Off Base



"Where are you going, Vala?"

He can only see legs and the lower curve of a backside, but they're leather-clad legs, and he knows of no one presently on base but her who could make the subsequent, startled thrash of limbs look so suggestive.

She emerges from the vent when he wraps his hands around her ankles and pulls, thudding to the floor and glaring up at him. "I should have thought it was obvious. Up. Out. Escaping. Be a nice fellow alien, and let me go?"

"I cannot do that."

"You know, you really can," she tells him, giving him a grimacing smile he finds oddly endearing. "You can just walk away down this endless gray corridor, turn one of the many corners in this hellish maze, and keep on walking."

"I cannot."

"You just said that." She sniffs and gives him a watery-eyed look of appeal. "I can't stand it, Teal'c. One more day -- one more hour in this place, and I'll go mad."

"Why?" Her facile tears do not move him. He had a wife. He has a child. Tears are a weapon, and he is a warrior. The second sniff is enough to make him fumble in his jacket and extract a clean, pressed square of cotton. "Here."

"Thank you." Her voice is subdued. She blows her nose quite thoroughly, and extends the damp handkerchief back up to him.

"You may keep it."

"I'll treasure it forever."

The dry sarcasm is back. Better. She squirms around and leans back against the wall, long legs extended. Over her outfit, which he has heard Colonel Mitchell describe as what the well-dressed dominatrix will be wearing this fall, she's slung a blue BDU jacket. It's a little too big for her.

"Whose uniform are you wearing?"

She flicks contemptuously at one sleeve. "This old thing? Who knows?"

He squats beside her and efficiently rifles through the pockets, ignoring her protests and the sinuous slide of her body against his when she tries another tactic.

"It appears to belong to Colonel Mitchell," he observes, dangling a security pass in front of her nose. "I do not believe that he would willingly have given it up. Should you have harmed him in any way --"

"Relax." She tosses her head. "I took it from his locker when he was in the shower." Her eyes glint wickedly. "Did you know he has dimples just above his --"

"I do not," he says hurriedly. Two of them, deep enough for a thumb to press, a tongue to linger happily...

It is never a good idea to lie to a liar. Her eyes widen and fill with speculation. "Really?" The word lengthens in her mouth, emerging in a challenging drawl. "Arm wrestle you for him."

"What?"

"Oh, never mind." She pouts, ducking her head and giving him a sidelong glance. "I wasn't joking, you know."

"About the arm wrestling?"

He rocks back on his heels as she thumps him, a solid hit, well-aimed and momentarily painful.

"About needing to get out. See sky. Sunshine. Trees." Her hand comes up to clutch at the long, clean lines of her throat. "I'm suffocating in here."

"It has been my home for over eight years."

"Then you know how I feel!" Dark eyes, damp-fringed and desperate. Closer than he remembered... has she moved? Her hands are on his knees now, sliding upwards, up, to lock around his neck. "Teal'c, I can be apart from Daniel now. It's safe. I won't go far; where could I go on a strange, hostile planet like this, a little country girl like me? I just need a break." She tastes of mint and sin and he shouldn't know that, but he does, because she's kissing him, gentle, soft, persuasive kisses, sliding juicy-sweet across his mouth.

"You are trying to seduce me," he informs her, trying to work out just when she crawled into his lap.

"Mmm." Her teeth find his earlobe and bite down. "Is it working? Because I'm having fun."

"It is not."

His second lie is no more successful than the first, and is more than adequately punished when she writhes with astonishing accuracy on the proof that he's more than tempted, he's fallen, and gives him a knowing smile.

"I cannot allow you to leave," he whispers desperately.

"Teal'c --"

"Teal'c?"

The second voice, incredulous and annoyed, belongs to Colonel Mitchell, and Teal'c's torn between relief and regret as Vala slides off him and stands with a smooth squeak of leather, snake-charming hands spreading wide and open.

"I can explain everything."

"You always can, Vala, and it's always entertaining."

She brightens. "It is? Because Daniel keeps yawning when I tell him a story, and to be perfectly honest, it's hurting my feelings."

"Vala?" Mitchell leans in close and says softly. "My jacket. Now."

Teal'c stands and hands Mitchell his security pass with a curt nod as Vala sighs and peels off the jacket with a shimmy and a jiggle.

Mitchell stares at her as he puts it on, his hair still damp, a shade darker than usual. Teal'c can see by the cling of the black T-shirt that Mitchell's dressed in haste, pulling clothes onto a water-streaked body, hot and wet. "You really are a devil in an angel's body, you know that?"

"Don't know what an angel is, but if it's a compliment, you can keep it."

She sounds uncharacteristically bitter, and he and Mitchell exchange looks.

"Okay, I'll bite. What's wrong, and why, in the name of God, were you giving Teal'c a lap dance?"

"She was merely --" Teal'c pauses. He isn't exactly sure what she's been doing, but he checks his pockets just in case. Discovering that she has stolen nothing brings a frown to his face. "She wishes to leave the base for a short while."

"And you know, you can't stop me." She nods her head. "I'm not a prisoner and I've done nothing wrong. Broken no laws..."

"Only because you've been confined to base and had no opportunity, although I think the strip poker game you set up might qualify, and I think Jackson might have a different opinion on your innocence."

"Has Daniel been complaining about me?" She actually looks indignant, confirming Teal'c's belief that she truly sees the world through different eyes.

"No more than usual," Mitchell tells her.

Vala gives them both a pleading look. "It's not fair." She points at Teal'c. "He can go out, can't he? If he wants to? Walk off base, shop, see the sights, shop."

"I do not often leave --" Teal'c begins. He misses O'Neill, who would take him out, never regularly enough to be a duty, never infrequently enough to be a favour.

"But you can."

"Yes."

She turns on her heel and drives a finger into the centre of Mitchell's chest. "And you; you're never here! Gallivanting off home every night --"

"Who taught you that word?" Mitchell demands, diverted, although, Teal'c notices, not enough to ignore the finger drilling into him. His hand comes up to capture Vala's and move it away.

"You did."

"Oh."

"I'm going." She nods firmly. "I'll be back, I promise, but I have to go."

There's a genuinely frustrated, distraught tone to her voice that troubles Teal'c more than the tears, but less than the kisses.

"Perhaps it could be arranged?" Teal'c hears himself saying. "For a short while?"

Mitchell gives a hoot of laughter. "Teal'c, are you insane?"

''Indeed, I am not."

"But you'd say that even if you were."

"Indeed, I would no--"

"Come with me," Vala interrupts, her bright eyes darting between them. "All three of us. I'm safe with you two to protect me."

"But what about Colorado Springs?" Mitchell murmurs. "Who's going to protect it?"

Teal'c knows Mitchell's weakening a fraction before Vala gives a muted squeal of joy and leaps at Mitchell, kissing him fiercely.

Mitchell, Teal'c notes, deals poorly with the attack, leaving himself vulnerable in several areas. He spots Vala's hand sliding into a pocket and smiles, saying nothing. Let the unwary warrior learn the penalty for a relaxation of his guard. He fancies Vala winks at him as she slithers down to her feet, only to begin bouncing on the spot, fizzing with anticipation.

"I'm going to have to clear this --" Mitchell begins.

"General Landry is in Washington," Teal'c reminds him.

"So he is!" Vala exclaims, as though struck by wonder.

They turn on her, and Mitchell shakes his head slowly. "You always have to push it that one step too far, don't you?" he observes sadly.

"Indeed." Teal'c frowns at her. "You planned this."

She gives them an engaging grin. "Little bit."

"The field trip? Is cancelled," Mitchell says coldly.

"What?"

"You heard me."

"But that's not fair!"

"I don't like being played, Vala."

"Neither do I," Teal'c adds. "I had thought that we were --" For want of a better word, he finishes, "Friends, Vala. Such behaviour is not worthy of you."

"It's what I do. It's who I am."

The slumped curve of her shoulders spells out an appeal, but Teal'c shakes his head. She straightens.

"Fine. I'll just go back to annoying Daniel, then."

Ah. Teal'c has too much regard for his friend to wish that upon him.

"I am presently unoccupied," he ventures. "We could... "

Cameron blinks at him. "Could?" he prompts when Teal'c falls silent, lost in visions of dimples, showers, and kisses that he has no intention of sharing.

The tangle of thought wrapped around his tongue eases.

"Table tennis?"

"Basketball," Mitchell counters.

Vala sighs. "Is that the best you can do?"

"Take it or leave it."

The tip of her tongue emerges in a teasing flick of pink. "Cards."

"You cheat, and it's a long time until payday."

Her smile widens. "Oh, we don't have to play for money, Colonel Mitchell..." The caressing touch and tug at Mitchell's sleeve is completely unnecessary to underline her meaning, but she does it anyway.

"I'm gonna pretend you didn't say that, after what General Landry told you last time."

"General Landry is not here," Teal'c reminds him once more.

"And Vala cheats." Mitchell gives him a level look, with a hint of challenge, sweeping his hand back over his damp hair and exposing the skin of his inner arm, paler than Teal'c had imagined it to be, taut and smooth. "We'll end up bare-assed and blushin' within three or four hands."

Teal'c bows. "Indeed you may."

"I'm really not seeing a downside here," Vala tells them with an anxious, eager smile.

"Me?" Mitchell frowns. "Why me?"

He pins a polite smile on his face. "I merely thought --"

"Hey, big guy!" Mitchell says sharply. "Never gonna happen. I learned to play poker at my grandpappy's knee and you two, well, you don't have the experience I do."

"Then there is no harm in playing," Teal'c says with a shrug, easily managing to conceal a true smile that elation would have made wide and sunny.

Vala gives a happy sigh, hooks her hands in their arms, and begins to tow them down the corridor.

"That's my boys," she murmurs. "Knew I could count on you."

"To do what?" Teal'c asks unwisely.

Her smile is deliciously wicked. "Rise to the occasion?"

By the time they reach the end of the corridor leading to Teal'c's room, Mitchell's in the middle and struggling.

His thigh drags against Teal'c's, hard and slow, and his clutching hand scrabbles across Vala'a chest, skimming a nipple, cupping a breast.

Struggling carefully, in case he manages somehow to escape their gentle grip.

And smiling, as are they all.



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