By:  Tang Guangzhen   



CATEGORY:  First Time, Humor


WARNINGS:  Language



"Does it come as a surprise? The...way you find yourself...with us, I mean."


"Nah. I knew it'd happen." Mitchell ducked his head a little as he and Cloud Mountain passed under a tree that grew out of the side of the hill the trail cut through. "You know--another nice thing about this posting. Great riding trails. Not the same as cowboying..."


"You cowboyed in Tennessee?"


"North Carolina. When I was a teenager."


"You don't really think of herd riding in the south. I mean, as opposed to the plains..."


"There's cowboying anywhere there's livestock that have to be moved from one place to another, or else there's a lot of stray herd animals. And road apples. And general destruction."


"I wondered where that 'saddle up' thing came from."


"Everybody says that," Cam said, rolling his eyes.


"So, I'll assume trail riding isn't as exciting as dirttrailling..."


"Hey, I asked."


"You wanted to talk, and I don't say much once I get the helmet on. I find it hard to believe you'd get deep while you're busting a wheelie, trail riding at least as exciting as cowboying?" Sam smiled and reached back to adjust a pannier her horse was complaining about via his gait.


"Cowboying's only exciting when things go wrong, at which point it usually gets really, really disgusting. It reeks, for one thing. Also, you ever had to herd sheep? No cattle herder will ever speak to you again. Actually, until you incinerate your boots and soak in a vat of industrial solvent for a while, no one will."


"Hm., back to the question. If you knew it'd happen, why did you do it?"


"'Cause I'm a moron."




"Because General O'Neill didn't tell me y'all had taken off. Wasn't looking to *lead* the team. I guess...I convinced myself being nominally in charge wouldn't be a problem. It isn't, really, at least...well, I'm trying not to let it become a problem, as witness us having this little chat."


"Were you noticing your own behavior at all?"


"My behavior was a little off, yeah, considering how I'd just nearly died, and then took a long-ass time killing myself over again relearning to walk..."


"So you're saying it didn't stand out, at that point in your personal universe."


"I guess."


Sam looked thoughtful. "Didn't you...get a feeling might do well to question your own motives, once you found yourself attached to our ankles, sucking up like a demented Hoover and generally throwing away your dignity?"


"I never had any dignity. I'm a relaxed guy."


Sam laughed and shook her head. "Damn, Cameron. Push, push, push. When you yanked off my Command patch and stuck the team patch on me--and you just happened to have three of them on you, hey, for no reason--"


"I believe in being prepared," he said loftily.


"--I gave up. You were about to go to big, desperate blue eyes limpid with moisture. What were we gonna do?"


Cam poked his hat's brim a little farther up off his forehead and grinned at her. "Call me fanboy?"


"I have, more than once. So once again, if you knew it'd happen, and you knew it'd be, potentially, a problem for you...why did you move heaven and earth to set it up?"


"I guess I was in denial. I just...I wanted it that bad, been set on you guys, and I didn't let myself think about it, because when I did, I knew there could be trouble... and besides, I didn't know you. Not really know you, I mean. I didn't know that when I got over the glam, when you became real people to me--when know, the false fronts got blown away, from actual exposure to the three of you..."


She nodded. "By things like eating commissary food with us, showering off the B.O. and caked-on crud of other planets with us, riding out minor cases of dysentery offworld--"


"What in the hell is up with that? You people--you've been doing this for ten years nearly, and you'll still occasionally drink the goddamned water or eat a freaking berry or something--"


"--and usually that much of that kind of familiarity would breed a little contempt, or at least a little perspective."


"Yeah, yeah, it did. I mean, not contempt, for sure, no--but I've got perspective. I just...happen to *like* you."


"General O'Neill likes us."


"I'm afraid I can't deal with my, uh, emotional overinvestment by either feigning idiocy or acting like a jackass, or at least I can't do it with the same panache as General O'Neill." He paused as Sam broke up laughing, causing River Wolf to dance about on the trail a bit; she patted him as Mitchell continued. "Not only that, I don't think any of you--with the possibility of Teal'c on occasion, for sheer size and scary silence--intimidated him the"


"We intimidate you?"


"Ah, hell," Cam sighed in defeat. "I worshiped at the altar, Sam."


"Good point. Okay, how do we intimidate you? Just the whole 'woo-woo, we're the shit' thing?"


"No, no, more than that. Different ways."


"Then, me specifically?"


"Well...damn, I've gotta do this, don't I?"


"You do, by this point, Cam. I promise not to get pissed at you."


"I'll hold you to that."


"It's a limited time offer."


"Right, right. You aren't just smart. You're too smart to carry on a normal conversation sometimes. Vroom, in you roar, look around, square the circle, complete the unified field theory and establish the pulsating universe model, and vroom, off you go again, leaving us--me--hacking up dust, to whip up another planet-saving frazenstam. How do I not get just a little intimidated by this?"


"General O'Neill did it by belittling science and scientists, and pretending he was too stupid to give a damn about our work."


"Did you buy it?"


"Doesn't matter. It worked for him."


"Yeah, well, it's a little late for that for me, and like I said, I don't think I can be a lovable horse's ass quite as consistently as Goober Jack the Idiot Colonel."

Sam was laughing helplessly. "What would he say if he heard that?"


"He'd probably say something to scare the shit out of me, then pat me on the head and ask me to make him my special hush puppies again."


"As in special ingredients?"


"One that matters. Beer."


"He loves you, you know. Well, Cam, all I can say is that I'll try to spare your ego, and--"


"I don't need my ego spared! I'm egoless! I want you to be what you are and do what you do. I know it's why you're doing this co-command thing. You get to do your job, some flyboy does the administerial grunt work for you. Hey-hey-hey--" He held up a hand. "I got no problem with that. You *should* be doing your work, and since I couldn't do your work if you zapped me with, I dunno, an Asgard IQ enhancer or something, it makes sense. I just wish I didn't still..."


"Feel like...a usurper?" Sam wondered, flashing a grin at him before turning to guide River Wolf down a scree slide.


"Want of a better word. You've been second on this team for *nine years*. That's, like, *unheard* of in the military anywhere, let alone the Air Force. You don't stay in one posting that long, you don't stay on one team that long, you don't stay a second-in-command of *anything* that long--you get transferred, busted, or you become commander. *You* deserve the command in ways I never can, you have the experience, the rank, everything. I have no right here at all next to yours."


"Look, I understand how you feel. I sympathize. But I guess...well, I gave it to you, it *was* mine if I wanted it and I didn't want it, not in the form they offered it to me. And you're right; your people have years of experience in this assignment on you, but that could have happened anywhere you were assigned. It's a rough break that you're basically just going to have to take the crap part of command--responsibility, tough judgement calls, risking people you've grown to care about--hell, maybe having to pick someone to die...and you'll have to do it with none of the glory of being the...the centerpost of the team. I can see why you'd feel the way you do about it; I'd feel the same way. I'd probably feel worse. Beyond staying aware of your situation and giving you the least trouble I can, there's not much I can do to help. But I'm not a see-saw command disaster waiting to blow up in your face, I'll tell you that."


"Didn't expect so, Sam. Which is good, or I'd likely curl up and go home, thanks for the honesty, by the by. I think you hit most of the relevant points."


"Didn't help much, maybe. But at least it's out in the open. Between us, anyway. Is that what you were going to say?"


"That's one of the things I was getting around to, I guess. 'Getting around to'. Is that proper English?"


She smirked. "Should I stop now?"


"Yeah, you can let me up any time."


"Feel any better?"


"Weirdly, yeah, for not having really accomplished anything, beyond talking about my embarrassing crush on my for-goddsakes own command, and my

circumstantially induced insecurity."


"I thought it wasn't a crush anymore."


"It isn't, really, but it might be easier to pretend it is. Especially since I haven't talked to Teal'c yet."


"Teal'c will probably just take the whole thing as a compliment, even if he's not sure how to react."


"I don't know about that. You don't push your way into that guy, that's for sure."


"You won't have to push any more, Cam. You've lassoed us. He won't keep you at arms length any worse than he does Daniel and me."


"And General O'Neill? With Teal'c."


"He doesn't really keep the General off. He's the only person I can say that about--Teal'c trusts us all, but he trusts the General with...with more."


"And I'm no Jack O'Neill, that's for sure."


"'s time for you. General O'Neill couldn't stay on a 'gate team much longer; he's in great shape, but ever since he turned fifty I've thought, every now and then, that he'd like to take care of himself a little better than you can on that kind of duty. He doesn't want to end up letting us down. And Daniel and Teal'c and I have all grown. We don't need a commander who...commands us, except when somebody's got to make a call. We need someone to do what you do, and let us do what we do."


"And the being truly madly deeply with y'all? That recommending me any?"


"Cam, you wouldn't have made the rank you had at your age, no matter what kind of pilot or wing commander you are, if you couldn't handle people--personnel-related problems and situations. Are we the only people you've, uh, had a perspective problem with? Though I bet probably not this one in particular."


"Maybe not, but you're the only ones I've ever made big soulful cow-eyes at."


"That's actually kind of cute," she grinned. "I like the stunned little smile that goes with it."


"Jackson always smirks when he catches me."


"He thinks it's cute, too."


"Remind me not to get drunk with him."


She chuckled. "Why? Think you might hit on him?"




"I don't think there's any surveillance equipment hidden in our saddles. And even General Hammond knew we'd all worn ruts in the street."


"I still think it's kinda odd my 'dar never pinged on O'Neill, the way he damn near swans. On purpose, near as I can tell."


"Hide in plain sight. He's a master."


"I guess. And I was too busy prostrating myself. Anyway, if it was only trying to get into Jackson's *pants*, I could probably live with it afterward, and if I was baked I'd have an excuse. No, the problem is I'd try to tell him just how I really felt. Admiration, respect...and panting squealing fanboy, you're sooooooo coooool-“


Sam began to chuckle in sympathy.


"--and all the reasons I think so--about him in particular, not all of you--and he'd tell me how flattered he was, toss something to distract me, and as soon as I looked away he'd leave a trail of melted shoe leather to the horizon. If I did that with you or Teal'c, you'd just bounce me off a wall until I calmed down, but I don't know if Jackson and I could get over it that easy."


"Ah, Cam. It can't be so bad. This will blow over eventually. We'll get boring. And we'll be careful of you while you wait it out."


"You're so good to me, Sam." He made a raspberry at her.


"But quit letting it make you overcompensate in the other direction."


He affected a wounded air, spreading a hand over his chest. "Overcompensate? I assure you, my--"


"I've had it with this not listening to our advice, not waiting until we tell you it's safe to touch something--I don't want to get pounded by any more pissed-off drug dealers or saddled with any more of Anubis's relatives. That really sucked the big one for Daniel, you know?"


He sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I do. Only known him however many months, and even I was a little blown away when he pointedly wondered whether we ought to maybe kill the guy, just because he had that DNA happening. But as far as I go, that's *not* all overcompensation, you know. Some of that's just I'm an idiot. Everyone's always told me I don't think first."


"You're impetuous, and inclined to bite off rather large chunks, yes. But you're not an idiot, so don't act like one. You're right, you don't have the flair for it that the General had."


"Yeah, well. We can't all be Jack O'Neill."


"Which is good, or think what a cake shortage there would be." She reached over and patted him firmly a few times, on the leg, right above the knee, sort of the same way she'd've patted the horse he was riding. "Just be yourself, Cam."


                                                       * * * *

"Sam--among others--has said I should just be myself," Cameron said, as he and Teal'c walked toward the small lake that was the centerpiece of the park. A giant herd of ducks, geese, and pigeons spotted Teal'c, and began moving in his direction in a cheeping, quacking, honking wave.


"I guess the crowd at this place knows you," Cameron smiled; Teal'c handed him a few slices of bread from the plastic bag he carried, and they began feeding up the locals.


"I have always wondered what that piece of advice literally means," Teal'c admitted, "as it seems to be a very popular one here; I assume one hears it so often because it is not the easiest injunction for the Tau'ri to carry out."


"It's true we have a harder time with that than you seem to," Cameron said.


"You personally do not strike me as pretentious, though you are nevertheless...entertaining," Teal'c said.


Cameron was quiet a moment, decided now wasn't the time for bluster, and said "Some people are charming just being who they are. Daniel is. You are." He gestured with his handful of bread, then began to pull the crust off another piece and drop it all, bit by bit, to the pigeons waiting just at his feet. Pigeons would get shoved out of the way by the geese and ducks, but the geese and ducks didn't come right up to your feet and the pigeons did, so the pigeons got anything that landed that close. Cameron was all for the underdog; he'd been there a couple of times, and he had to admit, he hated it with real gusto. "Doing stuff like this, you know. Or eating a quart and a half of Haagen-Dazs for lunch. For a scary guy, you're actually pretty adorable."


Teal'c raised an eyebrow, pausing in his crumb-scattering.


"No offense. Just a personal thing."


Teal'c eyed him, but lowered the eyebrow.


Mitchell went on, "But then, there are folks like me, who aren't so naturally pretty and shiny, and we have to go to a little effort."


"I believe you are very shiny, Colonel Mitchell. And I believe many people are of that opinion."


"That's just a pilot thing. Not what you could call remarkable in the Air Force. Anyway, Sam's probably right, but there's some things I don't think you people oughtta be subjected to."


"Such as?"


"Oh, just me being really, totally myself as far as how I feel about you guys. Be a bit much. It's not that big a deal, anyway; Sam's right, give it time, I'll get over myself, and then I really will be able to be me without embarrassing everybody any more than I've already done just to get you all back."


"I hope that you feel you can 'be yourself' with us soon," Teal'c said, handing him some more bread. "I do not see how we can become as close, as teammates and friends, as we can be, until then. And your friendship is something I desire very much."


Cameron got a goofy smile surprised out of him, and he felt suddenly shy, looking down at the pigeons as he fed them. "Uh, thanks. I, um, feel the same.'ve got *me*, Teal'c. Like I said, I just...we just need into each other, you know."


"Such adjustment is always required in like circumstances. But I am not pleased that you feel you must remain reserved to any greater a degree than is necessary to comfortable functioning in your position."


"I'm hoping it won't be long. I don't think it will be, in your case. Probably not in Sam's. Maybe Jackson's...I'm not sure."


"Is Daniel Jackson a particular problem?"


"He is in that he...hell, I don't know what to say. It's not like you and Sam aren't every bit as different, and...hell, amazing, as he is..."


Teal'c smiled a barely-there smile. "Daniel Jackson is extremely...personable, in a way that Colonel Carter and I do not equal."


"If you mean he's...kind of a sweetheart, at least most of the time, yeah, I've, um, noticed.'re thinking that's it? I'm especially ga-ga over him because he's nice?"


"It may be more complicated than that, but I know him quite well by this time, I believe; he has changed, and he *has* lost some of the innocence that made him so approachable--too approachable, by...some standards."


"Do I hear Jack O'Neill anywhere in that sentence?"


Teal'c went on blithely "His is a very feeling soul, but he is far less sentimental now than he used to be; his emotions can no longer be played to as a weakness."


"Sounds like you approve of that."


"In Daniel Jackson's position, that can only be considered an advantage; it cannot cruelly harden him. He is a formidable warrior. But he is still, foremost, a scholar and a healer."




Teal'c nodded. "With words, foresight, compassion. In my native language, such a person is termed a healer, their area of practice being the mind rather than the body, or the healing of division between groups."


"Yeah, I get you. Anyway, you see what I mean about how I ought to keep a damper on it, on me and my hero worship. Jackson shouldn't have to listen to me saying stuff like this about him. None of you should. Just make everybody uncomfortable."


"I do not see how telling him that you find him both appealing and personally admirable would cause him discomfort."


"It would. And it'd cause *me* discomfort."


"Yet you are telling me."


"And you're not thinking of telling him, are you?"


"Not currently."


"Good. That's real good." Cam nodded and began to tear up another piece of bread, tossing it to a couple of white geese in the back. "You just let me know if that changes, not that I'm worried. You're not a guy who spreads personal stuff around. Not even your own."


"No," Teal'c said simply, with a sideways Teal'c-smile.


"So...we're cool? I mean, for the moment. You and me, that is."


"Of course, Colonel Mitchell. To have role models, and to be willing to learn from them, is an advantage to a warrior, especially if one understands that learning need not end with apprenticeship. It is only...problematic if one finds oneself even nominally in command of one's heroes in a professional setting. It can...impede learning, as well as cause...other problems."


"Okay, okay, Sam's already read me the riot act about that. Has it occurred to you people that maybe I have *always* been that way? That maybe even people have--never mind."


"It has occurred to us, Colonel Mitchell. I remember what you said you were doing when I was captured by Ba'al. That is *why* we mention it."


"Yeah, okay. Got you. Anyway...I guess I just wanted to let you know where I was at the moment, and what I'm planning on doing about it, and make sure you were fine with it."




"So you're fine with it?"


Teal'c eyed him.


"Yeah, uh, yeah. Right." Cameron turned back to what he was doing, tossed bread hunks, and watched a female mallard leap for a heavy piece of crust like a dog catching a Frisbee. He grinned. "You go, girl."


                                                       * * * *

"Mother. Pus. *Bucket*." Cameron began to tilt, barely controlled, and his overbalance-inducing burden, of course, couldn't really be any help. He got Jackson safely to the ground, and went to his own knees, panting, balancing himself with one hand and wiping his forehead weakly with the other. "*Christ*, Jackson, you're a *horse*!"


"Teal'c says--that for starting late--a few years--I've done great--" Jackson broke off.


"Is he why you're the most ripped triple-doctorate on Earth?"


"Um--" a couple of confused breaths. "Uh--"


"Never mind." Cameron got laboriously to his feet, and unhitched and dropped the vest that was attached to his own.


"Cam," Daniel said, his voice deep and gravelly.


"Shut up," Cameron said.


"I'm sorry about..."


"You did what you were supposed to, Jackson," Cameron muttered, digging through the medical supplies. "I actually figured you for creamed; I forget how long your legs are. I'm pretty sure you only picked up the edge. So don't apologize again or I'll do like you said and leave your great big ass here."


"You're going to have to..." Daniel trailed off, and took a breath. "Build a travois."


"We *don't* have *time*," Cameron snapped. "They're less than ten minutes behind us by now. Drop it. That's an order."


"Screw you," Daniel muttered faintly.


"Yeah, whatever," Cameron managed, uncapping some water and scooting, on one hip, over to where Daniel lay in black BDUs, minus his equipment vest--which Cam had--but still in boots.


Daniel didn't have his shit together enough to remember to fight swallowing the pain med at first, and by the time he tried, all he could do in the way of fighting was spray the both of them with water and get more up his nose. His face scrunched a little. "Agh!"


"That's what you get for being a bad little boy," Cameron said, swiftly repacking and reloading.


"I told you...there'" Daniel's eyes closed; the lids trembled, but he couldn't seem to get them open. "There's not much pain. And I'm already having trouble staying...uh...if I pass out, you'll have to drag me. And you're going to have to anyway at this rate, if I spend more time across your shoulders with my this, I'll pass out, and *I* don't want that."


"Yeah, the ostensible reason you told me to leave you and come back for you."


"I thought that was a better chance for both of us."


"You wanted me to take the new intel back to the SGC. And for Christ's sake you *know* that if I'd left you, by the time we got back, there'd have been *no* way to get to you. No reason to suppose you'd even be alive."


"You can't carry me all the way to the gate."


"I beg to fucking differ."


"Especially not if this damn pill is going to finish me off. I mean conscious--consh--consiusk--"


"I know what you mean. We'll get there before that."


"I know where...faster on a dash than you...and *I* couldn't make it, even without you...on my back..."


"I plan to put some of my remarkable staying power into it."




"Hardly. I just spent twenty minutes climbing a gradual hillside, carrying more across my shoulders than *I* weigh even dripping wet and fully clothed and holding a Concertina. Sitting on a grizzly bear."


"Not...*that* heavy..."


"Like I said, Jackson, you're a horse. You must've been *really* sick of getting your ass kicked."


"Obliques getting...out of control..."


"Yeah, you need to watch that. You work those things any more and they'll get big as your ass."


"Not that big."


"Big in a good way. But you'll look like a pregnant woman anyway."


Daniel snorted. "Thanks"


"Maybe you should rest."


"Am rest..." Daniel trailed off.


"I hope you'll wake up. We can only stay here for about another minute and a half," Cameron said grimly, and began some now-painful stretching. "And I probably won't get you in the air again unless you help."


"Not 'ssleep," Daniel muttered.


                                                       * * * *

"Hi there," Cam said; Daniel, whose eyes had just fluttered a bit, opened them and murmured, croaking a little, "Hi," and cleared his throat.


"Doc Lam says you're gonna be fine."


"Yeah, I usually am."


"And I thought *pilots* swaggered."


That Daniel's statement had been entirely devoid of swagger made Daniel smile along with him. "Thanks for giving yourself a hernia."


"Well, I didn't quite get one..."


"Okay, thanks for wearing a truss just to make me feel special." Cameron was not wearing a truss, nor, to Daniel's knowledge, had he been.


Cam rubbed his lower belly and groin. "Oh, it's just a relief sometimes, what with hauling all that around..."


Daniel didn't bother with any of a dozen yeah-right ego-deflation remarks he could have made; they just smiled again.


Sam came up to the bed. "Hi, guys. How do you feel?"


Daniel sighed "Rocked, shocked, stupefied. Like I do about every other day around here, in other words. You?"


"I managed to get Teal'c to lie down for a while. He only did it to be nice, but whatever works."


Daniel said "Yeah, if we didn't make big eyes and beg him...this guy says he's fine, too."


"Well, I wouldn't go quite that far. We were just discussing trusses," Cam volunteered.


Sam snorted. "You could've taken Teal'c," she pointed out. "Well, I mean, you could've been the one taking Teal'c instead of it being you who had a Prior to kill, though I guess it was a good thing you weren't, since Daniel couldn't walk. You know..." she sighed, looking away. "When that Prior doesn't report back, those resistance members are only going to get saddled with another one."


"The 'heretics' can keep up the pretense a while longer. They have this long," Cam said, but he sounded reserved, too. He'd been leaning on the bedrail; as he spoke, looking at Sam, his left hand slid off its perch and came to rest wrapped around Daniel's wrist.


Daniel glanced at it briefly, then looked back at Sam, who was continuing "I know it's no worse than what people have been having to do here on Earth for thousands of years, belonging to the only sanctioned religion and having to pretend to be devout, but it's one should have to pretend it for those hacks. And before anyone says we didn't have a choice, I know that we have to consider the Priors a part of the problem, not victims, or the Ori have already won. And that one blew Teal'c halfway back up the canyon. I still don't know how he survived."


"He had you and you had a medical kit," Cameron said, and smiled a little.


"He could also still walk, if only barely. If I'd had to carry him neither of us would have made it."


"This guy called me every name in the book between that village and the 'gate," Cameron said, pointing accusingly, with his free hand, at an unconcerned Daniel. "You'd think he'd appreciate the ride, but no." Cameron, in the process of looking at Daniel and apparently trying to gesture with both hands, realized that he had Daniel's wrist; he'd also begun to rub it as he talked. The rubbing stopped. "Uh." His expression blanked and Sam stifled a smile. Daniel gave her a dirty look.


"I'll just, yeah, I'm going to go make sure Teal'c's still down. You, just rest." He made a vague motion with the hand that had been holding Daniel's wrist, as though he were going to pat Daniel with it; but as that hand had just dropped Daniel's arm like a quarter-meter centipede, he ended up only making a sort of half-finished waving gesture toward Daniel's person before backing away, with the clumsiness of exhausted major muscle groups. He made it to the door and out.

Daniel sighed. "The worst thing here is, I landed on that wrist, and that felt great. 'Til he dropped it." He shifted his wrist experimentally.


"I think you're going to have to do something," Sam said quietly. "He's at least somewhat in la-la land with all of us, but it's only you that he can't quite always keep his hands off of."


"That was hardly a...grope."


"No, I am *no* way saying he'd, you know, grope. But he touches. You, I mean."


"I don't have a problem with 'touches', and I don't want Cam to feel awkward about it if it's not bothering me--and it's not, he's just still a little insane on the subject of us--and *I* don't want to have to feel awkward, either. We're not a typical team, for God's sake. We can't *afford* to worry about a lot of the things other teams would *have* to make an issue of."


"'s a good thing you don't mind being touched, at least not by your friends. But despite something I said to Cam about this, he can't possibly be in the position he's in at his age--nor have the rank he already had--and this be any kind of common problem for him. He's got something going on with us all, but you're...different. If he were young enough, I'd say he's acting like...uh..."


"If you say a kid with a crush, I'll have to point out that nobody ever exactly denied that, not even him."


"But he's not younger. And he's a mid-high ranking military officer who's used to command. He doesn't do any kind of 'crush' that would be a serious problem for anyone but him, but this is obvious to everybody, not just him--not even just him and you. It''s not going away, it's you see what I'm getting at?"

Daniel stared, then stared a little more, and his voice was soft. " think he's in love with me?"


"I'm saying--and I should know--that we can't always control our feelings. Feelings aren't wise or unwise, or good or bad, they simply exist. They're beyond our direct control. And indirect control is a very iffy thing. You might want to consider that no more than anyone else can Cam simply *stop feeling* the way he does. Sit on it, maybe, but...Daniel, have you ever been in a situation where someone was miserable with wanting you, and while you sympathized, you just didn't return it?"


"Um, no? Unless you count, um..."


Sam smirked. "No, you couldn't really count that. But I've been there. Several times. The only thing to do in a situation like that is put some distance between you and that person, for their sake--especially if you really are their friend. You have to give time a chance to get them over you. It's the only thing that definitely will."

" Are you suggesting we...send me on some kind of extended job? Replace me on the team for however long? We have sort of an Ori situation, which I will remind you is in primary part my fault--"


She shushed him, waving a hand, and he dropped his voice, but kept talking. "We don't have time. And I don't think...I don't think this's not respectful. Think about who we're discussing here. We just have to give him time, and he'll be fine, and we'll all be *fine*, all right?"


She wooshed a sigh. "Daniel. Look. I know how invasive, and potentially disrespectful, this talk is; and I know you can't be spared. I only brought up separation to illustrate the seriousness of the problem. And 'giving it time' is appropriate for the hero-worship thing, which, before you say anything, is not a term I would use to his face--being as I like my ass the way it is--and I don't suggest you do, either. With you, though...something else is happening. And time--with you, he and you working together--is not on his side."


"You think he'll just...keep..."


"Pretty much, I think." She sighed. "I's not unreasonable. Cam was all ready and willing to like you as a person, as well as to...admire you, profoundly, like he already did, the way he does all of us. And, as isn't surprising, he's finding that it would not be hard to love you, too, and he's probably getting a clue that it's not entirely up to him whether that happens or not."


Daniel was quiet, looking tensely at the sheet across his lap. As his silence went on, she finally cleared her throat and continued. "The more time you give him, the more in love with you he's going to be. If that's all right with you, it's all right with you, but...I realize that he won't like the suggestion that he might have some emotions that are going to be a problem, and that aren't under his control--you may have noticed he's something of a control freak, and for all his...apparent openness, he's really a very private person--"


"I had. Noticed both things, I mean. But neither of them are rare around here."


"True. General O'Neill is another example. But you never let the fact that he hated it totally, when you got in his face about something personal, stop you from doing it."


Daniel smiled a little. "Everything we went through--even everything *I* went through--and I still think of the time we worked with Jack as being simpler days. Very rough days, but simpler."


"You're just getting old."


"Don't remind me."


"Listen, Daniel," she said softly, with an air of winding things up. "I'm not saying you should make any...categorical decisions right now, and certainly not only based on my observations. And *certainly* not without talking to Cam, though I'm not sure how well Cam does 'talking', at least the real kind. Um, when he came to you about...about the hero-worship thing, did he seem to be having a very difficult time with it? I had to have both halves of the conversation at some points. I don't know how the hell he coped with Teal'c."


Daniel blinked at her. "Huh?"




"He hasn't said anything to me about hero-worship. Or anything that even means hero-worship."


"Oh." Sam was quiet a moment. Then she said "I guess the only thing to do is for you to talk to *him*, then. Try to find out for certain what's going on, or as certain as it gets with something like this. You're an excellent talker when you want to talk, but you're going to have to do most of it. I have a feeling he's going to suck."

"I don't even know what you want me to say to him, Sam."


"Maybe you could tell him how you feel about him. Just how you'd feel about him if there weren't obstacles. It might clear a few things up for him. Whether in the ways he'd prefer, I don't know. I'm willing to bet he doesn't know either, 'cause he'd really rather not think about it. Look, I'm not happy he talked to me and Teal'c, but not you, about the possibility of any problems arising from his state of overweening admiration for us. If he's avoiding you about that, he's really going to try to get away from you concerning, this, uh, thing, and ultimately that's not going to work. Because he can't ignore it forever; leave it to...grow or mutate or fester or whatever, and it'll cut Cam's legs off professionally. Pardon the expression."


Daniel looked grim. "You're right."


"How about I tell him you need some looking after this evening?"


"Dr. Lam says I actually do need looking after, though I'd have to say what I need is a nap, more than anything. Cameron doesn't smother, though."


"Oh, he'd smother *you*, if you gave him a chance."


Daniel sighed.


                                                       * * * *

Cameron had put a few things in a bag, and taken Daniel home.


"You sure you can walk? If you go down, I'm gonna drag you. I may never pick anyone up again, especially not a goddamn baby elephant like you."


Daniel's mouth quirked as he reflected that Sam might be a little off on this one. She was Cam's equivalent in rank, but she was a science specialist who worked solo or in very small groups, where she was used to everyone having, for practical purposes, about the same amount of social and professional influence. She didn't even have to keep hierarchy in mind. Call everybody by their rank, speak with some common human respect, and that pretty much did it for Sam. She didn't have as much in the way of command experience--people skills weren't really her forte.


Of course, pilots and other such people--well, men--very often showed affection in just the way Cam was behaving...Daniel paused, told himself in Etruscan, Latin and Arabic not to overthink the situation, and got slowly out of the car.


"Are you allowed to have beer?"


"I'm probably allowed. I won't drink it unless I accidentally bite into a chili pepper, though."


"That's an insult to both beer and chili peppers."


Daniel whipped him across the face with both eyebrows. "I am a scholar, Cameron. An academic. I do not find fulfillment in setting my head on fire with food so bad it has to be disguised with hot spices--that's the usual purpose of heavy spicing in most cultures, you know; to hide the taste of spoilage--nor do I find it in belching contests."


"Woo-woo." Cameron wiggled his ass. "Told me."


"Stupid grunt."


"Pissy academic." Cam grinned at him and unlocked the front door with the keys Daniel still hadn't gotten back from him. "Here, gimmie...there, yeah..." Cameron took Daniel's pack and helped him into the lobby.


Standing in front of the elevator, Daniel found himself leaning on Cameron's shoulder all of a sudden. Cam put his arm around Daniel's waist. "You aren't really going down, are you?"


"Well, not in the elevator."


They both stood there a minute, and Daniel made a small sound of irritation, and then Cam snickered and spluttered, and Daniel sighed. "Someone letting their inner seventh-grader out to play this evening?"


"Yours came knocking on mine's door. Y'know, fucked-up people are so much fun," Cameron cackled. "That's why I volunteered for this."


"You volunteered because I nearly gave you a hernia getting me to the gate and you're not going to let me wreck myself now."


"Damn straight."


"Plus you got thrown out of the mountain anyway for walking like a golem."


"Speak for yourself."


Inside the apartment, Daniel stumbled to the couch and collapsed. "Whoa."


"I'll say. When's the rest of your stuff coming back?"


"Getting my stuff back to me is an understandably low priority, considering all the work that needs doing by only a few Earth ships with any real interstellar capability. And some of it I gave away."


"Hm. Still got cable?"


"Of course."


"You need anything?"


"Not" Daniel yawned.


"How about a hand with your boots?"




Daniel was aware of a muffled, warm stretch of time, and then somebody was trying to pry him out of his seat. "Jackson, I am not picking you up. I am never carrying you anywhere again. Now c'mon."




Cameron had an arm around his waist again, holding Daniel's arm across his shoulders. "Come on. C'mon. That's it. One foot at a time. There you go..."


Hm. Cameron evidently thought Daniel was either asleep or too drugged to be coherent. Daniel would just have to disabuse him of that notion. "Mmp," he said.


"Yeah, I hear you. There we, lemme undo a couple buttons, at least." The unbuttoning tickled a bit, but not enough to be worth moving or complaining or anything.


"Say goodnight, Jackson."




                                                       * * * *

Daniel woke up, sort of. He was thinking in French, which wasn't odd, especially first thing in the morning, but he couldn't get out of it for a couple of moments, and when he did, he was pretty sure he still wasn't thinking in whatever his current most common language was, so he went back to French, which he'd at least been able to identify.


As far as events directly preceding the sleeping, he had a few vague memories of being on a high-gravity planet, Cameron being an ass, the couch, and that was it. He'd been warned he might have a little memory dropout; this was apparently less from the energy of the Prior's staff blast and more from having sustained a mild cerebral contusion when he re-established contact with P3X-806 a few seconds after said blast. He'd also been told he'd be at least as sore from that as anything else. He didn't seem to have been misinformed.


He was in a green tee and half-buttoned pants; someone had gotten rid of his boots. Cameron, yeah. He rolled for the edge of the bed and didn't stop in time, falling out with a soft thump onto the rug. Resting his forearms on the bed, he levered himself up and wandered toward the living room, yawning.


The TV was on. "Cam," Daniel said. "Est-ce que t'es ici?" (You here?)


"J'suis en la cuisine." (I'm in the kitchen.)


Daniel wandered in there, realizing he'd been drifting that way already, following the smell of coffee. He came padding carefully in and a mug was thrust into his hands. "Ta seule joie de vivre en le matin, mon copain." Cameron reached over and got two sugar cubes out of the holder, then removed a carton of cream from the fridge and set it all on the counter by Daniel, who doctored his coffee by braille, slurped at it, and wobbled slowly away again to have a seat at the table.


"Veux-tu un omlette?" Cam asked, flipping a spatula in the air and catching it by the handle. (Want an omlette?)


"Un moment. Parle-je francaise?" (Hang on. Am I speaking French?)


"Oauis. Je le parle, aussi." (Yeah. I am, too.) Cam leaned over the counter, which was positioned out in the middle of the room like a bar, dividing the kitchen into cooking and eating areas. He tossed a small towel over his shoulder and looked expectantly at Daniel, apparently waiting for him to get to the point.


"Alors, quelle langue parlons-nous habituellement?" (Well, what language do we usually speak?) Daniel said, frustrated.


Cameron frowned, then smirked. "Ne sais-tu pas?" (You don't know?)


"*Non*, j'sais pas!" (*No* I don't know!)


"L'anglais," Cameron sighed. "English?"


Daniel stared. "English," he repeated, with an air of "what is this English you speak of"?


Cameron was shaking his head in disgust at Daniel's apparent injury-induced obtuseness. "Alors, comme ca, je fait tout ce boulot pour des prunes? La prochaine fois, t'iras te faire cuire en oeuf. T'es un vrai cingle." (Roughly, with colloquialisms that include eggs and prunes: I went through all that for this? Next time, I'm gonna leave you in your own disaster. You've gone idiot on me.)


"Are you hungry or something?" Daniel wondered.


Cameron broke out laughing. "Yeah, I guess that was a lot of food metaphors. You want those eggs?"


"Um, yeah," Daniel said, rubbing his face and taking another pull off his coffee. "Did you sleep on the couch? Not really big enough for either of us."


"I didn't sleep," Cameron said, and there was a crack-plop. "I'll catch a nap if you're done sleeping for a while."


"I'll probably lie down again; I want to be back at work tomorrow. You can join me."


Silence from the other end of the kitchen, except for egg-beating noises.


Daniel rolled his eyes and sighed "Don't worry--I won't hit on you."


"I wasn't worried--about that, per se--" Cameron said, far too quickly.


"Sorry. Oversensitive, I guess. Um, you know, some military types, that super-IQ dweeb was looking at me in the commissary, I know his kind..."


"I figured at some point, but I also thought it must've been a long time since anything like that'd happened to you."


"It has been. Until you--of all people--" his tone made it plain that the relevance was Cameron's highly active and non-gender-discriminatory libido, not Cameron's being his team leader, "--stayed up all night--injured and sore as hell--rather than lie on a bed next to me."


A bowl went *clong*-whump-whump-whump.


Cam said "I didn' Mean it like..."


"Like what?"


An egg came flying out of the other end of the kitchen and splatted into a yellowy ruin on the wall past Daniel's head. "Oh, shame on me, I dropped one," said Cam, emerging from behind the counter and overhead cabinet bank with a wet rag.


"You'd better get all that," Daniel muttered.


"I will."


"Or this place will stink until the sun expands out past the Earth's orbit."


"Not to worry." Cameron finished wiping up the wall and headed back toward the sink with the eggy dishrag. "So no chili pepper in yours, right?"


"I have chili pepper?"


"You do now. And beer, incidentally."


"Oh. Joy."


                                                       * * * *

"TV is a vast wasteland."


"Who said that?"


"Me, just now."


"That's deep."   




Daniel, half-dozing on the pain pill he'd taken earlier to make it easier to shower, tried to hand him the remote, and Cameron tried to take it, but their knuckles knocked together and the remote bounced to the rug.




"Sorry. I'm kinda sleepy," said Cam.


"Will you just go take a nap already?"


"Don't want to, really. I get all screwed around real easy. If I miss a night I just have to stay up."


"You're still recovering, too. You should probably be lying down. Dr. Lam might not be thrilled."


"No! Not the truss!" Mitchell cowered in fear, suddenly looked genuinely alarmed while pressing a hand to his left flank, and slid off the couch as the fake cower gave out in mid-initial-cringe.


"Damn it, Cam!" Daniel barked in exasperation, flailing in a disorganized attempt to rise.


"I'm fine!" Cam waved him down. "Fine. Just a spasm." Daniel took his hand to steady him as he slid his ass back up onto the couch. "Well, I did think maybe the quads were gonna give on me after that second stretch up the hill...she'll probably kill us both when we actually show up to work tomorrow."


"I, um." Daniel sighed.


Cameron looked at him sideways and kept hold of the steadying hand. "You still not doing so good with talking about Janet?"


"How do you do that?"


"I'm a people person."


Daniel let that pass, as the quiet seriousness of Cameron's expression seemed to allow, and murmured "Not when it just tries to pop out of my mouth, no. There's just no way to convey what she meant to us. Me. She was brilliant, tough, compassionate. She was our friend, she could be like our mother. We trusted her."


"You talked like you were afraid of her, but you really weren't. But you are afraid of..."


"Dr. Lam. If I'm telling the truth..."


"Oh, always be telling the truth to me, now." Cameron smiled and squeezed his hand, tapping it a couple of times on the couch cushion.


"Saying things like 'She's going to kill me if I screw myself up' sounds like I'm talking about Janet. But..."


"I think I get it. Janet would get pissed 'cause she was afraid for you, like your mother would screech you bald for coming in late covered with dirt and bruises and blood, 'cause she was scared. Lam'll just report reckless self-endangerment and maybe not bother to actually say anything to you at all."


"I'm not being fair, I realize that. Carolyn Lam is our CMO; nobody said she was going to be our mother--that's not part of the job. I know nobody could replace Janet, but they seem like such opposites at times. I wonder if I'm being unfair to Janet *or* to Dr. Lam, on a pretty regular rotation. Janet would want me to be nice, I know that. She'd remind me that I felt like an outsider at first, and of how everyone had been supportive of me--in their various ways--and then I wasn't an outsider anymore. It seems like Lam doesn't feel like an outsider, though, or if that's how she defines the way she feels, she doesn't much care that she's an outsider. And she wouldn't be thrilled with anybody who tried to get next to her just for the sake of being nice, I don't think."


"Remember, Landry's her father. And from what I understand, they don't have the greatest relationship. Carolyn and I went out a few times; it was more friendly than anything else--"


"Yeah, right, you total dog."


"Really, I swear. Okay, she's about gorgeous, but who she is is somebody I'd rather stay friends with; it'd be good for a while, but it wouldn't work with us, and then we'd still have to see each other. Anyway, from what she's said...maybe she feels like getting too close with anybody on the base is like getting close with the job, and getting close with the job is getting close with Landry, and she's not really ready to get that close with him yet."


"That's a thought."


"I can be a warm and compassionate kinda guy too, you know."


It was a joke, but Daniel just smiled a little and said "Yeah, I do." He pressed his fingers into Cam's where they were still holding hands. "This is nice."


"You got gorgeous hands," Cameron said suddenly, in a tone of minor revelation, lifting their hands so he could turn Daniel's to his field of vision and tilt it back and forth a little. "I think it's the little wrists. Big ol' muscly forearms and then these elegant little wrists, and long fingers..." he was stroking Daniel's hand and arm with his own free hand as he talked, as though petting a cat. "I noticed before, but I forgot."


Daniel smiled, watching him. The light stroking gave him a pleasant tingle. "Uh, thanks."


"Nobody ever told you?"


"Not in that much detail, but yes, a few people have. They all stand out in my memory, though."


"Was one of 'em O'Neill?"


"Yeah. We were, you know. Pretty, um. Drunk."


"Did he used to hold your hand, too?" Cameron grinned.


"Yeah, he did, sometimes." Daniel smiled a little, his gaze distant.


"Well, my first time, here. Hope I'm doing okay."


"The compliment was nice, but the critical exam of my hand was a little strange."


"That wasn't a critical exam. That was fascination."


"Okay, but it did come across a little strange. And it's not your first time holding my hand. By a long shot."


Cam was quiet a moment, then said "Hit me with that, why don't you."


"Not trying to hit you with anything..."


"Then how about we discuss you and your wandering eyes in the showers?"


"Okay. Is my checking you out bothering you?"


"No, you sonofabitch, unless you count me getting hard and conspicuous in the damn locker room."


"I was wondering if that was me."


"It wasn't you, it was you *staring*."


"Like this?" Daniel raised his eyebrows, his lips pursing a bit in one of his very-interested expressions, as he gave as much as he could see of Cam the once-over.

"You prick. I want my hand back." Cam tugged, not very hard, but Daniel just smirked and hung on.


Cam smirked back. "Of course you know this means war."


They grappled, but both of them were too worn out and semifunctional to accomplish much beyond falling off the couch, which elicited whuffs and groans from both of them.


"Crap," muttered Cam.


"You started it," Daniel grumped, trying to sit up.


"And you landed on me, so you got yours," Cameron replied, sitting up with a grunt when Daniel gave him a hand. He was smiling, obviously in response to Cam's last statement.


"Oh no you don't," Cam said, and managed to get up the rest of the way by leaning on the coffee table; he then escaped into the kitchen. Daniel sighed and fell back down on the couch. The TV was announcing some reality show, which Daniel knew would make him puke in his current condition, so rather than go all the way over to the TV, he lay down facefirst on the couch, hanging over partway, to see if he could find where they'd knocked the remote.


"Is this an invitation?" Cameron wondered, coming back in with a beer, which he set the butt end of against the bare strip of Daniel's back, below his white T-shirt.

Daniel didn't even flinch. "Tu es un emmerdeur de premiere ordre," he said calmly. (You are an [untranslatable obscenity] of the first magnitude.)


"Why thank you kindly." Cameron lifted the beer, wiped Daniel's damp back with the flat of his hand, and picked up the remote, which was just out of Daniel's reach beyond the coffee table.


"Espece de salaud..." Daniel sighed. (Not directly translatable. Important part: bastard.)


"Well I was gonna give it to you, but now I may have to keep it. What's this..." he clicked to bring up the cable information. "Oh hey. 'Celebrity Bonks and Bungles'. I just love this show."


"J'ai jamais vu un demardeur comme toi." (Roughly: I've never seen anybody who gets out of taking his own payback like you.)


"Can I take that as a compliment?"


"Take it out to dinner, but give me that remote first."


Wordlessly, Cam handed him the remote and helped him sit up. He then set his beer on the coffee table and let himself back down to the couch, using his arms, which were the most functional part of him. His hip touched the couch cushion and he sighed. "Once I get stood up or sat down I'm all right."


Daniel was flipping channels. He settled on something hoary and aged that had a still photo of a spiral galaxy being rotated in front of the camera while someone tracked in a Moog and an announcer's voice; he dropped the remote and slumped backward on the couch. "What were we talking about?"


"I'm a bastard and I get my sneaky way all the time."


"Before that."


"You've got beautiful hands?"


Daniel smiled a little. "After that."


"We fell in the floor. I don't wanna fall in the floor again."


"You're going to make me work, aren't you?"


"This is Sam's idea, isn't it?"


"In part. She's also the reason I've been trying to approach it obliquely, but I don't think that's going to fly."


"I'm not really an oblique guy, am I?"


"No." He took Cam's hand, still staring at the screen, which was now showing a painting of the Veil Nebula. Cameron rubbed his thumb idly along Daniel's forefinger. Daniel said quietly "Kiss me?"


Cameron's eyes flicked up at him, their pale, stabbing blue trying to go through his head for a moment. "You're cuttin' to the chase, I guess?"


"'I guess' I harbor quizzical doubts that there's really a reason to be embarrassing us both like this. Maybe I want to know."


Cameron sighed, looking away. "Yeah. Yeah...afraid there is, Dr. Jackson." He was quiet a moment, still holding Daniel's hand and rubbing his thumb over it, more carefully over the knuckles he'd accidentally punched. Then he looked back at Daniel and leaned close, and Daniel turned his face up and canted his head a little.


Daniel wondered if Cam had shaved especially closely, but Cam's beard wasn't a thing of fear and loathing to razors anyway. Daniel worked his hand from underneath them and slid it around Cam's waist, pulling him over a little, off the heel he was sitting on. He forgot that Cam's quads, glutes and just about every ab he had had been blasted into a coma by a forty-minute stagger up a long incline with more than his own weight over his shoulders. Cameron fell into Daniel's lap sideways, breaking the kiss and nearly both their noses.


Cam made a horsey sound and his eyes widened in Reel-Klose-Zoom(TM). Daniel, fixing his glasses and making a squashed-nose face, muttered "Sorry, sorry, j'regrette, desole--" (Sorry.)


Cam got his face pried loose and managed, with his right arm, to haul on the sofa back enough to drag his ass over to the non-Daniel side of his own ankle; he tried to unfold his leg, but his quads refused to work that hard. "Quel dommage," he muttered. "Maybe we should wait and fool around when we're not both laid up."

Daniel blinked. "Oh--um, did you want to fool around?"


"I meant in any sense of the word. Kissing, whatever. We're neither of us too coordinated."


"If we lie down, we'll likely be okay."


"Likely." Cam eyed him, still from pretty close up. "I've got issues with...uh, the bed."




"The idea just seems sort of final in the area of doing an exquisitely dumb thing."


"Then call it something else. I'm sick of the couch. Are you coming with me?"


"Um. Yeah. Sure. Yeah."


                                                       * * * *

Both of them had experienced something of an attitude adjustment--in regards to the bed, in regards to stripping to their shorts, in regards to just about everything--once they actually got in here. When one was that tired and generally beat up, and one was presented with a comfortable bed and a clear path to it, one slides seamlessly into a "damn the torpedoes, that thing looks comfortable" attitude.


Now, Daniel was dozing on the pain med again, on his back with Cam a little lower down, head on Daniel's shoulder; the light had changed, becoming lower and more golden, while they lay in their respective conditions of torpor. Cam was still zonked, and had started drooling just a little down Daniel's neck. His breath was warm and moist, flowing over Daniel's throat and chest. Thoughts wandered in and out of Daniel's head, stream-of-consciousness imagery behind his eyes. Even as sore as Daniel was, Cam's sleeping weight felt good.


Cameron moved, sliding one hand up Daniel's arm to grasp his shoulder and squeeze, and apparently tried to move his top leg enough to slide it over Daniel's farther, but it wouldn't move. Successive half-asleep tries woke him up, at least mostly. He made a puzzled noise; then a deeper, warmer, quieter sound, into Daniel's neck, squeezing his shoulder again.


"We were going to talk about...things, weren't we?" Daniel said. He sighed. Cam seemed to defeat all his verbal sallies on certain topics without trying. Sometimes without speaking.


"Mmm," Cam made another quiet sound, into Daniel's shoulder this time. "You get me in here and let me sleep on you, and by now you're--" he kissed Daniel's shoulder, "--interested, which makes me interested...and you want to talk? You're not going about it the right way. 'Talk' needs coffee and sitting up and stuff, not beer and injury and pain pills and lying all over each other in our underwear. Not that I'm complaining, you understand."


He had a point. "You're right."


"So, um, you wanna make out instead?" Cameron asked, and made a loud raspberry against the side of Daniel's neck before biting gently.


Daniel laughed hard enough to hurt his head. "Ow." He raised a hand to his temple.


Cameron licked where he'd bitten, apparently with the intention of soothing. "Sorry."


"I meant my head, but don't stop that, though I think we should at least take a stab at the talking thing..."


Cameron managed to galumph a bit more of himself onto Daniel, mostly using his arms, and started an investigation of Daniel's ear. "Can't chew on you and talk, both," he whispered.


Daniel got a lungful of air to replace the one Cameron had just expelled from him, but with the tickling breath and soft-smooth lip-and-tongue sensations against his ear, it took some concentration to speak, and he didn't do so spectacularly. "Try?" he managed. "To, um. Talk." Somebody had to make an effort.


"'Kay. You start."




"Mm-hm." Cameron was smiling now, Daniel could feel it--and hear it in his voice--but Cam didn't stop what he was doing.


"You're quite the cuddler, aren't you," Daniel observed, and made a small sound, closing his eyes with effort to keep track of what he was saying. Cam was sharing his attentions around, and he knew how to make a neck feel wanted. Daniel tilted his head to present a little more throat.


"Mm-hm." The answer buzzed softly against his skin. Daniel tingled again.


"That a new thing?"


"Hm-mm." Negative hmms this time.


"Really. You always struck me as more of a bump-and-run kind of guy."


Got him. Cam lifted his head and fixed Daniel with a blue-white stare, desperately trying not to smile first. Finally Daniel lost it, and Cam smirked at him.

"If I could move any better I'd dump your butt out on the floor," Cam told him conversationally.


"Not everybody would consider it an insult."


"I usually don't, but I'm pretty sure *you* do. That what you wanted to talk about?"


"No. Not at all." Daniel sighed, his blurry gaze wandering around the ceiling and the rest of the room. "It's a good thing we *can't* move any better than this."


"'Cause we'd jump into it brainlessly, and then try to blame it on the moment or some half-assed thing, and pretend it didn't happen?"


Daniel eyed him.


"Told you. I'm a people person."


"Be that as it may...I might or might not, but I think you likely would. Pretend after the fact, that is. I'd jump into it as fast as you."


"You're just makin' my day, all this flattery."


"Cam, you have to know what I think of you. People person, remember?"


"I...can be a little vague when it comes to anything I've got too much of a vested interest in. Like, I know you like what you see. And touch. And if you didn't think I was good at my job, you wouldn't have stayed past you and Vala getting unhitched."


"You don't--okay, hold it, wait a minute."


"I pulled in the reins back at bump'n'run, though some parts--" he shifted his hips a tiny bit, moving his erection against Daniel's hip, "--ain't quite gettin' the message."


"Cam. Just...wait." Daniel took a breath.


Despite what he'd said, Cameron didn't look angry; maybe a little peeved, but also amused. "Yeah?" With some effort, since he needed both arms just to hold himself up, he managed to slide his left elbow down and get that hand under Daniel's shoulder. He propped his chin on his other fist, waiting.


"Let's try this. You knew I was interested, at least hypothetically. At your physical person."


Cam managed to only smile a bit; from the widening of his eyes, though, Daniel suspected he'd rather have burst out laughing. "Mm-hm."


"If you know me as well as you seem to, do you think *I'd* be a bump-and-run kind of guy, especially with a teammate--especially with a friend?"


"Probably not. But you haven't said anything. I have. That's all, really."


"What you've said is stuff equivalent to 'I worship the ground you, Sam and Teal'c walk on'."


"Called you beautiful. You personally, I mean. Among other instances--"


"You called my hands beautiful. Though I admit that's not the kind of thing one says without being impressed with the entire person."


"No, I mean that one other time."


"What one other time?"


"Think I'll let you work on that." Cameron smiled and lightly tapped Daniel's nose with a fingertip before returning that hand to chin-propping duty.




"So you like me too, huh?" Cameron batted his eyes.


"You know, I *am* just barely physically capable of dumping your ass onto the floor, if you push me past the point of caring whether I hurt my head."


"Ah, you won't. You like me too much."


"I won't, but it's not because I like you too much."


"I'm hurt."


"You're an asshole."


"Thank you. Now I'm all reassured."


"*Why* do I want to have sex with you so much right now?"


Cameron was silent, but he smiled slowly and looked bashful, glancing down and then up, as though Daniel had paid him a pretty compliment.


"You're amazing," Daniel said quietly, gazing at Cam and shaking his head a tiny bit, as much as he could while it lay on a pillow. He wasn't sure how he meant it. Possibly good, bad, and just in general, all three.


"Okay. *Now* I know what you think of me," Cameron said, and leaned down to kiss him. He lifted his head before it could get deep, whispering "Same thing I think of you," and then lowered his mouth to Daniel's again.


When they paused to ditch their shorts, Daniel noted--gasping a little--"Too bad we're all, um, sprained..."


"We'll be fine," Cameron murmured.


They kissed volputuously, and made slow love with their hands, and it was, indeed, quite fine.


                                                       * * * *

"Cam. Tu dors?" (You asleep?)


"Mm," Cameron murmured, shaking his head a tiny bit.


Daniel moved a little, settling them again carefully. "Cam," he said again.




"I j'pense que je t'aime," Daniel whispered quickly. "I think I might--I think I love you.)


Cam was used to Daniel talking quick, though. He stirred and raised his head on the pillow. He was quiet a moment, then said softly, carefully, "C'est vrai?" (Really?)


"Ouais," Daniel whispered. He opened his eyes and gazed at the ceiling. "J'en mettrais ma main au feu. Mais je n'ai pas su..." (Swear to God. But I didn't know...)


"Alors... tu as eu un faible pour moi..." ( were fond of me...)


"Et tu as le beguin pour moi," Daniel said, smiling a little sadly as his eyes slid sideways to meet Cameron's. (And you had a crush on me.)


"Il y a plus que cela," Cameron said quickly, touching Daniel's cheek lightly with a finger. "Plus beguin." (There's more to it than that. More than...a crush.)


"Comment le sais-tu?" Daniel demanded, reaching up to Cameron's shoulder and squeezing a bit. "Quand tu fus--" (How do you know? When you were--)


"Je n'ai pas voulu t'effrayer--" Cameron cut in, voice raised. He paused as Daniel stopped speaking, eyes widening at the words. Cameron's closed, and he sighed. He tried again, more quietly, "Je n'ai pas voulu t'effrayer, pas de moi, mais je t'aimais a la folie. Ahm..." he finished almost inaudibly, eyes open now but not looking at Daniel, "je t'aime." (I didn't want to scare you, but I was crazy about you. I *am* crazy about you. I, uh, love you.)


Daniel blinked at him, mouth opening as he took a slow breath. "Tu m'aimes." (You love me.)


"Ouais." Cameron still wasn't looking at him.


Daniel was quiet a bit, then suddenly pulled Cameron close as well as he could, considering, and murmured "Comme j'disais--j'ai jamais vu un demardeur comme toi. Je t'aime, Cameron." (Like I said, I've never seen anyone pull his nuts out of his own damn fire like you can. I love you, Cameron.)


"Dites pas cela si tu n'es pas--" (Don't say that if you aren't--)


Daniel made soft shushing sounds, laying his fingertips against Cameron's lips. "C'est bien. Tout bien." (It's all right. It's all good.)


There was a quiet time. Cameron rested his face in Daniel's neck again.


Finally Cam said "Well, we're a couple of prize idiots."


"That's true in a number of different arenas," Daniel said. "To which are you referring?"


Cameron chuckled. "Specifically, at the moment, I was referring to the oafers we made of ourselves, today and earlier, through nerves about not having 'talked' and about whether this was 'dumb'--which it is; very, very dumb, but that's not my point. Point's that then, we come in here, get one look at the bed and each other while we know what we're both thinking, and screw all that, it's time to rumble."


"Well. At first all we did was sleep."


"Yeah, sleep," Cam scoffed. "Personally, I regularly nap naked on folks I work with."


Daniel smiled. "Okay, so it was a pretty sensually focused nap."


"Yeah..." Cameron said, with a little wordless murmur, in appreciation of the nap.


Even though he hadn't slept much himself, Daniel also had to admit it was one of the better naps of his life to date. "Yeah," he agreed, and kissed Cam's forehead. "I guess if we'd talked before...before, we wouldn't have said the important stuff anyway."


"A talk which would've talked us out of this, in other words."


"And I might not...not as quick as I figured it out, at least..."


"Yeah, how about that? Comment le sais-tu? Maybe you're just having a great afterglow." Cameron looked calm, but he swallowed pretty hard.


"Cam...I'm not sure how to reassure you there, since it's a sudden enough realization to be knocking me off balance, let alone you. All I can say is I'm not the kind of person who falls headlong into that particular belief. That didn't even happen with my wife. It took time." He kissed Cam's head again. "There's been time. There just hasn't been sex until now. By the way, thanks for letting me say what I...said, in French."


"I got no problem with French."


"No, you don't. You have an accent, and a few unusual word choices, but otherwise your usage is great. When did you start learning it?"


"It was the first one. After English, I mean. But French was your English, wasn't it?"


"In the way you mean. You know, you were the only person I've met in years who wasn't startled that English isn't my first language."


"Nothing about you startles me. Amazes me, yes. Startles me, no." He chuckled, nuzzling Daniel's shoulder. "Because you're a superhero."


"You'll pay for that."


"Idle threats." Cameron traced patterns on Daniel's chest with a fingertip. Daniel could feel eyelashes flutter against his shoulder as Cam blinked. "It was easier in French for me, too," he said, "but I guess for different reasons. Easier for you because it's realer to you, in your first language. For me, because it's less real, one I learned. Guess I'm more of a guy than you."


"Okay, now I'm really getting pissed." He pulled Cam close again, squeezing.


"How did you and O' If it's not my business--"


"It's your business, Cam, come on. Of course it is." Daniel rubbed his face against Cam's hair and thought. "Well, we had the talk you and I didn't have."


"And that's what talked you out of...anything. I mean--I mean, why don't I shut up and you talk?"


Daniel smiled. "It did talk us out of serious pursuit of the matter, but not out of the way we felt, or of...there were felt a lot like we were together. The way you feel with a friend whom you've known long enough that there aren't any secrets between you worth discussing, with the...comfortable feeling that, um, that I'm told you get, with a partner of longstanding. I have to assume that's what it was. I've never..."


"Never been with anybody for that long?"


Daniel shook his head. "Broke up or...something else happened, pretty quickly in every case."


"I'm sorry."


"Been different with you?"


"We can talk about that in a bit if you want. Go on."


"Um. Okay, well...we didn't never do anything about it. In the, um, sense that you and I just did."


"Double negative, you *did*...but not any kinda regularly. Seems sort of sad..."


"I know what you mean, and in some circumstances, I guess it would be; but not with us." Daniel shrugged. "It was never all desperate and despondent. No 'this once and never again' because for one thing, we knew it wasn't going to be never again, just maybe not next week or anything. For another thing, he was *there*, *we* were there, together, there wasn't anything to miss. We could get into each other's space from different planets if we both wanted to."


"I think I get you. So D.C. and Colorado Springs aren't much of a problem for you, then."


Daniel shook his head, smiling. "No. Not much of a problem."


"And...admitting it to each other and like that made it easier?"


"It made working together *possible*. We never could have managed it, trying to pretend around it. It made some pretty incredible things happen for us, sometimes, that wouldn't have, if we were trying to pretend. Work-related and otherwise."


"By not pretending, you don't mean being indiscreet or anything."


"No, I don't mean that. Even if we'd been having an active affair, we'd have had to keep it away from work, but...there was something about it not being...well, *very* active, at least, that meant we *didn't* have to keep it away from work. It was there, and we acknowledged it, there was no dancing around it, and not dancing around it...there was advantage to it, something in it for us, with respect to how well, how easily, we got things done, together and separately. And that made no sense. But I'm not sure I can explain it any better."


Cam was quiet for a few moments. "I get you, I think."




"Ever wonder why you get a thing for your bosses?"


Daniel shook his head. "I never did, before Jack. And's really not the same with you. There's...a very different dynamic."


"Yeah. Sam took the trouble to talk about that with me in detail, bless her heart."


Daniel chuckled. "I'll admit your, um, rather vigorous libido made me stand a little farther back from what's otherwise an incredibly attractive man..."


"Hm. Okay, I guess I deserve that. But I can assure you I would never reduce a friend to nothing but a bedpost notch. If that person means something to me, it'll be more than a friendly bump'n'run, your perceptions in that area notwithstanding."


"I know that, now," Daniel reassured quietly, rubbing his back. "And I knew it before, too, really. Or I wouldn't...feel, um, like this."


Cameron was quiet a moment, slowly nuzzling the nape of Daniel's neck with his eyes closed, just breathing steadily. Daniel didn't blame him. He was still quietly freaking out, too.


Finally Cam spoke, his voice casual. "Not that I have a problem, per se, with friendly bump'n'runs," he considered.


"I've noticed," Daniel chuckled. "I just wish you'd keep it off the missions."


"I've noticed you wished that. And God knows...well, first time anyone ever ended up dead for leaving a party with me," Cam muttered.


"Yeah," Daniel said quietly, and petted Cam's hair gently. Cam would likely be keeping it off missions for quite a while. "Sam said...with her and Teal'c, you had a chat with each of them about the, ah, admiration thing."


"At least you didn't call me a fanboy."


"Not out loud, I didn't."


"And you wonder why I didn't with you."




"'Cause I'm a big, fat wimp."




"I'm not kidding. I'm a wuss. I just could not see that conversation with us, I'd've turned into an idiot so fast you'd've thought I had a jato up my ass. There I'd be all reassuring and this is no big deal and GOD what a moron I'd make of myself, trying to do that with you staring *right* through me the entire time. I just couldn't even make myself try."


"Oddly probably could now."


"Um...yeah, oddly enough. I could, but not right now. I'm thinking sensually-focused nap. How about you?"


"Sensually-focused naps are good," said Daniel.


                                                       * * * *

"Hey," Sam said, sitting down with her tray.


"Hey," said Cameron, raising a noncommital eyebrow at her.




"So," Cam returned, forking in meatloaf and chewing.


Teal'c, to his left, smirked.


"Little excitement in the guys' showers, I hear," Carter said, unlimbering her flatware from her napkin.


"Really," Cameron said, and returned his attention to his lunch.


"Yeah. SG-11 were treated to an impromptu floor show."


"So I heard," Cam said, and stuffed in some mashed potatoes.


Sam grinned at him. He gazed back. She cracked up, then said "I didn't know you could sing. I've heard you sort of sing, but..."


"But we did not know you were such an aficionado of classic rock, Colonel Mitchell," Teal'c put in.


"Mgm," Cam said, chewing ostentatiously.


"Three Dog Night is more folk rock, I think," Daniel said, pulling out a chair. "Hi again."




"Daniel Jackson."




Daniel nodded to the three of them and sat down. "He can dance, too." Daniel sugared his coffee.


Cameron froze; only his eyes moved, and they focused on Daniel, narrowed and dangerous. "Jackson..."


"Really well, I mean," Daniel went on. "I couldn't have spun around like that on a wet tile floor without falling over, personally."


As Teal'c grew bug-eyed and Sam began to emit snorts into a napkin, trying to keep from spitting her food, Cam pushed back from the table and sat there with his arms crossed over his chest, glaring at all of them.


"Hey, so the guy's happy," Sam said, trying to get the gleeful expression off her face.


"I suggest, Colonel Mitchell, that you refrain from demonstrating your exuberant moods naked and with soap in your eyes," Teal'c offered. "That is, unless you know for certain you will remain undisturbed until you can see again."


Cameron sighed. "You guys are all going on report."


"We've been there before," Daniel said, and opened the book he had with him.


Cam picked up his tray. "I can see I'm not gonna get any respect out of you people, so I think I'll say hi to Major Gonzales." He strolled off, singing "I can tell my sister by the flowers in her eyes, on the road to Shamballah...I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes on the road to Shamballah..."


Everybody at the table had something in their mouth and nearly ended up with it in their trachea; much grabbing for beverages ensued. Sam coughed a couple of times, smiled, and said "I think he's going to be all right."


"I think he is, too," said Daniel, and winked at her.


"Do we want to know?"


"Officially? No, you don't."


"Ah. Got it," Sam said. "Later."


"Indeed," said Teal'c.


"Not that you're getting details."


"That's okay," Sam said quickly.


"We do not require details, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c further assured him. "The relevance to our working situation will be quite sufficient."


"Well," said Sam. "Maybe a *few* details...other than just the work thing..."


"But not...*lurid* details?"


"Right. Just not, um, lurid. Nothing that'd be a problem if Cam found out you told us."


"It's all right. We've been too beat up to get very lurid anyway," Daniel muttered, picking up his fork. "And he'll probably be heckling my delivery while I tell you about it."


"Hey! Let's shake it over there," Cam called. "Stop jawing and eat, we've got debriefing in fifteen."


Daniel didn't bother to look up; he just made an OK sign in the air, still forking with the other hand.


"It must be love," Sam muttered, barely audible. "Jack would at least have gotten a dirty look."


"Which means I don't love Jack?" Daniel muttered, giving Sam a raised-eyebrows fluttering of eyelashes.


"Oops," Sam said. "Think I'll shut up--soon as I ask one thing--"


"Colonel Carter..." Teal'c looked put-upon.


"Just..." She waved an impatient hand at Teal'c and said quickly "Cam's gonna be fine, sure. Are you, Daniel?"


Daniel relented, giving her a small smile and a nod, covering her hand on the table with his. "Just fine, Sam. Good, even."


She chuckled. "Good...okay. You always had a gift for understatement."


"Believe me, I'm better than I have any right to be."


He got a frown out of Teal'c. Sam backed him up with a reproving glare.


Daniel nodded and smiled at the table. Okay, no Daniel's-Ori-guilt. "Then I'll just stick with 'I'm good'."


And, at least for now, he was.



                                                                              ** The End **   



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