Safety in Numbers

Sam flexed her shoulder gingerly, carefully, riding the ouch of strained muscles and trying to keep the discomfort from showing on her face.

Not good enough. Teal'c was staring at her when she turned her head, his face impassive enough to tell her that he'd seen what she'd tried to hide.

"It wasn't your fault," she told him.

It hadn't been. His shove had sent her flying out of the way of a staff blast, after all. That she'd landed awkwardly, pulling a muscle the day-long hike with an overloaded pack had left vulnerable, was her fault, not his.

The colonel was studying her with a frown, Daniel was looking sympathetic and relieved.

Relieved? Oh… because the attention was on her. Daniel wasn't in much better shape, either, and O'Neill wasn't going to be pleased about why. If he found out about the injury, that was, but -- oh, of course, he knew. She'd be prepared to bet that if she had hiccups at midnight he'd offer her a glass of water the next day, and Daniel, who'd carefully kept behind O'Neill on the way home, had made the mistake of walking out of the gateroom in front of him, eager to reach a hot shower, the stiffness of his gait obvious.

"So, Carter's aching, Teal'c's ready to go another round, I'm in my usual tip-top shape, and you're…?" O'Neill's eyebrows lifted as he eyed Daniel, getting a shrug in return.

Bad choice of body language.


"'Fine'." O'Neill took the word and made it say a lot, none of it nice. Daniel winced as he hadn't done when he'd fallen off the rocks he'd been told not to climb up, no matter what he thought was hidden behind them in the way of cave paintings, and the colonel nodded, reached out, and snatched the towel Daniel was reaching for, the last dry one in the steam-filled locker room, and dropped it on the floor.

"Pick it up without whimpering, and I'll believe you."

Daniel glared at him, caught out but unrepentant and unflustered. Sam hadn't really expected Daniel to apologise, but she felt a mild indignation that he'd got away with a blatant disregard of orders. Or was it envy? It wasn't sympathy; as soon as the colonel had left the cave they'd been sheltering in to check the path down the mountain for signs of Jaffa, she'd told Daniel to stay put. That he'd got hurt after refusing to listen to either of them was his own fault.

"You know, Jack, you're sometimes more of an asshole than I'd thought humanly possible."

"Love you, too, Daniel." O'Neill nodded at the towel. "I'm waiting."

Teal'c moved between them and started to bend, hesitating as O'Neill chopped savagely at the air with his hand, his message clear. Back off, butt out.

Daniel took a deep breath through his nose that sounded suspiciously like a sniff, hooked his foot into the bleached white folds of cotton, and lifted it high enough that he could grab the towel without bending over.

"Nice." O'Neill sounded dangerously on edge and Sam swallowed. She hated it when they pulled missions like this one; a rescue that turned into a burial detail, dog tags jangling sourly in the colonel's pocket as they turned away from the makeshift, shallow grave.

No way to bring the bodies back over twenty klicks of rough rock and desert with Jaffa on their six the whole way. That knowledge of failure wasn't helping the colonel's mood. It wasn't helping hers.

She tugged irritably at her T-shirt, feeling it catch on still-damp skin as she tried to pull it off. Last into the showers because she'd had to endure Janet's gentle, inexorable questions, and if they'd run the water cold again, she'd zat them, dammit…

"Do you require assistance, Major Carter?"

She shook her head, and worked her arm free of the clinging fabric. "Thanks, Teal'c, but I've got it."

His gaze lingered, not on her breasts, hidden behind a sweated-transparent plain white bra, but the faint bruising on her shoulder from his grip and shove.

"Thanks," she repeated, hoping it was clear what she meant. She got one of his rare smiles and the brush of his fingers over the tender skin, a light, skimmed caress that made her shiver, made her nipples harden. His eyes widened and he turned to look at the other two, getting slow nods, although Daniel and O'Neill were still squared off against each other, all edges and prickles.

As simple as that to arrange.

Well, something had to be simple about it.

She hesitated for a moment, though, before sealing it with a nod of her own, three pairs of expectant eyes on her face. They were tired, unhappy, an emotion three of them would be expected to keep under wraps, and the simmer of irritation between Daniel and the colonel was -- oh, God, who was she kidding? She wanted to see them fuck the bad temper out of each other, tight lips softened by moans, clenched hands easing open to touch and hold.

"Seven. My place."

No way she was driving home. Not tonight.


Daniel arrived first, a small smile left forgotten on his face from a thought she'd never get to share. They never arrived together: they never arrived far apart. She knew that before she'd finished pouring Daniel a drink and watching him settle in a corner of the couch to sip it slowly, reflectively, the other two would be knocking on the door.

It was Teal'c's turn to bring pizza and a movie, although she guessed O'Neill had hovered over him as he chose the video, badgering him unsuccessfully because Teal'c was immovable in some areas, and that was one of them. They'd eat the first -- why not? -- and the second would play, ignored, as they left the room and headed towards the bedroom, leaving it running, not to drown out the sounds, because there was no one listening, but because they always did and hedging this with routine helped smooth out the edges of incredulity.

No one listening. Not to her, not to any of them. And if anyone asked why surveillance was blocked, well, they'd have to admit they'd tried to peek. Hammond knew what she'd done, and, after Orlin, knew why, and if it came in handy for keeping a secret she hadn't had when she set up the blocker, well, she wasn't complaining about that.

They were safe. A team socialising, which was encouraged to a point, and they never made it regular or frequent enough to raise eyebrows -- never wanted to, not really. They saw enough of each other to make a break more of a treat than a meal out together, or a movie in.

Just friends meeting as friends at the beginning, and for years after. Oh, still a slight awkwardness with the colonel because you never took the uniform off, not really, but they'd been through too much, knew each other too well…

And then Daniel had died and, more importantly, Daniel had come back.

They'd waited to start up the casual get togethers that had never happened once Jonas was the fourth member of the team. Waited until Daniel, a puzzled furrow in his forehead, had asked if there wasn't sometimes something they did on a Saturday night now and then, and they'd met at her place and she'd looked at Daniel, taking the seat he always took, pushing a cushion over to O'Neill's side of the couch, for O'Neill to take and toss on the floor, just like always, and she'd started to speak and ended up tear-choked and grabbing him, her fist smacking into his shoulder as she told him to never, ever, not again -- because she couldn't stand it --

They'd held her, they'd held him, there had been tears that weren't from her eyes wet on her face, and then they'd started kissing and she could never remember, and would never ask, whose mouth first found whose, but she'd closed her eyes a few minutes later to catalogue the rush of taste and touch from three mouths on hers in quick succession and heard the liquid, languid slide of lips as two of them began to kiss.

Then opened her eyes because she didn't want to miss anything and Teal'c and the colonel kissing was enough to close up her throat with an ache of appreciation and arousal.

It was the way their hands had cupped and held each other's faces, thumbs brushing skin with a careful caring --

Followed by O'Neill's departure fifteen minutes later, eyes wild, tongue licking across his lips desperately, head shaking a no that meant nothing because he'd come back an hour later, just when they'd given up on trying to discuss what had, hadn't happened, because they couldn't get the words out, and Teal'c was staring at the floor, head bowed, hands shaking.

And O'Neill had gone to Teal'c first, tilting his head up to kiss him and leaving unsaid an apology none of them wanted because there was so much else to want and it was all there for the taking.

She'd woken, alone, sticky, sore, her sated body smugly satisfied. Feast after famine.

And walking into work would have been hell, if they hadn't had a crisis that wiped everything out of all their minds, easing them through the hours as rapped out orders and gunfire drowned the words none of them had wanted to say, anyway.

They didn't need to talk about it. And when they stumbled back through the 'gate thirty-six hours later, bruised and muddy, some of the blood on their uniforms theirs, they weren't thinking about anything but a shower and sleep.

The weeks had stretched out and Sam had begun to think that it would never happen again. Which would be -- maybe -- a good thing. Then it had, a sunny afternoon barbecue at O'Neill's with the clouds rushing in and the rain pattering down first gently and then hard. They'd rushed inside, exclaiming, laughing, shaking themselves dry, and Daniel had caught hold of her, spun her around into his arms, and kissed her with an exuberance that had wiped out the realisation of place and time.

Daniel happy was hard to resist.

And after that, they'd accepted it. They were a team, they loved each other, and now and then, not always, not often, they got naked, got messy, and fucked their brains out in a gloriously inappropriate, complicated heap of bodies.

It was months before she realised the colonel and Daniel never kissed each other, barely touched, no matter how tangled it got in bed.

Working out why took less time, but she was still crying before she'd reached a conclusion, her body two steps ahead of her mind.

She loved them both enough that some of the tears were for them, but not all.

And when she stopped crying, snuffling back the tears with a scrub at her nose, she wondered how long Teal'c had known, without doubting that he did.


She couldn't leave it like that, though. She had a theory and like any good little scientist, she had to test it, turn hypothetical into practical.

But the next time they were together -- and it was starting to get a habit, starting to happen more and more and she could never quite work out who was pushing for it, but she knew it wasn't her -- the next time, she watched.

And flinched when she kissed Daniel, eyes sliding guiltily to O'Neill, choked, a little later, O'Neill's cock nudging her damn tonsils, because Daniel's hand tightened on her shoulder, painful, bruising, as O'Neill breathed out her name in a shuddering groan.

Teal'c's hand paused, long strong fingers stilling between her legs, wet fingers, silked and slicked, stirring and dipping and delicately pinching until her clit was pulsing, beating hard. He shouldn't have stopped. He wouldn't have stopped if he hadn't seen something she couldn't.

O'Neill's hips jerked up, fucking her mouth with a roughness he rarely showed her in bed. For men who knew just what she was capable of and accepted it without thinking about it now, they were sometimes over-protective of her. She'd left bruises on them --not often, not safe -- but they'd never marked her skin with anything but kisses and slow, stroking hands.

In fact, considering what they were doing, four of them four, it was all surprisingly … tame. Not boring, no, just… carefully choreographed.

She wanted wild. Wanted out of control. Wanted --

"I want to see you fuck Daniel."

Pulling off O'Neill right then had probably been a mistake. He glared at her as if he hated her, face reddened, sweat sheening his skin. His cock was wet and looked… impatient. "Carter…."

She edged away, back into Teal'c's waiting arms. Refuge, not prison, but strong arms all the same and breaking away from them wouldn't be easy. Except it would, because she couldn't ever imagine Teal'c holding her against her will. Teal'c made a questioning sound, his hand, damp from her body, curving around the swell of her hip. Daniel was looking down at the rumpled sheets and O'Neill was still glaring at her.

"You don't touch him." Daniel's head came up sharply and she bit down on her lip. "You can." She was stumbling over her words now, trying to make them see -- "It's safe. If it isn't safe for you here, then why are we doing this?"

"Sam…" Daniel shook his head, his lips framing the word 'no'.

"Then get the hell out," she said, ignoring the tears that were waiting for permission to urge up and spill over. No tears. She wasn't crying when they never did. "Because this isn't… honest."

Behind her, and she wished she could see his face, Teal'c sighed. "Samantha…" She supposed even Teal'c couldn't call her Major Carter in bed, but somehow her full name wasn't much better, either. "I see no deception here."

"Don't you?" She looked at the two of them. "Do you fuck when we're not here? When it's just the two of you? Kiss and touch and --"

They winced in unison, as if she'd drawn blood with a blade.

"I'm ordering you to leave this the hell alone," O'Neill said. He didn't look at Daniel but she knew she didn't have his whole attention anymore.

She laughed, brittle and disbelieving. "I don't think so, sir." Shivering, she became acutely aware of her nudity and theirs. "God, I need to --" She scrambled off the bed and grabbed for a robe, blue satin, impractical and short, but enough to make her feel less exposed.

The three men exchanged glances and she watched them visually map out a path to their own discarded clothing. Three heaps of it, all arranged in a way that would make it easy to get dressed quickly if they had to. And that was wrong, too. It should be a tangled trail, stripped off by eager, hurried hands, inside-out and back to front… Damn. She'd missed out on way too many clues…

They got off the bed, and began to dress in silence. With the room full of elbows and averted faces, she got back onto the bed, huddling into an unhappy hunch. God. God.

She was already anticipating the hell that the briefing tomorrow would be, already flinching away from the certainty that it was impossible to avoid changing together for ever. Already feeling the ache of tears in her throat and the tickle of them at the back of her nose. She cried messily, silently and she wanted them to get the hell out so she could give in.

"Sam --" Daniel paused halfway through buttoning his shirt, dressed in shorts but no pants and turned to her. "I just want you to know that --"

"Daniel," O'Neill growled. "Button it."

"Fuck you," Daniel said, his voice tight. She wasn't sure she'd ever heard Daniel say that to O'Neill, not explicitly. Implied, yes.

"Not recently, you haven't."

If O'Neill had wanted to, he could have taken Daniel out in less time than it would take Daniel to sneeze. Sam knew that. He couldn't have wanted to, though, because the fight that followed was more of a scuffle and struggle, both of them locked together, panting, grunting, fists digging into ribs, bare feet kicking. She scrambled off the bed, mouth open in a shocked, silent oh, and was held back by Teal'c, fully dressed apart from his shoes.

His hands were unfailingly gentle but she wasn't able to move forward. She wasn't sure she wanted to.

Daniel broke free of O'Neill's grip and started hitting him, wild, clumsy blows, clumsy through anger, because Daniel had been trained by all of them and knew how to fight. His breath was hissing out and his face, bare of glasses, looked oddly out of focus, as if it were Sam's eyes that couldn't see clearly.

"Wanted to… would have…"

O'Neill fended off the blows with insulting ease, his mouth set in a grimace that might have been first cousin to a smile and Samantha felt Teal'c tense behind her and shared his reaction. If anyone had done that to her and smiled, she'd have --

Daniel gathered himself visibly and drove a fist at an old injury of the colonel's, surface skin healed, flesh and bone under it always painful, always aching in damp weather. The fact that he picked that spot on O'Neill's shoulder rather than an obvious, quick-disable target wasn't lost on Sam and she doubted anyone else in the room was blind to the implications either.

He ended up pinned to the wall, the colonel's good hand locked around his throat, his other a cramped fist by his side, the fingers working painfully.

"You vicious little son of a bitch," O'Neill said conversationally.

Daniel was struggling to breathe but managed to croak out a repetition of his last comment. Before he'd finished it, O'Neill had leaned in, his hand loosening to shove upwards through Daniel's hair, using his new hold to position Daniel's face for a kiss which Sam could hear but not really see.

Daniel's hand hammered hard on O'Neill's shoulder, once, twice, and then --

Oh, she shouldn't be watching this. Shouldn't see --

Sam leaned back against Teal'c, unmoving, solid, and blinked dry, aching eyes until they focused again. Teal'c's hands moved to rub at the back of her neck, soothing, caressing, anchoring her in place. She knew, without turning her head, that Teal'c was watching them kiss and that somehow made it allowable.

She would, she supposed, never see this again. Never see the way their bodies fit together, straining, fighting, locking into place. Never hear the bitten-off muttered curses that sounded tender, irritated, familiar. Never see O'Neill's expression that unguarded, that lost and yearning as he flung his head back and took an open-mouthed breath, lips kissed into something like softness, bleeding and licked clean.

It didn't feel right to stay to watch them get naked again, watch them fuck and come and gasp through smiles, settle down, sweaty and replete, hands idly moving on damp skin.

And for all she knew, that was only how they were with her. She was never going to see them the way they were alone, not more than this brief glimpse, because already they were remembering she and Teal'c were there, already they were freezing up, beginning to move apart --

She turned her head to look helplessly at Teal'c and saw him close his eyes.

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