefully restraining Sam.
Cam stumbled a few steps away, stopping when he noticed that Sam was struggling harder against Teal'c the further away he got. He raised one of his hands to where she had bit him, grimacing when his fingertips came away wet with blood, Returning through the 'gate with hickeys never went over well with the General.
"Okay, so what did we miss?" Vala asked, sounding more amused than Cam felt the situation warranted.
"Were any of you given something to drink by Tamor or any of his assistants?" Cam asked, trying to ignore the way his stomach was twisting as he watched Sam struggle within Teal'c's grip.
Daniel shook his head. "I was just drinking from the communal pitchers."
"As was I," Teal'c confirmed.
"Nope, no special juice for me," Vala said, sounding a little less amused.
"You think the leader dosed Sam with roofies or something?" Daniel asked.
Cam sighed and ran one of his hands through his hair. "Maybe, or maybe the effect was unintentional, who knows. But he gave me a big mug of something, and when I saw Sam, she nearly fell over a similar one."
Daniel folded his arms. "Then why aren't you-"
"I don't know. I didn't finish all of mine, I probably drank less then half. And even though I'm not," Cam gestured to where Sam was now crying softly against Teal'c, "as effected, I definitely feel something."
"What's it like?" Vala asked curiously.
Cam shivered and ran his hands over his arms. "Like I'm too cold and too hot and itchy under my skin. And that it would all stop if Sam was touching me."
"That's specific," Daniel said after a moment.
"Well, maybe the drug only reacts to other people who are drugged, I don't know. But what are we going to do?" Cam asked, making the effort to not turn away from Sam.
"I would suggest finding somewhere more private until we have information to make a decision," Teal'c suggested, shifting the way he was holding Sam.
"Agreed. I'll go talk to Tamor about our lodgings for the night," Cam said.
He'd made it up three steps before he heard Sam's ear splitting shriek and found himself moving back to her without even having to think about it. The separation hadn't been as painful for him as it clearly had been for her, but it had still felt like his body had nearly been yanked out of his skin.
"Why don't I go talk to Tamor," Daniel suggested and hurried up the steps without waiting for a reply.
"See what you can find out about this drink!" Cam shouted after Daniel. When Daniel had disappeared back into the building, Cam walked over to where Sam was still crying and placed his hand on one of hers. She stopped sobbing after a moment and looked up, her eyes so dark he could barely make out the iris between the pupil and the white.
"Please don't leave me," she said, her voice rough from screaming.
"I won't," Cam said, feeling a little guilty. He was going to have to talk with Tamor after the situation was straightened out. "Just don't bite me again."
Sam nodded agreeably and pressed her face against Cam's hand, practically nuzzling him. Cam forced himself to ignore exactly how good that felt and how much he wanted to just let Sam wrap herself around him.
Daniel returned within minutes and they made their way awkwardly down the steps, Teal'c still hanging onto Sam and Sam clutching Cam's hand tightly. Vala and Daniel walked alongside, Daniel looking concerned and Vala far less amused than only a few minutes ago.
Cam sighed, hoping their hut or whatever it was they'd been allotted for the evening was nearby and that whatever this was would wear off soon. It wouldn't be 'gate travel if that happened, but he could still hope.
Cam turned so he was on his back. The alien bed was comfortable enough, more comfortable than the tents they carried with them, but he was wide awake. They were taking turns keeping watch, mostly to watch over Sam rather than keeping an eye out for threats, though Cam had been relieved of that duty due to his 'condition'.
Tamor had declined to come talk with them that night, an apologetic young man explaining that they were to stay in their rooms and Tamor would come by for the morning meal. Cam had been tempted to go track down Tamor, demand to know what made it acceptable on this planet for him to drug visitors, but when he'd tried to leave he had the same reaction as before. In the end, he settled for tossing himself down in the small bedroom that was attached to the main room and leaving the door open so that he and Sam could see each other.
Sam had settled, was no longer crying or struggling to get to Cam, but had curled up in a chair and was running her hands over her skin repetitively. The rest of the team had hovered helplessly before settling in for the night, reducing the light to a single lantern so everyone could sleep.
Cam understood Sam's predicament better than he wanted to admit; he'd found his own hands moving of their own accord reaching under his shirt to press against the skin of his arms and chest. Finally, so he didn't look like a complete idiot, he settled for clasping his hands together and letting his fingers rub the back of his hands until the skin felt raw. Cam rolled his head to the side, wondering if he was actually close to sleeping. If Sam wasn't completely well in the morning, and probably even if she was just as a precaution, they'd be walking back to the 'gate. It would be a tough walk either way, but it would be even more gruesome if he didn't get any sleep. He closed his eyes and focused on the sensation of his fingers moving steadily back and forth.
When he felt the bed dip down beside him, at first he wasn't sure if he was asleep and just having one of those dark and vague dreams that didn't seem to have much content, just sensation. But when he felt a pair of cool hands pressing against his skin, and a weight settling over his hips, his eyes flew open and he found Sam's face only inches from his own. Before he could speak, she leaned down and pressed her lips against his, her tongue lapping briefly against his lower lip.
"Sam, stop," Cam said, griping onto her shoulders to push her up.
She leaned her weight against his hands. "You want this. You want me."
Cam sighed and dropped his head back against the thick pillow. "You don't, Sam. Just the drugs. Remember the drugs?"
Sam paused for a moment and nodded. "I know." She sounded unsteady, like she was close to tears again.
Noticing that the feeling in his stomach felt an awful lot like guilt, and an awful lot like someone was sitting on him, Cam gently moved Sam to the side. Thankfully, she wasn't fighting him anymore and let herself be moved.
"I know," she said again. "But, I feel... I have to be near you. Let me stay here, just for a while?"
Cam sighed and glared across the room, not able to make out who had fallen asleep while they were supposed to be watching over Sam. "No funny business? Hands to yourself?"
"I promise. Please, I'm just so alone."
Sam sounded like she was close to tears again and Cam gave in and settled back against the pillow. He found himself automatically gravitating towards her and wondered if agreeing had been a bad idea; not because of Sam not upholding her end of the deal, but if he couldn't keep himself from moving towards her in his sleep. About to consign himself to keeping himself awake the rest of the night, he felt Sam's hand wrap itself around his, her fingers soothing the skin he'd rubbed until it was sore. When she made no further moves, Cam closed his eyes and discovered that the contact was just enough to stop the persistent crawling sensation he'd felt under his skin and he no longer felt like he was going to wind up wrapped around Sam in his sleep. He felt rather than heard Sam fall asleep, and followed shortly after.
By morning Cam was fairly sure he was free of the effects of whatever he'd been drugged with had worn off completely, but it was always hard to tell for certain when the drugs had behavioral side effects. Sam seemed to be doing better as well, though she'd been avoiding Cam as much as possible, and Cam made the call to head back to the 'gate anyway just to be on the safe side. His desire to just have the mission over with had nothing to do with that decision. Not more than half of the decision, at least.
Daniel had opted to hold the conversation with Tamor, not giving Cam a chance to tell the man exactly what he thought about being drugged or drugging one of his team members. When Daniel joined them at the edge of the town, the team disappearing before the townspeople had the opportunity to hug them farewell, he'd just shaken his head and told Cam that it wasn't an appropriate time for a recap of the conversation.
If anything, the walk back to the 'gate was more uncomfortable than the walk there. Sam stayed at the front of the group, occasionally interacting with Daniel but otherwise keeping to herself. Cam imagined that she was at least a little embarrassed; he certainly was. The looks that the rest of the team had given them upon discovering them laying in bed together had said plenty, and Cam was sure they'd have done much more than give him significant looks if it wasn't very obvious that they'd both slept in their uniforms.
Teal'c was being his typical stoic self, but Cam noticed that his gaze was on Sam more often than it was on the horizon. There were scratches on his arms where Sam had fought to get away from him and to Cam, not deep enough to bleed but they were very obvious in the direct sunlight. Vala seemed content in her own little world today, occasionally humming softly to herself, but for once not talking enthusiastically to Daniel. Cam wasn't fooled though, he could see that she was just as alert as the rest of them, the nods of her head to her own internal music disguising her frequent checks on the rest of the team.
After a ways, Cam fell back to walk next to Daniel, determined to know what exactly had gone wrong before they made it back to the SGC and Cam had to hear it during the debrief anyway. "So what did Tamor say?"
Daniel sighed and slowed his pace until they were far enough back that the rest of the team couldn't hear their quiet conversation, with the possible exception of Teal'c, who heard more than most people realized. "First of all, he said the drug wasn't supposed to work like that."
"Hardly changes the fact that he drugged us," Cam grumbled.
"True," Daniel agreed. "Their society uses the drug to improve social cooperation and harmony. The drug, kalmora, encourages others who have also ingested the drug to seek each other out and creates a craving for physical contact, though he hasn't heard of it causing a desire for sexual contact. Nor has he ever heard of anyone having such a strong reaction as Sam did, and even yours is atypical."
"Peachy," Cam said, considering the information. "I suppose that's slightly better than the alternatives."
Daniel shrugged. "At any rate, the good news is that it's not a long lasting, particularly with a first dose. You should both be free of any effects within a day, and there aren't any reported side effects."
Cam, barely, refrained from saying 'apart from the desire to climb onto one of your teammates and never let go'.
"There's something else I should tell you. I can leave it out of the report if you want, but you should at least know." Daniel said, slowing his pace even more until they were out of earshot even from Teal'c.
Cam frowned, suddenly more worried than he had been when Daniel had brushed him off that morning. There were certain things they all left off reports, stupid little things that had no bearing on the mission and were typically just embarrassing or uncomfortable. But no one had ever come to him with an offer to leave something off before and Cam wasn't quite sure what to make of it. "What?" he asked, wondering if he'd managed to do something under the influence of the drug that he didn't remember, or if Sam had.
Daniel sighed and peered ahead to make sure the others weren't paying too much attention. "Tamor said that the reason he drugged you and Sam was because there was, and I'm quoting here, 'tension and discord' between you and he wasn't willing to conduct trade negotiations with our team while we were, again, quoting, 'not as one'. I told him that we, or possibly another team, would be returning to conclude trade negotiations. He was pretty understanding about it, considering your and Sam's reaction to the drug; he was actually quite apologetic."
Cam blinked, nearly missing his footing as they wound their way through a section of fairly thick woods. "He drugged me and Sam because he thought we weren't getting along?" There were lots of bizarre things he'd heard since going through the 'gate; reasons that planets were at war, justifications for violent and cruel behavior, and plenty of things that just plain didn't make any sense. Though this fell into the last category, there was a sneaking feeling of guilt, which meant that it somehow made more sense than he was realizing.
"Some cultures, even on Earth, have a lower tolerance and a higher perception of social discord than others, particularly cultures that are as close and socially connected as the Turcandans. It's likely that they were picking up body language clues that to them indicated you and Sam had been having an disagreement, where in our culture it wouldn't even register. Anyway, if you want I can leave off what he said. I know that sometimes things can be taken out of context when the IOA picks apart the reports." Daniel turned expectantly to Cam.
After a moment, Cam shook his head. "Leave it in. If they ask, we can tell them just that. Or, you can, because I don't think I could explain it as well."
Daniel nodded and was about to move away to catch up with the rest of the team when Cam reached out, putting a hand on Daniel's shoulder.
"Just, let me be the one to talk with Sam about it?" Cam asked.
Daniel turned, assessing Cam for a moment but reluctantly nodding. "If you think that's best."
"Thanks," Cam said, knowing that Daniel was doing him a favor, and that he was trusting him with someone who he'd been teammates with much longer than either of them had been with Cam.
They caught up with the rest of the team just in time to take a rest break, and Cam sat at the edge of the group as he mentally composed what he was going to try to say to Sam after they'd been through the debrief.
Cam stood in the shower at his apartment, the rush of hot water down his shoulders and back doing more to sooth him than Doctor Lam reassuring him that the drug had completely passed through his system without any ill affects. He'd showered at the SGC, after the medical and before the debrief, but it wasn't quite the same as being in the confines of his own shower, surrounded by his map of the world shower curtain and the barely audible buzz of the radio sitting on his desk in the bedroom. He sighed as he turned off the water, standing for an extra minute to let the hot water drip off of him before he reached for his towel. He was considering just going directly to bed, skipping dinner entirely and just taking some pills for his knees and propping them up with pillows.
The sound of the buzzer, followed shortly by a sharp knock on his apartment door interrupted his thoughts and Cam roughly dried himself before grabbing the pair of jeans that he'd worn from the SGC back to his apartment. He searched briefly for a shirt but when the buzzer rang again, Cam decided that whoever was knocking down his door at nine o'clock at night could stand seeing him without a shirt for a minute.
He pulled open the door and pretty much immediately wished that he had taken the extra thirty seconds to dig through his drawers to at least find a t-shirt.
Sam took a step back, nearly dropping the six-pack of beer from off the pizza box she was carrying, her face a little red at finding him in a state of undress while he was still damp from his shower. "I didn't realize-" she started to say.
Cam reached out and grabbed the six pack before it could fall. "Come on in, just give me a minute." He left the door open, popped the beer into the fridge and disappeared back into his bedroom to finish drying off and dressing. Beer and a pizza was a pretty standard fare for after a mission that had gone wrong, but not horrifically wrong, and was also a peace offering. Even though he really just wanted to go to sleep, his hand brushing against his pillowcase longingly, he pulled on a pair of socks and went back out into the kitchen where Sam was pulling out plates.
"Thanks," Cam muttered, pulling out two slices of pepperoni with peppers from the box and dropping them on his place, before putting two of the slices of veggie supreme on Sam's.
They both grabbed a beer and went into the living room, Cam sprawling out on the couch so he could rest his knees and Sam taking the lazy boy. They ate in silence, that as much of the ritual as the choice of food.
By the time they were both on their second beers and the pizza was mostly gone, the atmosphere shifted as they each tried to figure out what needed to be said and who should speak first.
Cam had already told her what Daniel had learned from Tamor, and Sam had clearly understood the unspoken message that they needed to fix whatever tension had risen between them. That, though, was something that Cam didn't have the slightest idea how to fix. Before he'd joined SG-1, he would have said that his people skills were actually rather good, that he was a confident and capable leader. That hadn't changed, but interacting on a day to day basis with the other members of his team sometimes left him wondering if he was simply missing something that was just basic and obvious to everyone else.
"You know that I'm not actually interested in you, right? That it was just the drug talking?" Sam asked, starting them off.
"Of course," Cam agreed immediately. "I was drugged too, I know what it was like."
Sam shook her head. "Not like I was, you weren't desperate. And, sometimes these drugs can make you act on latent feelings that you weren't even aware of. I just wanted to be clear that that wasn't the case here."
After a moment, Cam looked up. "You've been drugged like this before?"
Sam laughed, grinning and blushing at the same time. "More often then we'd like to admit. If we brought home even half the samples of the kinds of aphrodisiac-type drugs that 'gate teams had encountered, we could fund the entire Stargate program through New-Viagra."
Cam laughed too, and realized that things were suddenly a little bit easier between them, that some of the frustration at Sam's attempts at giving him advice had evaporated. "Did you mean what you said? On the planet before we went to the town?"
She grew quiet and her expression thoughtful. "Not in the way that it came out, I don't think."
When she looked up, Cam nodded to show that he was listening, and more importantly, ready to listen.
"The loneliness doesn't get easier, nor does the fact that you're coming back to an empty house and a place that doesn't feel like home. None of that changes, either. You can try to date, but eventually you've got to pick the person or the job; not on purpose, but it just happens. You have to go save the world, or the galaxy, and they get tired of cancelled dates and missed anniversaries. And it ends and you're back where you started," Sam said, paused to lick her lips and take another drink from her beer.
Cam swallowed hard, her speech was sounding nothing like the one she'd given him off-world. In fact, it sounded a lot more like he'd just condemned himself to being pretty damn lonely for the rest of his career.
"That doesn't change or get any better. But, you start to realize, I started to realize, that we're giving the world a gift and they'll probably never know. People will keep fighting and killing each other, and doing all those things, but the world will still be here, because of us. And that's worth it. And, the war against the Goa'uld and the Ori, not just to keep Earth safe, but to help all these people who are from planets we haven't even found yet; that's worth it too." Sam smiled, just a little bit.
"And the team," Cam added.
Sam smiled, this one larger. "And the team. There's always us."
Cam gave a huff of laughter and leaned back so that he was sprawled on the couch, feeling his eyes flicker shut for just a moment. He reached out across the foot of space between the couch and the chair and found Sam's hand reaching for his too. For the second night in a row they fell asleep with their fingers intertwined, but this was a far more peaceful sleep, and Cam felt like he could breathe a little easier now. When he woke in the morning, Sam had cleaned up and left a note reminding him that the team was meeting up for a movie on Friday night, right before their first full weekend off in over two months. Cam smiled and taped the note to his fridge, not having to worry about writing it on a planner or a calendar; his team knew where to find him.
Part Two: It's a Warrior Bonding Thing
Cam sat down at an empty table in the mess hall a little gingerly, putting his tray down and sighing a little as he found a comfortable position. He was one of the lucky ones on the team, Sam and Vala were still in the infirmary and Daniel was at home with bruised ribs. At least everyone was conscious now; he and Teal'c had waited for five hours in the infirmary for Doctor Lam to run a CAT scan on Sam and longer still before she woke up. Cam poked at one of his waffles before pouring syrup over them and taking a drink of milk. The team was on stand-down until everyone was back on their feet, and Cam didn't even mind. Right now he was still just happy and grateful that they'd all made it back through the 'gate at all.
"May I sit with you, Cameron Mitchell?" Teal'c asked, standing next to the table with two trays in his hands.
"Of course," Cam shifted his tray over so that Teal'c had room for his food. "Team's gotta stick together, right?"
Teal'c bowed his head slightly. "Indeed."
They ate in silence for a few minutes and Cam decided that things were looking up and he'd obviously passed some kind of Jaffa test if Teal'c was eating with him. It wasn't that Teal'c hadn't been friendly to Cam, but Teal'c had never come and sat down with him without the rest of the team being there either. Cam's mom had always told him that it took little steps to make friends, and Cam had been taking that approach with the members of SG-1 as much as possible. So Teal'c sitting down with him was just another step, hopefully in the right direction.
"Cameron Mitchell," Teal'c said, looking up from his finished breakfast.
Cam swallowed his mouthful of waffles and cleared his threat. "Yeah, what's up?" If he hadn't been waiting for it he wouldn't have noticed Teal'c flicker his eyes briefly towards the ceiling before recalling the expression.
"I would like to ask you to participate in the Ritual of Chotek with me," Teal'c paused expectantly, though when he saw the blank expression on Cam's face he continued to speak. "It is a ritual that would bond us together as brothers in battle."
Cam grinned, something in him relaxing a little at the offer. "I would be honored to participate in the ritual with you."
Teal'c bowed his head. "I will make arrangements. We can begin tomorrow."
Cam took another bite of his waffles before his brain caught up with what had just happened. Swallowing hastily, he managed to choke and still be able to speak before Teal'c stood up from the table. "Teal'c, what exactly does this ritual involve?"
Teal'c stood, and if Cam didn't know any better he'd say that Teal'c was teasing him when he just repeated "I will make arrangements" and made a little twitch of an eyebrow before gathering his trays and leaving.
Cam thought about it for a moment as he finished his milk and decided that whatever it was that whatever the ritual involved couldn't really be worse than some of the para-military training he'd done before flying in the Middle East. Cam dropped off his empty tray and headed up to the infirmary to check in on Sam and Vala, intending to spend the rest of the day in his office catching up on paperwork that somehow multiplied every time he went through the 'gate.
Breathing hard, Cam ran through the movements in his mind a split second before his body made it into the position. He knew he was falling behind, already, and Teal'c would stop them and start them over before Cam wound up on the floor or with another black eye. Sensing Teal'c move into position behind him, Cam fought his instinct to drop down and roll to the side, and instead turned his torso up toward Teal'c, letting Teal'c catch his wrist. He used the momentum to propel himself to the side, his feet not following in time to keep him from winding up on the floor anyway.
Teal'c took a step back and gave Cam a moment to rest on the floor. "You are not keeping pace, which is why you are falling. Your center of gravity is no longer just your own; you must watch me, know where I am going to be. Do not try to think or anticipate the next movement."
Cam bit back what he'd like to say about the pace of the exercise. He shouldn't be surprised that he'd had drill instructors that were less intense than Teal'c, Teal'c was a pretty intense guy and he wasn't even human, but somehow he'd expected Teal'c to maybe take it a little bit easy on him. Clearly that was a mistake. When he could speak, Cam got up to his knees and wiped his face with the back of his wrist. "Only human here, big guy. Give me a minute."
Teal'c frowned but did give Cam long enough to stumble to the side of the room to get a drink of water from his water bottle. "This is a form of ritualized combat that has been Jaffa tradition for centuries," Teal'c intoned.
Cam nodded, willing to let Teal'c talk as long as he would if it mean that he had an extra minute or two to catch his breath and bend his knees.
"The movements are in a specific order, and will always be in that order," Teal'c continued, pacing as he talked, appearing to size up Cam in a way that Cam wasn't sure he was entirely comfortable with.
"Doesn't that give your opponent an advantage though, if they always know what you're going to do next?" Cam asked, standing a little straighter as his lungs caught up with the rest of him.
Teal'c frowned. "No, this form of combat not used against an actual adversary. That is not the purpose of this exercise. In your words, this would be described as a dance of death. With the right weapons in hand, a single wrong move by your bondmate will cause their death."
Cam managed to refrain from asking if they were actually going to be using those weapons, because for one he couldn't imagine asking the General to clear those to be on the base, and secondly, he wasn't sure he wanted to chance dying just so he could have a 'warrior bond' with Teal'c. Teal'c was great and everything, but Cam figured that he already died often enough as it was without actively seeking out opportunities where his death was likely.
"The purpose," Teal'c continued, his expression grave, more grave than usual, "is to move as one being, so you learn how to always anticipate your bondmate in battle. You will always know their location, their thoughts, their movements. When it is required, you are a single entity in two forms."
Cam thought about it and nodded. It made sense, it was what they aimed for in team flight simulations, and he'd seen it in action multiple times when a team had been together long enough. The members all knew where the others would be, even if it wasn't what they'd originally agreed upon, because they knew their team as well as they knew themselves. "Again?" Cam asked, moving into the first form.
Teal'c nodded and took his place opposite of Cam, both of them flowing into the second movement as one.
Surprisingly it only took Cam two weeks of daily practice, grueling daily practice to be sure, before he's mastered the battle sequence and can move with Teal'c as if they really are one being. It's not something he expected, but once he stopped thinking about the movements and stopped trying to make everything fall into place, he discovered that his body really did know what to do. Yesterday, Teal'c had bowed to him after the finished the routine and Cam had found himself bowing back instinctually. The hyperawareness of Teal'c was now engrained and whenever Teal'c stepped into a room, Cam knew pretty much immediately even though Teal'c was still one of the stealthiest people that Cam had ever met.
Cam wasn't sure if it was the mediation or Jaffa combat training that had made the difference, but he'd noticed that Teal'c was increasingly seeming more comfortable around Cam. Even when they were just sitting in the mess hall or hanging out with one of their recovering teammates, Teal'c was more relaxed around Cam; a little more playful and a little less distant. The barrier Cam hadn't even realized was there had disappeared and in return Cam had found it easier to just be himself and not worry so much about being worthy of having the Jaffa warrior on his team.
Brushing his hands against his pants, Cam walked through the small residential section of the mountain. They didn't have a lot of people living in the mountain, the Stargate program had expanded too much to house most of the personnel there any more. As a result, only people who were mountain-bound for various reasons lived in the mountain full time, though many of the 'gate teams and scientists wound up staying on base in temporary quarters for shorter periods of time during emergencies and the occasional quarantine. Off-worlders were typically the only permanent occupants.
Teal'c had instructed Cam to arrive at his quarters early in the morning, before breakfast, and before most of the base was even really awake. A little confused, usually they met in one of the smaller gyms even to meditate, Cam agreed and had dragged himself out of bed early and driven up to the mountain. Teal'c had explained that this was the final stage of the bonding ritual, that once they had finished they would be forever brothers with a connection that even other Jaffa would have no choice but to accept. Cam figured it was about as close to an offer of becoming family as he would ever get and hadn't questioned it. Teal'c had gone on to say that they'd practiced being of one mind, and practiced being of one body, but now they would become a single entity; one body and one mind. Cam had quirked his eyebrows a little at the phrasing but had kept his expression clear; Teal'c wouldn't understand how humans managed to pervert their languages with double and triple entendres despite the amount of time that he'd spent on Earth.
Cam knocked on the door and took a step back. He was glad that Teal'c felt he was ready, and though the residual bruising from learning the combat style was still fading, Cam felt he was ready too. He'd mastered what Teal'c had taught him; now he just had to prove it. Maybe the battle sequence would be even faster than before, although the last time they'd run through it Cam had nearly felt like he was flying without leaving the ground. Or maybe they had to fight while meditating, which Cam had no idea what that would possibly look like.
The door swung open and Cam took a moment to mentally check that he was in the right place. He obviously was because Teal'c was the one who had opened the door; he just hadn't expected Teal'c to answer the door in his robe. It was a nice robe, Cam thought, taking a moment to stare at the deep purple terry cloth before he came to his senses and looked up.
"You have arrived on time. Come in," Teal'c said, moving aside so that Cam could enter the room.
Cam had that feeling, the one he got when he was about to step through the 'gate but knew that it was going to be a bad idea. Daniel had pointed out with the number of things that did go wrong when they went through the 'gate, compared to the number of times that things went well, it made perfect sense to feel a little anxious about 'gate travel. Cam had said that he wasn't anxious, he just had a feeling that something was going to go wrong, and everyone had nodded like they were pretending to believe him. Just like with going through the 'gate, Cam gathered up his courage and stepped into the room, almost immediately overwhelmed by the scent of the candles that Teal'c had lit in the room. The light from the candles was almost enough to disguise the fact that there were no other lights on.
"Traditionally the Ritual of Chotek takes place at sunrise in the middle of the distant woods, but as that is not available I had to improvise," Teal'c said as he observed Cam's expression.
Cam nodded, taking in the smell of pine tree, sandalwood and another fragrance he couldn't identify all mingling together in the warm air.
Teal'c moved further into the room and Cam took a moment to look around, taking in the utilitarian furnishings that were sparsely decorated with things that Cam recognized as being Jaffa in origin. Apart from the small television and dvd rack, it was hard to imagine how Teal'c had lived the most part of nine years in the room. Cam bent down a little and examined the dvd collection, amused how they ranged from Die Hard to The Wedding Planner. He was about to ask Teal'c about who had introduced him to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and if one of the team had taken him to see it live yet, when he turned and found Teal'c without his robe. Cam quickly turned back to the dvd rack, averting his eyes so that he wouldn't see any reflections off anything. It wasn't that he'd never seen Teal'c in the locker room or anything, but it wasn't really the same as being in his quarters.
"Get undressed and we will begin," Teal'c instructed.
Cam's eyes opened wider and he took a quick glance to see how far he had to go before he made it to the door. They hadn't been off-world for two weeks so that ruled out alien drugs, but Cam had never imagined that the ritual meant, well, this. "Teal'c, I think we have a bit of a misunderstanding," Cam began, hoping that he could explain this in a way that Teal'c would understand.
There was a silence and Cam took that as a signal to continue, turning slightly so that he was at least facing Teal'c if not looking at him. "Teal'c, I can't do this with you. I'm flattered, honored, really. But on Earth, there are different cultural associations than with the Jaffa, or at least I'm assuming they're different. I'm sorry if I've led you to believe otherwise, but I'm just not ready to do this."
Out of the corner of his eye Cam could see Teal'c bow his head slightly. "I do not understand, but I will respect your wishes."
Cam blurted out something that might be "thanks" and bolted from the room, probably in one of the least graceful exits in his entire life and didn't come to a stop until he was safely out of the mountain and standing in the parking lot. He stood for a few minutes, not really out of breath, but still more shocked than anything else. After a while he started to wonder how much damage he did to his newfound camaraderie with Teal'c, but found that it didn't really matter too much in the long run. There are a lot of things that he'd do for his team; a completely voluntary bonding ritual of that nature is simply not one of them. He still wants to be able to look his mom in the eye when he goes home to visit after all.
Cam sat down at the table he's mentally claimed as his own, and considering that no one else sits there in the morning between seven at eight everyone else seems to realize that as well. A moment later, a tray was dropped down across from him and Cam looked up from his bowl of Cap'n Crunch cereal to find that not everyone knows that the table is his.
"Daniel, how are you feeling?" Cam asked as he noticed that Daniel was very gently lowering himself into the chair and not letting his back touch the chair.
"Better, if you can believe it. Though, I actually spent the past two weeks working through retranslating a set of texts that pertain to the Ori and I think I've made some very interesting connections," Daniel said as he speared a piece of bacon with his fork.
Cam took a bite of his cereal and decided not to ask what Daniel had found out. Sam was coming back to active duty tomorrow or the next day and Cam was certain that they'd all hear more than they really wanted to about Daniel's discoveries as soon as they went in for a briefing. "That sounds, fun," Cam said, though he couldn't actually think of a less fun way to spend two weeks, unless it involved a prison cell. And even then, if it was a nice prison cell and the guards were descent, if might be a close call.
Daniel nodded absently. "What have you been doing around here for two weeks?"
Swallowing a mouthful of orange juice, Cam spoke before he thought about who he was talking to. "I nearly warrior bonded with Teal'c."
"You mean the Ritual of Chotek?" Daniel asked, sounding intrigued.
Cam paused, his spoon halfway up to his mouth before he carefully set it back down in his bowl. He nodded a little stiffly, wondering exactly how much Daniel knew about that particular ritual.
"The last stage of ritual is actually pretty rough. It took Jack three times to make it all the way through," Daniel said nonchalantly as he picked up a piece of his toast.
"General O'Neill is warrior bonded with Teal'c?" Cam asked, his mind going places that he never ever wanted it to.
Daniel nodded again, speaking around a mouthful of toast. "Yeah. Jack, Sam, and I completed the ritual with him about two years after we all started going through the Stargate together."
Cam was sure that his mouth was hanging open and he made a concerted effort to shut it before Daniel noticed that he was gawking. He could feel his lips trying to make words, but his mind isn't supplying any other than 'what?' and 'the General?', which weren't really appropriate responses.
"Don't worry. Meditation is a learned skill. I'm sure you'll get through the session if you keep practicing. Teal'c has a tendency to overestimate others ability to mediate for long periods of time," Daniel said, obviously completely unaware of Cam's horror.
"Meditation?" Cam asked dumbly, his mind grinding to a halt.
Daniel kept eating, attacking his eggs with more gusto than usual. "Yeah. It's interesting how many people we've come across on other worlds were meditation is an important part of their culture. At least, on the worlds where we've had time to actually do a more in-depth cultural exchange."
Cam just nodded, letting Daniel's theories of the separate evolutions of mediation in cultures wash over him. He wondered how long it would take down to track down Teal'c and explain that he was ready to complete the ritual now. With any luck he hadn't offended him too badly.
Part Three: Daniel Has a Crush
"And that's why the clashing cultures on P3X-285 have evolved under remarkably similar conditions as what was found in early Greek periods on Earth. Though, interestingly enough, the influence of foreign architecture in one of the sects is probably what led to the divide to begin with," Daniel came to a pause, bowing his head down and squinting at the screen of his laptop with a thoughtful expression. "Though it is also interesting to compare the conflict to the one we saw on PX3-019 three years ago, although with the assistance of a diplomatic team and freedom from Goa'uld occupation, outside interference is an important factor."
Cam looked up from his computer, unable to help himself from wondering if Daniel was actually finished this time and if he was expected to come up with some kind of semi-intelligent response. That was one of the key differences between Sam and Daniel; Sam would say something that was so technical and nonsensical but wouldn't expect most of them to be able to really understand or make an appropriate response, but when Daniel looked up he was waiting for input from one of them, preferably on-topic and furthering the conversation. Cam settled for nodding and making a noise to indicate that he was still listening, which he was a little bit, and hoped that it would be enough.
"However, we can hypothesis that if the conflict had continued without the Goa'uld influencing the minority of the population..." Daniel trailed off, pushing his glasses up as he leaned forward to type out whatever thought his half-explanation had triggered.
Cam raised his eyebrows and leaned back further in his chair. The document in front of him was still mostly blank and he still hadn't the slightest clue of what he was going to write. The General had asked for an overview of the Ori threat based on SG-1's encounters with them off-world in order for a briefing with the IOA and Homeworld security that would be taking place later in the week. Other than that the Ori were pretty much set on taking over their galaxy, with Earth only one tiny corner of the much larger picture, and they had virtually no weapons that were truly effective against the Priors, Cam wasn't sure what else he could say. It was a threat they had nearly no defense against, and he'd thought the Goa'uld were bad enough. At least they could shoot the Goa'uld. And with the folks on Atlantis sending warnings their way every other week about the Wraith threat, Cam had to say it wasn't really looking that good for Earth or humans as a whole.
"Cam?" Daniel asked, sounding as if it wasn't the first time he'd asked.
Looking up, Cam raised his eyebrows. "What?"
"What are you working on?" Daniel asked, leaning forward across Cam's desk a little to glance at the computer screen.
"Report for the IOA," Cam said succinctly.
"The IOA likes having everything written out. It used to drive Jack nuts; I can't imagine how he's handing being in Washington." Daniel sat back in the chair, frowning down at his laptop.
Cam nodded cautiously and returned his attention to the blinking cursor on his screen. Daniel had been hanging out with him more often in the past few weeks; everything from sitting down next to him in the mess hall to appearing in Cam's office once in a while and just staying while they worked. They'd even gone out for drinks two or three times, without the rest of the team. It was as if Daniel had seen Sam and Teal'c accept Cam, truly accept him, and had come to the conclusion that Cam must be alright after all. Cam actually didn't really mind Daniel hanging out with him and he figured that the explosion of informative lectures were just Daniel's way of getting to know him. It was nice; this was far closer to what Cam had imagined when he'd hunted down the members of the team and instead found them all looking to go someplace else.
"I was thinking, maybe we could do dinner tonight?" Daniel asked.
Cam looked up, not really thinking about the report he was trying to write, but not focused on Daniel either. "Sure," he agreed. Dinner actually sounded good and he took a look at the time on the corner of his screen. It wasn't even close to lunch yet, not even an early lunch.
Daniel smiled brightly, the expression seeming extreme for the conversation. "I'll pick you up at seven," he said as he gathered up his laptop. He was through the door with a bounce to his step before Cam could ask where they were going or say that he's perfectly capable of driving himself.
Shrugging, Cam turned back to his screen and dragged the keyboard toward him. He could at least get the introduction done before he left for the day.
It was still dark out when Cam snuck into the mountain. He took the elevator straight down to the level with his office, not stoping at the mess hall in case Daniel was somehow at work early too. Cam didn't think he would be, but it was safer to wait until he knew for sure that Daniel was in his department meeting and then go to get breakfast and coffee.
It wasn't that Cam was actively avoiding Daniel, which he kind of was, but more that he didn't even have the slightest idea what he was supposed to say. After a moment of standing in the elevator on the level where his office was, Cam realized that Daniel had been hanging out in Cam's office lately and it was entirely likely that Daniel would look for him there, Cam pressed another button and let the elevator take him up to the gym instead. It was a little early for a workout, but it might be enough to keep him awake if he wasn't going to get coffee first thing.
Cam changed into a pair of sweats and went out on the weight training machines. He'd put a good amount of muscle into his arms and shoulders in the past year, but he was still working on building up the muscles in his legs. The repetitive motions gave Cam's mind room to wander and he found himself almost compulsively going over the previous night in his head, not that he hadn't spent most of the night thinking about it.
The thing was, Cam was pretty sure that he'd gone on a date last night without ever meaning to. Daniel had picked him up promptly, and Cam had been glad that he'd changed into nicer slacks and a button down shirt when they went to a foreign place that was really nice. Too nice for just a casual dinner with a coworker. Cam had listened patiently through Daniel's explanation of the meal, courses that were brought to them prearranged without them having to order. The food had actually been really good, and the sweet chocolate dessert they'd shared was pretty much the best thing that Cam could remember eating since he had last been to visit his mom. Nothing would ever come close to his mom's pies.
Cam let the weights he'd been using his legs to move come to a stop and got down on the floor to do some stretching. His knees generally complained less when he stretched between sets. After a few minutes he moved onto the next machine that he knew from experience would leave his calves aching but would leave his knees alone for the most part.
After figuring out that they were on a date, pretty much right after Daniel had dropped him off at Cam's apartment door and kissed him on the cheek, Cam rethought the past few weeks in a new light. Him and Daniel going out for drinks hadn't just been two guys going out for a night to get away from work, it had probably been Daniel feeling out Cam's willingness to go out with him. And Daniel hanging out in Cam's office had been Daniel making a concerted effort to spend time with him. And Daniel putting bowls of Jello on his tray at lunch, well, Cam wasn't even going to try and analyze that. But it all came down the same conclusion: Daniel Jackson had some kind of a crush on him and thought they were dating.
Cam let go of the weights with a small crash and grimaced, leaning forward as he felt sweat run down his back. The clock on the wall indicated that he'd been in the gym for over an hour and Cam gave up. Maybe he could go visit Sam for a bit and see her latest project. Or mediate with Teal'c. Teal'c often insisted that he solved many problems through meditating.
Cam showered, got dressed, and went back to his office. He opened the door and turned on the lights, stopping about two steps into his office and staring at his desk like there was a poisonous snake sitting on it. Of course, knowing Daniel, it was entirely possible that the vase on his desk contained some kind of dead snake, or was painted using pigments from a dead snake, or something else entirely that possibly involved snakes. The decoration on the vase kind of looked like a snake. After a moment saw that the vase was sitting on the corner of a piece of paper and Cam reluctantly moved close enough to pick up the note. It was a very detailed description of the planet the vase had come from, but squished in the very corner was 'I had a wonderful time last night. - Daniel'. Cam sighed and picked up the vase, turning it slowly in his hands. This had to stop before it got any weirder.
"Cam, I've been looking for you." Daniel's voice came from the doorway.
After a brief thought that work was no place to break up with someone, not that Cam had realized they were dating to begin with, Cam turned and smiled cautiously. "Daniel, great. We should talk."
"Do you like it?" Daniel asked, coming in the office and motioning towards the vase.
Cam looked down and realized he was still holding it. "Yes, the vase was a very nice gesture."
"Urn," Daniel said quickly.
"What?" Cam asked, his mind still rehearsing through the 'I think you're a great friend' portion of the speech.
"It's an urn," Daniel clarified.
Cam looked back at the thing and peered at the top, discovering that it did have a lid. "Right." Deciding not to ask if there was anything inside, he set it down on his desk and turned back to Daniel.
Before Cam had a chance to say anything at all, the lights dimmed briefly as the emergency system kicked into gear, sirens and flashing red lights removing any thoughts of Daniel and dating from his mind. Cam scrambled to the lock box he kept in his office and pulled out two sidearms, passing one to Daniel. They took off running through the halls without a word, both now completely focused on defending the mountain from whatever threat had showed up on Earth's doorstep.
The Ori Prior had only stayed for about thirty minutes, which was thirty too many if you asked Cam, and they'd been able to leave the mountain late in the evening. Cam had immediately kicked off his shoes once he was inside, grabbed a beer from the fridge and sunk down on his couch. The threats hadn't been anything new, but it had been an unwelcome reminder that Earth was still high on the Ori's target list. Banter with a Prior was always a little bit hit or miss, but Cam thought he'd done a fairly good job, and General Landry had seemed impressed. The fact that the Ori could come and go from the SGC pretty much any time they wanted wasn't really comforting though, and Cam had nearly dozed off on the couch when he had a flash of a Prior standing in his living room. Determined not to fall asleep, at least not until he got his mind somewhere else, Cam flipped on the TV and let his head rest on the back of the couch.
The news was on, a very concerned pair of anchormen discussing the tremors that had been felt throughout Colorado Springs earlier in the day despite the lack of an active fault line that could cause that level of seismic activity. Cam sighed and quickly changed the channel. The Prior had shaken the entire mountain on his way out, several of the lights and glass panels shattering under the pressure. Mostly, Cam was just glad that the Prior hadn't brought the entire mountain down on them and had left after giving the standard spiel; there wasn't much they could have done about it if he'd wanted to stick around and do more damage.
All of the local news stations were focused on the tremor, but notably, only one was suggesting that it could be anything other than a natural earth quake. Cam took note of the program and reminded himself to send an email in the morning to the PR office; it never hurt to take note of who was open to the possibility of non-traditional answers. He figured that one day, possibly one day soon, something was going to happen and there wasn't going to be any chance to cover it up. Frankly, Cam was surprised that it hadn't happened already. An entire battle had taken place on the edge of the world, Cam had nearly died and the world had nearly been destroyed, and not more than a handful of people knew about it.
Cam flipped channels again, settling on some action movie that was already partway over before tossing the remote on the coffee table and putting his feet up. He'd just finished his beer when he heard a knock at the door. Cam had brief thoughts about not answering it. If the SGC needed him, they would call his cellphone. There was another knock, this one louder and ongoing, going from a simple tap of the knuckles to the pounding of a fist.
"I'm coming!" Cam shouted, getting up and hoping that he got whoever it was to stop before the neighbors called the superintendent or the police. He pulled open the door and found Daniel in the hallway.
"I wasn't sure you'd answer the door," Daniel said, a little sheepish.
Cam sighed and backed up enough that Daniel can come in, shutting the door behind him. He had a brief moment where he imagines moving to a different apartment, somewhere where is team can't find him, but dismisses it. If he wanted to move he'd need some help getting the couch and bed down the stairs, and that meant his team would know where he lived by default.
"Look, just listen for a moment, alright?" Daniel asked, pacing as far as he can in the narrow space of Cam's kitchen.
Cam made a motion to indicate that he was listening and leaned back against the fridge, wondering if Daniel would notice if he got out a beer.
"I like you, a lot. You may have noticed," Daniel said, coming to a stop across from Cam. "And I'm lonely, and you're lonely, but most importantly, I like you."
In the time it took for Daniel to take the two steps that placed him face to face with Cam, Cam could have moved or reached out and stopped Daniel, but he didn't. Cam closed his eyes for a second as Daniel leaned in, Daniel's lips meeting his in a nearly desperate rush. They stayed like that for a moment, Cam waiting until he had confirmed what he'd already known before placing his hands on Daniel's shoulders and gently pushing back.
Daniel let Cam guide him back a step, his shoulders already slumping when he saw Cam's face.
Cam took a breath and said what he knew he had to be said. "Daniel, I'm sorry. I like you as a friend and as a teammate, but I'm not interested in you in that way."
"Right, of course not," Daniel said, taking another step back and roughly running a hand over his eyes.
For the first time Cam realized how attached to the idea Daniel had been and Cam felt a little bit bad. He'd been rejected, more than once, and knew that it never felt good even if the relationship would have never worked out. Cam grabbed two bottles of beer from his fridge and grabbed Daniel by his shoulder and guided him into the living room.
Daniel flopped easily into the easy chair, opening the bottle that Cam had handed him and downing half in one go.
Cam dropped back down on the couch, swung his feet around so that his knees wouldn't bother him as badly, and cracked open his own beer. He let his eyes rest on the screen, the movie flickering by with the volume so low they could barely make out what the characters were saying.
"What are you watching?" Daniel asked incredulously.
Discovering that his eyes had drifted shut somewhere in the course of the evening, Cam opened them and gazed at some kind of car and bus chase before it clicked in his mind. "Rush Hour."
Daniel's only response was "huh" and silence fell back down around them again, only broken when Cam got up and returned with two more beers, noticing from the three bottles around the base of Daniel's chair that he'd already been back to Cam's fridge without Cam realizing it. Cam settled himself back down on the couch, thinking about going to get another pillow if he was going to wind up sleeping in the living room.
"I really wanted to be somewhere other than the mountain," Daniel said at last, his eyes still focused on the television. "Sometimes, our jobs are just hard, and I know Atlantis wouldn't have really been better, but it would have been worth trying."
Cam nodded, remembering how intent Daniel had been on getting to Atlantis, the determined fire that Cam had just thought was part of who Daniel was. It certain fit the descriptions he'd heard of SG-1; they were the team that saved the world and did it with a smile, the team that could do anything and would just to prove it too. That image had been pretty thoroughly shattered, though Cam still thought that his team was the best out there. It was just harder than he'd ever expected.
"At least, I thought it would have helped, but then I started to realize that I'd be without Sam and Teal'c, and Jack was already gone. And you kept us together, kept the team together, even though I resented that a lot at first," Daniel turned and looked at Cam, his face completely blank.
"How much have you had to drink?" Cam asked neutrally. He leaned forward a little to make sure he hadn't missed any bottles when he'd decided that handing Daniel another beer was a good idea.
Daniel laughed, a little bit bitter. "Not enough."
Cam nodded, not really agreeing but understanding the sentiment behind it. He waited until the movie has finished and random late night commercials were playing before he spoke. "We wouldn't be good together, Daniel."
There's a long silence before Daniel gets to his feet. "I know."
"We okay?" Cam asks, hoping that he hasn't somehow messed the whole team thing up, even though he isn't sure what else he could have done.
"We're good," Daniel said. He bent down and collected his and Cam's beer bottles. "Want dinner?"
Cam glanced at the clock and saw that it was nearly one in the morning. "Dinner sounds good. There's a diner about two blocks away and I'm pretty sure they're still open."
"Perfect," Daniel said, his smile tired but looking a little better than he had in Cam's kitchen. "I need some coffee."
Cam returned the smile. "Me too."
They were almost all of the way to the diner when Daniel spoke suddenly. "Oh, at least now you have video footage to supplement your report to the IOA."
Cam nodded thoughtfully. In the insanity of the past 36 hours he'd completely forgotten that he was supposed to have that report ready before the weekend. "Maybe the footage could be the report. I'm not sure anything I could say would be as convincing as a Prior shaking the entire mountain."
Daniel paused for a moment before he started laughing helplessly, nearly falling onto Cam when he stumbled over his own feet.
About to ask what was so funny, Cam decided to just let it go and guided both of them into the diner. At least the coffee would be good and they still had nine hours before they had to be back in the mountain.
Part Four: Vala Also Has a Crush (But Not on Cam)
They'd been on base-wide lock down due to threat of Ori Plague, as they'd taken to calling it, for going on three days and Cam was starting to go a little bit stir crazy. He'd run laps, meditated with Teal'c, hung out in Sam's lab and bothered the scientists, and he'd still had time to finish all of his reports. Now he was left hanging around in his temporary quarters and if Cam spent many more nights there he was going to give in and just put his name on the door. If it wasn't so impractical, Cam would suggest that they quarantine all teams that came back through the 'gate after contact with an Ori Prior, but the SG-7 hadn't even starting showing symptoms until six hours after they'd come through the 'gate. It was actually truly fortunate that SG-7 had come back two hours after the change to the night shift and no one had left the mountain since their arrival. It was less fortunate, Cam thought, that he and his team had been on base when the lock down had been initiated. They had 'gated in early in the morning, even though it had been late afternoon on P6X-176 when they'd left, and two hours later gotten the word. So far it was only the members of SG-7 who were sick, but no one was willing to take the chance that it could spread to the population of Earth or anywhere else.
Cam tossed aside the magazine that he'd been rereading for the third time; there was really only so many times he could read about tips for the PT tests and absorbent coatings on fighter jets. It was an old copy of Air Force Times that he'd dug out of his desk while he'd been cleaning his office, and it scared him a little that he'd actually been bored enough to clean his office at all. It was actually a little amazing how much junk had cluttered up in there, odds and ends from other worlds mixed in with random things from Earth that had migrated to and from his pack. It amused him a little that he even had to have a 'not from Earth' category, and he'd arranged a couple of the knickknacks on his shelf. The SGC was pretty much the only place from Earth he could have things from another planet displayed, though he suspected that General O'Neill had stashed one or two things in his office in Washington. But General O'Neill could probably get away with just about anything and no one, including the President, would say a word.
He was just rolling off the bed, planning on trashing the magazine and maybe wandering back to the cafeteria because he was still a little 'gate-lagged and was hungry at odd hours of the day, when there was an overenthusiastic knock on his door. Cam abandoned the magazine and walked the few steps to the door, hoping that maybe Daniel or Sam had finally gotten bored with their work and wanted to play some basketball or go persuade Teal'c into a movie screening in his quarters.
He opened the door but didn't have much of chance to think beyond that because hands were affixed around the collar of his shirt and pulling him in and suddenly a mouth was pressed tightly and invasively over his own and the hands were wandering lower. It took Cam nearly a full minute, longer than he would like but he blamed it on being completely taken by surprise, until he managed to free himself, stumbling back and gasping for air. "Vala? What the hell are you doing?" Cam asked, wiping at his face and glaring at the woman standing his doorway.
Vala just grinned and pushed the door shut. "Cameron, if you have to ask that question it's clear that I've gotten here entirely too late."
Cam blinked as he tried to figure out exactly what she meant and figured that with her, at least the probability of being under some kind of alien influence is pretty low. This is just Vala. "What?" he finally asked, deciding that he had to stop answering his door if things like this were going to keep happening.
Vala walked closer, smirking and tipping her head. "I'm initiating relations between us," she said slowly.
"You've never shown any interest in me before," Cam pointed out, backing up a little further until his back hit the wall. Temporary quarters weren't exactly roomy, but hardly anywhere in the mountain could really be described as spacious.
She shrugged gracefully, looking back toward Cam's door for a brief moment before returning her attention to Cam. "You're better than no one."
Before Cam had a chance to take offense at that, because he thought that he at least deserved better than 'better than no one', Vala had launched herself at Cam again. She used her grip on his shoulders to pull herself up far enough to latch her legs around Cam's waist and he staggered briefly under the sudden weight as she began kissing him thoroughly.
Cam took the few steps necessary to reach the bed, able to untangle himself from Vala quicker because he'd been expecting in this time. He dropped Vala down onto his bed because it was either that or the floor, and his mom had taught him to be a gentlemen even when women were literally throwing themselves at him. Vala was grinning, already in the process of shrugging off the light jacket she'd been wearing over her shirt when Cam grabbed the chair from his desk and sat down so that he was facing Vala but as far away as he could get and still be inside the room.
"You are no fun. No fun whatsoever," Vala announced, leaving her jacket open as she flopped back on Cam's bed.
"Yeah, that's me. But I think I have a pretty good idea what this is about," Cam offered, watching as Vala rolled over so she could press her face into one of the pillows.
He waited to see if she would start the conversation by herself or if he'd have to push her a little bit. When she didn't respond except to kick her feet a little bit, Cam continued on. "Just because he's not responding to your advances doesn't mean that he's not interested in you." Cam thought it was true, he'd seen the way that Daniel looked at Vala when she wasn't watching. And even though Daniel was still a little bit pent up over Cam's refusal, they'd settled into an easier friendship than before and Cam thought he had a pretty good idea of how Daniel looked when he was interested.
Vala sat up, frowning and unusually serious. "No one ignores me when I'm interested in them, never. Not once."
Cam nodded, unable to stop himself from empathizing a little bit even though he was sure he'd have marks from where Vala had jumped on him. And besides, Vala was team and the only other person who really understood what it was like to be the newcomer. It had created a bond between them, mostly founded on gentle teasing and awkward commentary, but it was still a bond. "Well, I think I can help you out here. But don't expect too much. I can't help you if he's genuinely not interested."
"You'll help? Really?" Vala asked, perking up a little, her expression almost comically hopeful.
"Yes, I'll help. But you've got to-" Cam was cut off as Vala flung herself at him again, wrapping her arms tightly around his chest and pressing a kiss to his cheek.
"Of course he's interested. He just doesn't know it yet!" Vala grinned and dashed from the room, leaving Cam more than a little ruffled.
At least now he had a project to occupy his time. Cam grabbed a piece of paper from his desk and began making a list, hoping that he was doing the right thing.
They were still on lockdown two days later, though the medical staff was talking about releasing the quarantine in a few more days if SG-7 continued to improve and showed no signs of relapse. Cam had found that now he had a task, a crazy perhaps impossible task, he didn't mind the confinement so much. He'd gathered what he needed pretty quickly, a few trades here and there and some less than polite persuading when it had become necessary, but that had only taken a few hours at most.
The real challenge was sitting with Vala and teaching her. It was people like Vala, Cam decided, that probably drove school teachers to quitting. But Cam had said he would help, and he didn't actually have anything better to do, so he persevered. In the end he'd given up on teaching through verbal lessons and written instructions and had role-played various dating and conversation activities. It had only taken once of spraying her with a water bottle when she'd tried to kiss him to discourage her from trying to take things too far, and Cam briefly considered passing the bottle along to Daniel but decided that would just confuse the matter. But, after two days, Cam figured that he'd done about as much as he could to get Vala ready for a first date on Earth.
He'd supervised the phone call to Daniel, Vala asking him to meet her in one of the botany labs. Cam had gently persuaded the botanist, who was fortunately a closest romanticist, to vacate the premises for a few hours at lunch time. He'd already gone in and helped Vala set up a picnic - complete with checked blanket and Daniel's favorite dessert - and he walked her down now, knowing that Daniel should show up within ten minutes.
"Just remember to watch for his cues. If you pay attention to his body language you'll know when the right time is to move closer or take another step. And be prepared to go slow and take your time, Daniel isn't going to just leap at you after the first date," Cam reminded as they stepped into the lab. He looked around making sure everything was pretty much perfect, adjusting the light a little bit higher so that the flowers were well illuminated but it was still dark enough to give the illusion of privacy. "And try some of the conversation topics we practiced. Show interest in what he's talking about, ask him some questions."
"You mean I shouldn't be myself," Vala said with a bit of a sigh, adjusting the hem of the skirt that she'd borrowed from one of the female officers.
Cam shook his head and turned back to Vala, aware of just how uncertain she looked. "You should always be yourself. I can't imagine you as being anything but yourself." Cam paused and then added. "Outside of alien influence, of course."
"Of course," Vala agreed with a roll of her eyes and a small smile.
"You'll be fine," Cam said, leaning in and settling a loose strand of Vala's hair. "Be yourself, and just try not to tackle him."
Vala grinned. "I can do that."
They both looked up as they heard footsteps approaching and Cam quickly retreated out the back door of the lab, pausing just beyond the doorway to listen. Really, he was just making sure that he hadn't misjudged the situation entirely. If Daniel openly rejected Vala, Cam figured that he'd need to be around to smooth things over and make sure that Vala didn't do something that would get her in trouble.
"What's this?" Daniel asked, his voice not as confrontational as Cam would have expected if this had been entirely unwelcome.
"A picnic? I'm told that it usually happens outside, but we have flowers," Vala pointed out, her voice firm but not overwhelming.
Cam nodded to himself as Daniel seemed to accept the offer, and peered around the corner to find them both settling down on the blanket.
"Mission successful. We're coming home," Cam said softly to himself and began to wind his way out of the labs. The botany labs were mostly in an interconnected loop, the inner labs sealed off from the main corridors to keep the environments balanced and a whole bunch of other stuff that had been in the project proposal that had been submitted when the botanists had requested a renovation on their section of the mountain. This meant that in order to get back to the main hallway without going back through the room where Vala and Daniel were picnicking, he had to walk through most of the botany department and a segment of the biology labs as well.
Most of the section was quiet, the majority of the scientists already off-base when the quarantine had been put into effect. Cam hummed softly as he walked, wondering if he should find Sam and Teal'c for lunch or if they had already eaten. Teal'c probably wouldn't object to a second lunch in any case.
It was nice, he thought, or would be if Daniel and Vala managed to work out. Daniel had seemed genuinely hurt when Cam had rebuffed his advances only a few weeks earlier, and Vala hadn't seemed in much better shape when she'd attacked Cam in his quarters. But, just because two people were lonely didn't mean they were right for each other, and the last thing that Cam wanted was to mess up his team with relationship drama.
Cam found himself back in the main section of the base faster than he'd anticipated and collected both Sam and Teal'c. They opted for getting a dvd from Teal'c and taking over the main conference room with bags of popcorn that Sam had found while cleaning out one of the closets in her lab. When General Landry came in and took a seat five minutes into the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Cam just pushed over the bowl of popcorn and leaned back.
Cam glanced at his watch about an hour into the movie, realizing that neither Vala nor Daniel had resurfaced from the labs. He figured that when they took a break at the end of the movie he would sneak down to the botany labs, just to make sure none of the plants had tried to eat them. It hadn't happened yet, as far as Cam knew, but that didn't mean it wasn't all too possible.
Epilogue: A Return and A New Beginning
Cam stepped through the 'gate and into the embarkation room, turning and smiling as the rest of his team came through event horizon, Sam and Daniel picking up their conversation as if they hadn't even been interrupted by the brief transit. It had been a good mission, overall. There had been a brief scrimmage with a rogue Goa'uld and his small contingent of Jaffa, but they'd managed the Goa'uld easily enough and Teal'c had given his speech about the Free Jaffa. The small village, only a few hours away from the 'gate, had been welcoming - but not too welcoming - and they'd stayed the night after they explained about the Ori and the Priors. The villagers had been concerned, but not panicked, and had readily accepted the offer of assistance that SG-1 had provided. It wasn't a lot, in terms of the war the Ori were taking control of worlds faster than teams from Earth could even reach out to them, but it was as much as they could do.
Cam unzipped his vest, a little warm after the long walk, and smiled as General Landry came down the steps.
"Mission successful, sir," Cam said, proud of his team. He even felt that he could call them that now; SG-1 was his team.
"We even think they might have natural deposits of Naquadah near the 'gate. We brought back several samples for the geologists to analyze, and the people in the area have no objections to the prospect of us setting up a small mining operation," Sam said, setting her pack down at her feet.
"It felt like we were carrying rocks all the way back to the 'gate," Daniel quipped as he put down his own pack. They laughed, even Teal'c smiling a little at the joke.
"Excellent work. We'll debrief in the morning," Landry said, nodding at the team.
Cam was about to turn away, his thoughts focused first on getting rid of his pack and then a long shower, when the General called after him. Cam turned back, "yes, sir?"
"After you've been cleared by the infirmary, you have a visitor waiting in your office," Landry said, his expression softening a little.
"Yes, sir." Cam nodded his understanding and followed his team out of the room and down the hall. He tried to think of who might be visiting him. If it wasn't for the fact that anyone in his office would need to have clearance for the Stargate Program, he would guess his mom. There wasn't really anyone else he could imagine coming to see him. Maybe one of his buddies from his last flight squadron had joined the program. Cam shrugged and brushed some of the dirt from his hair, mentally revising his plans to taking a quick shower after visiting the infirmary for a post mission check and then going straight to his office.
Cam had dried off and changed as quickly as possible and now stood outside his office door. He reminded himself that there was no one dangerous waiting in his office, no surprise urns now that Daniel was no longer trying to date him, and opened the door. He wasn't sure that anything could have prepared him for that moment, his entire body jolted as he froze in the doorway.
"Jonas?" Cam asked, his voice barely more than a breath.
Jonas stood up from where he'd been sitting behind Cam's desk.
Cam didn't let Jonas taking more than a few steps towards him before his body jerked into motion. He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Jonas, holding him tight like he couldn't believe the man was actually in front of him. He squeezed tighter, still not really believing it.
Shortly after Cam had joined the SGC, Jonas had come to stay for a few months, not as a part of any team, but just as to do some research and get away from his still feuding home world for a little while. Cam had gotten to know him, Jonas able to share some of what he'd experienced while on SG-1 and had given Cam some reassurance that he wasn't the only one who had the fight of trying to fit in on a team that initially had no place for him. Jonas had been the one who had reassured him, right before he had gone back to Langara, actually, that it was worth it and Cam just had to stick with it and keep trying. It wasn't until later, a week or two after Jonas had gone, that Cam realized that something had started to form between them. Cam still couldn't name it, couldn't really describe it, but it wasn't until that moment that he realized how much not having Jonas there had bothered him.
"I thought you were back on Langara for good now?" Cam asked, swallowing hard as he backed up enough that he could see Jonas but still hold onto him.
Jonas shook his head sadly. "The Ori. I can't be of any help there now."
Cam closed his eyes briefly and brought Jonas back in, this time feeling Jonas cling onto him like he'd clung to Jonas only moments earlier. Seeing worlds fall to the Ori was never easy, but Cam couldn't even imagine leaving Earth after an Ori occupation, knowing that he was one of the only few of his people still out there.
After a few minutes, something else caught on Cam's mind and he couldn't push it away no matter how hard he tried. "You're staying? Here on Earth?"
Jonas pulls away a little bit, still staying close to Cam and hanging on, and smiled slightly. "I'm staying. Not on a team or anything, not unless I'm needed, but I'll be here on Earth."
Cam can't help but smiling and is relieved when he sees the smile echoed in Jonas. Without really thinking about it, or thinking about anything really, but knowing that it's the right thing to do, Cam leaned forward and kissed Jonas, their lips meeting gently with their eyes still open. They both pause for a moment before Jonas initiated another kiss, this time pulling their bodies tightly together.
Cam didn't know how long they spent just holding onto each other, the world and the galaxy moving on outside of his office, but everything inside seeming to just stand still completely. He would have suggested a time dilation field or some kind of intoxication that created a lapse in how time was perceived, but he wasn't really thinking about any of that. Mostly, when he was managing to think at all, he was just thinking that the Stargate Program, despite all the hardships and heartache that came along with it was completely worth it.