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Careful Where You Touch

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Two miles from the Mountain, Sam said, "Okay, let's just go over the rules one more time."

Vala sighed, flipped her pigtails, and straightened up in the passenger seat. "I would like to point out one more time that they are stupid rules."

Sam gritted her teeth. "Vala..."

"Not that you're stupid," Vala said hastily. "I mean it's a stupid system. That forces you to have--us to have--these stupid rules."

Sam smiled a little at that, but none of the tension left her jaw. Five more stoplights and they'd be back under the Mountain's shadow, and then back under the Mountain. "Noted. So."

Vala raised her hands and started counting off points on her fingers. "No holding of hands. I may touch your shoulder, or your back higher than the bra strap, but not between your waist and your bra strap. Groping below the waist or touching your breasts is permissible on the understanding that you will immediately push me off and glare at me. A smack to nearly any body part is acceptable. I may muss your hair but under no circumstances may I touch it gently or lingeringly. I must not touch your face or throat, or the nape of your neck. And obviously no kissing or serious reference to what we were up to last night or how either of us feels about it; however, heavy-handed innuendo will continue to be expected of me."

"Good," Sam said, although it wasn't. They were stupid rules. Protecting unit cohesion, ha. As if SG-1's cohesion needed any protecting.

Which is why you're not at all worried about Cam finding out, huh?

"And, of course," Vala said, this time with the little manufactured hint of a tremor in her voice that was supposed to distract from how much she actually wanted reassurance (unless Sam was reading her completely wrong and this whole thing was an elaborate joke--but after last night she'd committed to the idea that she actually did understand Vala at least a little, so she might as well stick to it). "You will not touch me at all. Because you normally don't."

"Of course," Sam agreed, but she reached over and laid her palm on the nape of Vala's neck, bared between her two tidy pigtails. When Vala bowed her head a little, accepting the touch, Sam let her hand slide down Vala's back--covered only in the uniform t-shirt, as Vala had her heavy fatigue shirt still folded on her knees. She let her hand travel right down past the bra strap to the small of Vala's back. Vala sat back firmly against the seat, keeping Sam's hand there until they were nearly on base.

Of course.

Four hours later they were offworld, and Sam had changed her mind a few dozen times about whether to smoke-test her faith in the team by actually saying something to Cam. He was a good guy--it was an unfair burden--it was unfair to lie to him--it was hypocritical to pretend honesty was the only policy when the first iteration of this team had spent so much time lying to each other and themselves--Vala was bound to give something away eventually--it was unfair to think that of Vala. And on and on and on.

Finally it occurred to Sam that Daniel and Teal'c could and would forcibly rearrange Cam's thinking before their next check-in if it seemed necessary. Not that she or Vala would let them, but she figured if she could be that confident in two of them, the third was bound to fall in line even if he did happen to be nominally in command.

Still, she and Cam were Air Force officers, and there was a way to handle these things.

Sam glanced sideways at Cam, who was looking around as he walked at her side. Daniel and Vala, walking behind them, had briefly stopped arguing. Teal'c, taking point, had relaxed as much as he ever did--Sam could see it in the easy swing of his arms. Now was as good a time as any.

"Cam, I want you to know," Sam said.

Cam glanced over at her, eyebrows raised.

Sam looked away. "Vala and I have become very dear friends. Just recently."

Cam said nothing, and Sam looked over to gauge his reaction; he had to have picked up on the SGC's codes by now.

He had a look on his face like he had, and he didn't quite believe she knew what she was saying--after ten years, for God's sake, when every woman on a Gate team viewed Sam as a big sister, or, as the years piled up, a trustworthy auntie. She heard about everything no one could talk about, sooner or later, directly or not.

"Very dear friends," he repeated carefully.

"Yep," Sam agreed firmly. "Very. Dear."

"Oh," Cam said, and they walked on a little further. It occurred to Sam that she'd have expected Vala to interject something there--she'd deliberately spoken at a volume the whole team could hear--and found that Daniel and Vala were walking much closer together now, with Daniel's hand clamped over Vala's mouth. Daniel gave Sam an encouraging smile.

Sam looked back over at Cam to find that he'd also looked back; when she glanced up at Teal'c he was openly walking backward, watching all four of them.

Sam stopped, and all around her everyone else stopped too, exactly in sync. Unit cohesion.

Cam said, "Okay, no offense to anybody, Sam, I just--I kind of figured it was just more like Vala was going over to your place to cook you dinner."

Right, Cam definitely had the codes--which meant people around the SGC trusted him enough to use them in front of him--and clearly that trust hadn't been misplaced. Sam smiled a little. "It's a lot more fun when you cook for each other, I'm sure you know that."

Cam's eyebrows went up again and then his eyes squeezed shut. He was starting to blush, which meant Sam couldn't stop now. His voice was a little strangled as he said, "Well, yeah."

"We were in the kitchen half the night," Sam said cheerfully. "Vala's got a knack for desserts."

Cam opened his eyes and glared, though his blush showed no sign of subsiding, and just then Vala said brightly, "Oh, it's a code!"

Sam looked over and found that Vala was doing something painful-looking to Daniel's hand. Sam waved her off, and Vala let Daniel jerk his hand free and back off a couple of steps.

"I was starting to think no one in the SGC was having sex because they were all so unnaturally fixated on cooking supper," Vala added.

Daniel and Cam sighed audibly. Sam winced, and glanced in Teal'c's direction. He was looking extremely patient.

"Vala Mal Doran," he said, because no one else could. "The Tau'ri speak in this manner for a reason."

"Oh," Vala said, eyes going round as she cast an apologetic glance at Sam. "Right, of course. I was actually talking about some other code that I had been thinking about. An Ancient--thing. That Daniel showed me the other day. Not what you were talking about. At all."

"Right," Cam drawled, shook his head and started walking again, and the rest of them fell into step. Sam thought she should be bouncing, her pack felt so light all of a sudden. She glanced backward; Vala grinned hugely, and Daniel gave her a small smile, a head-tilt, Attagirl. Then the smile quirked and his eyebrow lifted: I could question your taste.

Sam shook her head a little and faced front again. Teal'c glanced back over his shoulder and gave her a tiny nod. Her own smile felt as silly-wide as Vala's had looked.

"I'm glad," Cam said, after a solid thirty seconds. "I mean, it's good to have a dear friend. And a very--that's great. You seemed like you could use some home cooking. Both of you."

Sam gave Cam a look--if anybody on this team needed a home-cooked meal, it was Cameron Mitchell--but before Sam could say anything, he added casually, "I mean, it just took me by surprise, after some of the things I'd heard about Vala's taste for peach pie."

Sam was wracking her brains for the translation to that particular term--she knew chicken versus steak versus just a salad, dessert of course, and various descriptive terms, but peach pie seemed awfully specific--when Vala burst out, "That's a lie!"

They all stopped walking again. Daniel turned away. Vala had her hands on her hips. "A lie and a vile slander, Cam Mitchell, and I can't believe that you would--"

Daniel almost made it sound like a sneeze, but his burst of laughter broke Cam's straight face and he started laughing, and Vala stopped short and looked to Sam. "He was teasing me that time."

"Yes," Sam agreed, not bothering to suppress her own giddy smile. "He was teasing that time."

Daniel turned back to Vala and gently shoved her into motion again, and the rest of them started walking. Nearly a minute went by in relative silence--Daniel kept snickering--before Vala said, "Sam?"

Sam looked back to see that Vala had half-extended her hand. "Does this change...?"

Sam grabbed Vala's hand and tugged her forward by it, and Cam winked and fell back to walk beside Daniel. "This changes a few rules. A little."

Vala squeezed Sam's hand, and swung their joined hands between them. "All right. That's less stupid, then."

Sam just held on tight.