Counting to Ten in Other Galaxies

Fandom: Supernatural/Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, R

Year/Length: 2007/ ~25,800 words

Pairing: Dean/Sam, ensemble

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun.

Warning: Slash, language, violence, crack

Summary: Doctor Sam Montgomery knew the Pegasus galaxy was going to be an interesting place...

Series:

Author's Notes: So, recently I got sucked into the SGA fandom, right? And my love for Rodney McKay knows no bounds. Save maybe that I love Dean and Sam more. And so obviously my brain, under the influence of too many beers and pizza and a rainy day television marathon, would blend it all together. This is crack, ya'll. Complete AU of SPN, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack. There's quoting of Lord of the Rings and dirty limericks and sex and complete abuse of the SGA universe for my own personal enjoyment.

Beta:

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The first time Captain Dean Winchester of the USMC says more than two words to him outside of a mission, the man is laying in the infirmary, supposed to be unconscious for a week. Obviously he's not, when his hands bunch up in the blankets and his roughened voice says, "The first time I woke up in a hospital bed it was in Kansas."

Sam Montgomery isn't quite sure what to make of that, doctorates or no, and so he just says, "We're not in Kansas anymore." He's not even real sure why he's here, sitting by this man's bedside. Everyone else on their team had been by to visit once or twice, but he was the only one that had been consistently by the Captain's bedside every moment he wasn't working.

Then again, Winchester hadn't saved Walker or Harvelle's lives, and so maybe Sam was feeling a little more grateful than they were.

Winchester makes a rough sound that might be a laugh, or a cough, and focuses his eyes on Sam for the first time. He's got sharp eyes, more intelligent than Sam usually gives the military credit for, pale skin even with the bruise turning the right side of his face purple and black. He says, "Is the team okay?"

Sam shrugs, carefully removes his hand from the blanket, where it had been resting dangerously close to the other man's hip, "They're fine. Worried about you. Um." The other man looks like maybe he doesn't quite believe him, but doesn't disagree.

"What happened to you? Blow up another computer after I went down?" Sam winces at the reminder of why Winchester is in the infirmary to begin with. He can still feel the other man's shoulder catching him in the stomach and bearing him down to the ground. The explosion that followed had been white hot light, and the Captain's body jerking like a rag doll over his.

Sam had thought that the man had been dead at first, which would have been very depressing because he didn't think he could take it if Walker became the leader of their team. But Winchester had lived, and kept living through the 'gate, and kept living through whatever the hell Dr. Beckett did to him.

Sam only realizes that he's kind of expected to answer when Winchester lifts a hand and snaps his fingers in front of his face. The man looks amused, one corner of his mouth lifted into a smile, even sounds it when he speaks, "Or did you finally just decide to get that gene therapy shit?"

And Sam realizes that the other man doesn't think Sam's here to see him. To make sure he's okay. Well. That's kind of terribly embarrassing in the worst way, and Sam finds himself standing, not sure how he got that way. Hears himself says, "Yeah, just, um, dropping some stuff off. Paperwork, you know. Um."

Winchester bobs his head, makes a shooing motion with his hand, says, "Don't let me keep you. And send in a nurse, if you see one. One of the hot ones." Sam leaves, wondering why he was wasting his free time in the infirmary at all.

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The second time Winchester sits across from him to eat lunch Sam just stares for what feels like a small eternity. Usually he eats with Ash or Andy, but this is twice in one week that Winchester has sat down across from him like he belongs there. And Sam would say something, except that the other man still has stitches in his shoulder from saving Sam's life, and so he keeps his mouth shut.

Besides, Winchester really isn't bad company. Even if his glee over the crappy, repetitive, food is really obnoxious sometimes.

Winchester says, "What're you working on?" with a mouth full of miscellaneous jerky, and Sam rolls his eyes. It would be easier to ignore the question, or make some caustic remark, if he man didn't just stare at him, raise his eyebrows, and wait. The truly disconcerting thing about the Captain is that sometimes Sam thinks he actually cares when he asks things like that.

He says, "There's some schematics for a series of labs on the northern pier, I'm trying to make sure there aren't any overt warnings included in them before they send a team in to check them." Sam doesn't understand Ancient nearly as well as Dr. Weir, but he does better than most, and he's got an engineers brain.

Winchester grunts, actually steals some of Sam's jerky, says, "Yeah, well, make sure you do a good job, I'm leading the team at 1600."

Sam feels himself freeze, blinks and jerks his attention away from the laptop's screen. He's been over pages of schematics, and now all he can think is that he missed something, knowing damn well that he didn't. It's not a good feeling, and he's shoving more of his food onto Winchester's plate before he even thinks about it.

The man visibly brightens at the food, and continues shoving it into his mouth with relentless glee. Sam shoves the laptop away and just watches him, and isn't sure why. He thinks about that poor doctor from Australia being blown up last week, and the two lieutenants who had been frozen solid.

Sam says, "Who's going with you?" and doesn't know why he cares.

Winchester shrugs, sucking salt off his fingers, "Jake, Gallagher and Wilson. She's one of yours, right?" And Sam feels something else twist in his chest, because Ava's great at lab work, really, a genius with it, but she shouldn't be allowed out of the lab without a leash.

"Yeah, she's one of mine. Hey, do you–" And it's just as well that Winchester's radio goes off at that moment, because Sam's not real sure what he was going to ask. The Captain jerks up from the table, slides his pudding towards Sam, and exits the cafeteria at a run.

Later, Sam finds himself in Dr. Weir's office. She stares at him like he's crazy when he volunteers to replace Ava on the team checking the labs, but then she gives him her permission, so it doesn't really matter.

Winchester looks surprised to see him, which is only fair, since Sam's kind of surprised to be there. Of course, an hour into the search when they find an Ancient device that Winchester turns on only for it to start counting down very suspiciously, Sam starts to seriously regret volunteering.

When he manages to turn it off, seconds before it was going to explode or implode or kill them some other horrible way, Winchester punches him in the shoulder and grins up at him. And suddenly, just like that, he doesn't regret it at all.

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The second time he catches Winchester sprinting by his lab he leans back in his chair and watches the man go by. And then realizes what he did, and jerks back to the computer, trying to quell the blush he can feel turning him all kinds of interesting shades of red.

When Ava, beside him, breaths, "Oh my God, did you see that?" for one long horrible second Sam thinks she's talking to him.

And then Cassie purrs on his other side, kicking her legs under her chair, says, "Did I ever. Mmmmm. How they expect us to work with all these big, buff, military types around is a mystery to me." She's also fanning herself, which seems a bit excessive. Sam rolls his eyes and sinks back into his work. Tries to, anyway.

Ava sighs, "I know. And I feel so bad about it, I mean, hello," she waves her left hand, pointing at the small diamond on her ring finger, "I'd be married by now if I hadn't come on this mission."

The only good thing that Sam can see about this entire conversation is that at least the image of Dean Winchester, flushed and dripping sweat, has been erased from his mind. There's no way he's thinking about the man's short hair, all in spikes from the sweat, or the smooth, economical motion of the man's stride.

Goddamnit.

He barely gets any work done the rest of the day, distracted and annoyed with the other scientists. Especially when Ava starts going on and on about 'her' soldier, Jake. Sam hadn't realized that they were claiming the leaders of their teams, and isn't sure how he feels about Winchester being his. And then he figures better his than any of theirs.

The next day he gets to the lab early, and arranges for Ava and Cassie to be working at stations facing the ocean. When Winchester sprints by at 0700, catching Sam's eye and nodding before he's gone, no one is watching him but Sam.

It becomes part of Sam's morning routine, and after a while it isn't even weird anymore.

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The third time Winchester plays Captain Kirk on a mission Sam starts to think that maybe glaring really hard at the back of the man's head is not actually an effective method of dissuading him. He's not even really sure why it bothers him, aside from the really obvious inappropriateness of the entire thing.

They certainly seem to build better relationships with the cultures on planets where Winchester makes friends. The man has an eerie ability to find the leader of a group of people, flirt with her, and have her declaring her undying love for him, usually within a few hours.

Usually it stops at the flirting, but not always, and Sam tells himself that he really, really shouldn't be trying to kill Layla of the Morthana with his brain. Especially since she's dying anyway, and everything. And since she's agreed to a ridiculously good trade agreement, and made sure that her successor will uphold the deal when she passes.

It's just that she keeps hanging onto Winchester, smiling sweetly up at him with her big shiny eyes, blushing with her pale consumptive skin. All Sam can figure is that the Morthana apparently didn't get the memo about Winchester being his soldier. He kind of wishes that they would.

He takes comfort in knowing that he's not the only one not thrilled with the situation. Jo looks downright murderous herself, and keeps sharpening the knife that she brought with her from Earth with meaningful looks at Layla. Walker always looks irritated at the rest of them, and so Sam includes him, too.

It would be easier to take if the woman were something special, but she's not. She's just the leader of some backwater planet. And, yeah, she happens to be dying of brain cancer, according to Doctor Beckett, but still. Sam doesn't see what the big deal is.

He certainly doesn't understand it when Winchester seems okay with coming terribly close to taking her illness himself, after touching yet another Ancient device that Sam had told him to keep his hands off of. He overhears them talking, back in her village, their voices keyed low, hears his soldier say, "If I could fix this, I would."

There's laughter and affection in her voice when she answers, "I know. I know you would. But this is not your time or place to die. You have a greater purpose beyond this, you and your people."

Winchester's voice is muffled, like he's speaking against her hair, and maybe he is, "I'm sorry." And Sam can hear the truth in his voice, and hates knowing that the other man would have given his life. Gladly. Without thought.

But when it all comes down to it, the Captain kisses Layla goodbye, long and with far more tongue than is strictly necessary, and walks back over the event horizon beside Sam. He doesn't even look over his shoulder. Sam knows, because he watches him all the way through the 'gate.

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The third time he gets a crippling headache right before the Wraith show up, Winchester catches him under the arms and keeps him upright. He and Winchester are a quarter of a mile away from the Jumper, scouting for ruins that the natives had told them about while Harvelle and Walker enjoy the hospitality of the village.

He vaguely hears the other man's voice, yelling into his radio, and then even that gets drowned out.

There's the scream of Wraith engines overheard, and the shouting turns to weapons fire and through it all Winchester half–drags, half–carries him along. He knows, because he can feel the man's grip, shifting from shoulder to hip to back. It's the only thing he can feel, besides the pain.

And then the touch is gone, and he hears himself make an embarrassing sound that he will deny until the day he dies. He goes to the ground, which seems oddly metallic and uniformly flat, and then there's the familiar rumble of the Jumper's engines beneath him.

Someone is manhandling him onto his back and hears Jo's familiar voice demanding, "What happened to him?"

Winchester's voice comes from further away, and Sam realizes he must be piloting the Jumper, which, of course. He's still the only one on the team with the ATA gene, though everyone's been pressing Sam to get the therapy. "Wraith stunner, it just barely caught him. Radio ahead and tell them we're going to need a medical team in the 'gate room."

And Sam wonders why the other man is lying, and would ask if he could get his vocal cords to work. Instead he just screws his eyes up around the pain splitting his skull down the middle, and lets the noise of Jo radioing in fade out.

He gets a chance to ask later, anyway, when he finds Winchester lingering outside the infirmary. The man looks embarrassed when Sam slides up to him, like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and Sam wonders what that's all about. Saves it for later, and asks instead, "Why'd you tell them I got hit by a stunner?"

Winchester shrugs, and starts walking without looking back to see if Sam's going to follow. Sam jogs a few steps to catch up to him, then settles his stride, shortening it because he's at least six inches taller than the other man. The man's voice is all business when he speaks, "That was an accurate statement of my understanding of the situation."

Sometimes Sam forgets that military double–talk is every bit as convoluted as that found in the scientific community. He grits his teeth and grabs Winchester around his upper arm, tries to drag him to a halt and ends up just being pulled along. Growls, "What makes you think I want to lie about it? Hm?"

Winchester stops, turns hard, angry eyes up to Sam, and speaks slowly as though he were speaking to a stupid child, "You might have noticed that Walker ain't real fond of you. You might have noticed the recent suspicion of the Athosians, and how they ain't around anymore. Do not give him or anyone else a reason to make a thing of your little fits. Not if you want to stay on this team."

And Sam's kind of irritated by the headaches being described as little fits, but before he can say anything else about it the other man has twisted out of his grip and marched off down the hall. He's not sure if he should be touched or pissed off.

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The third time Sam shows up at the gym when Winchester happens to be beating on the heavy bag the soldier catches him watching. Sam watches him steady the bag with one hand, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the other. The man's breathing hard, in through the nose, out through the mouth, smiling crooked. His voice is tired when he says, "You ever use the bag?"

Sam walks forward, out of the shadow of the door since his cover has been completely blown, shrugs. "I used to box a little. Back in college."

Winchester hums, looks Sam up and down and it absolutely does not make the hairs on the back of Sam's neck rise. Nor does the man's voice, all teasing and amusement, "Which college? I've seen your file, you went to half the colleges in the States."

He wonders how the hell Winchester saw his file, and what else might have been in there. The sudden nervousness in his gut is uncomfortable and unwelcome. He rocks back on his heels, says, "Stanford, there wasn't much of a opportunity for that at MIT."

"You looking for a partner?"

And Sam freezes, can feel himself staring blankly at the other man and tries to wipe the expression off of his face and knows he fails that in every way possible. The other man's smile is slow and lazy and thick as his voice, "To spar with?"

Sam coughs, and tells himself that he doesn't hear the other man sniggering. When he finishes choking on his own spit Winchester looks completely serious and Sam narrows his eyes at what he's sure is false innocence. He says, just to wipe the look off the other man's face, "Yeah. Yeah, I'd like that."

He's surprised when Winchester brightens, and slaps him on the back, "Great, this place is usually empty from 2200 on, meet me here tomorrow and we'll see what you got, genius boy." And then the other man is gone and Sam hits the bag in frustration and then curses and hops around in a circle cradling his hand to his chest and hoping he didn't just accidentally break a knuckle.

He spends the next day trying to figure out how to get out of sparring, and shows up at 2200 when he can't. Surprisingly, Winchester goes easy on him, dancing around like some kind of big cat on speed, but never landing a crushing blow. Right up until Sam catches him in the chin, finally remembering how to use his long reach to his advantage. Then Winchester doesn't seem to so much as pause until Sam's sprawled on his ass.

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The fourth time Lieutenant Jessica Moore suggests that they grab dinner in her quarters they're both actually still available when the time comes to meet up. She's got candles lit everywhere when he shows up, and the ever present turkey sandwiches laid out on her table.

She's got a sweet smile, and pretty eyes and so much hair, now that she's let it down to curl around her face. She's also got a body that he'd have to be blind not to notice, soft and curved in all the right places, hardened by the military everywhere else.

They joke over the sandwiches, and she smiles big at him, and puts her hand on his knee under the table. He thinks that there are probably very good reasons for him to not do this, but it's been a long time since he was with a woman. And she's very, very beautiful.

The bed is far too narrow for them to do anything, and so they spread blankets over the floor and she pulls him down. She kisses like she means it, and rolls him onto his back with a wicked gleam in her big blue eyes.

He grips her hips and likes that the tips of his fingers meet over her spine, likes the way she rolls her head back and the way her fingers clench against his chest and dig into his shoulders. He likes everything about her, right down to the way she cuddles up to him in her sleep, like he's her gigantic teddy bear.

So when she shows up at his quarters the next night, one eyebrow raised in question, he motions her in.

They don't ever officially move in together, but within two weeks they're pretty much living together. She's smart and good in bed and pretty much perfect. The rest of his team likes her as well, except for Walker, who doesn't like anyone, anyway.

Their teams are working off–world together when it happens. He's jammed under a console, trying to figure out why it isn't working, and she's crouched beside him, officially guarding him from possible unfriendlies and actually checking him out, if he knows her at all. They're joking back and forth, about the cookies her mother used to make her that always turned out hard as bricks, when she says softly, "Shit."

He jerks, hits his head on some jagged piece of metal, and swears bitterly. Can hear her, "Sam, um, I think you should look at this. Right now." He bumps his elbows and jaw on things as he drags himself out, but manages it. She says, "What's it say?" pointing at the blinking words flashing on one of the consoles.

His lips move as he translates, and he has time to curse right before everything explodes.

The explosion must knock him temporarily senseless, because when he opens his eyes there's a metal girder across his legs and he can smell gas on the air and see flames. He can't see Jessica anywhere, and his radio isn't in his ear, anymore. He thinks that he's about to be the next casualty claimed by the Pegasus galaxy.

And then Winchester is skidding to a halt over him, yelling into his radio, "No! Do not come in here, the entire structure is coming down. Tell the doctors to prep a burn unit and prepare for inbound."

The man wraps his arms around the girder and Sam smells flesh burning, but the weight shifts off his legs. And then Winchester is dragging him to his feet, shoving him towards the exit with hands already blistering up, and Sam tries to push back, because Jess is still in there, Jess is buried there somewhere and he can't just leave her.

He doesn't realize he's screaming until Winchester slugs him hard in the jaw, and drags him the rest of the way out by the back of his vest. They're steps outside the building when the entire thing blows with enough force to flatten several of the surrounding trees and to imbed shrapnel in Sam's chest and Winchester's back.

He watches Winchester fly them home with hands the skin is literally falling off of, and thinks about leaving Jess, and tries very hard not to be ill. He follows the Captain mutely to the infirmary, stands awkwardly in everyone's way until one of the nurses escorts him to his own examination table and starts pulling bits of metal out of him.

He never asks what made the other man run into a burning, collapsing building after him. But he is waiting outside the infirmary when they release Winchester, with his bandaged hands, still smelling like smoke.

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The fourth time Sam ends up in front of the infirmary to get the gene therapy, he actually goes through with it. He's thinking about Winchester's hands, the skin just falling off, and having to fly anyway because none of the rest of them could.

The needle is monster big, but it doesn't burn or hurt or anything like that. He doesn't actually feel any different afterwards, and thinks for a while that maybe the therapy just didn't take. And then he manages to turn on a piece of Ancient tech for the first time and feels the thrill of it down his spine, sweet and sharp as electricity.

Winchester sits beside him at lunch, which has become habit, Harvelle joining them a few minutes later, also custom. They watch Sam turn the Ancient equivalent of a Rubik cube on and off, and then Winchester leans over and plucks it out of his fingers.

The man says, "Your turkey is getting cold," and makes the cube dance, changing shapes and colors with each breath Sam draws.

Sam grins, says, "Show off," and stuffs his face with food. Jo rolls her eyes off to the side, and snatches the cube from Winchester, tossing it from hand to hand, juggling the now dark device. They spend the rest of the meal passing it back and forth, Sam trying to make it do anything near what Winchester can and generally failing spectacularly.

It's not until they're walking down the hall outside that the man leans over, grabs his arm and says, "You didn't have to do this, I know you didn't like the idea of it." Winchester sounds bothered, and touched, and Sam stares down at him and tries really hard not to grin like a loon.

"I got tired of you having to open doors for me all the time."

The other man snorts, lets go of him and starts walking in the opposite direction. Winchester calls over his shoulder, mouth curved in a smile, "And here I was going to move up to buying you dinner."

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The fourth time Walker almost gets Sam killed, wandering away when Winchester left him on sentry duty, the anger is so thick it's almost suffocating in the Jumper on the way home. No one says a word, not Winchester, piloting them back, not Jo, sitting stone faced beside him, not Sam, cradling his wounded arm to his chest. Certainly not Walker, grim and silent as a man waiting on a hangman's noose.

When they reach the docking bay Winchester breaks the silence, unmoving in his seat, "Sam, you go get that arm checked out, Harvelle, go get cleaned up, wait for debriefing. I'll be with you shortly." There's something cold and hard in his voice, and Sam starts to protest, but Jo drags him out before he can. Walker moves to follow them, and Winchester's voice cuts like a knife, "You stay."

And Sam means to go to the infirmary, he really does. It's just that somehow, he can't make himself move away from the Jumper. Jo shoots him an irritated look, but he waves her on, leans against the side of the ship and strains his ears.

Winchester's voice is keyed very low, Sam tries not to breath while he listens, "I have been patient with you, I haven't judged you on your record, or anything I was told about you before bringing you on my team. Figured we all deserved a clean slate out here. That a pretty fair summation of our working relationship, Lieutenant?"

Walker's voice is louder, all fury, "Fair enough. Sir. But–"

"I'm not done. Now. You've repeatedly endangered the scientific component of this team, you got anything close to an explanation for your behavior? Your refusal to follow a direct order from your team leader?" There's something there, something below the anger, but Sam can't get a bead on what it is, exactly.

Walker is speaking before he can think about it any further, "What, you mean your little pet, Sammy–"

There's a muffled thump, and then a yell bitten off in the back of someone's throat. Sam hears something heavy fall to the floor of the Jumper, and when Walker speaks again his voice is strained tight with what Sam assumes to be pain, "I've heard about you, too, Winchester. Most of it ain't very pretty." There's a thump, and then, voice strained, "The rest of the team knew I was perfectly fine when they left."

There's another thump and whimper, and Winchester's voice, low and sharp as a knife, "I ain't gonna leave a bruise on you. This is just so you remember, next time I tell you to do something, you better damn well do it. If you don't, I swear to God I will paint the inside of this Jumper with your brains. Are we clear?"

"As crystal." One more thump, and then Winchester's heavy boots coming down the ramp. Sam darts around the side of the Jumper, ducking, and holding his breath until the man marches out of the room. Walker limps by a moment later, cradling his left arm to his chest, face scrunched up in pain.

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The fourth time Sam goes to the shooting range, trying to get at least passably decent with the gun he's forced to carry in the field, he actually manages to get more than half the shots on the target. Which feels like success, right up to the point Winchester starts a slow clap behind him.

He's getting to hate the other man's ability to make him blush. He's ducking his head, trying to pop the safety on the weapon and cursing when his fingers suddenly get all thick and useless on him. Winchester slides up behind him, removes the gun from his hands, and checks it, says, "You're doing good."

Sam shrugs, stares down at the man, who flashes one of his more charming smiles and hands the gun back. "Jo's been giving me lessons. She's a, um, good shot." The woman claims that her father taught her to shoot when she was eight, and Sam believes it.

And then Winchester gets serious on him, so quickly Sam feels like he should be suffering from whiplash, "It wasn't your fault."

Sam purses his lips, bouncing the gun in his hand and wishing he still had a few more bullets to try to put in the target. He says, "I don't know what you mean." And tries to ignore the fact that even he can hear the lie in his own voice.

"Look, you're a scientist, you weren't trained for this, and no one expects you to be–"

Sam can't hear it anymore, grabs the man's shoulder and shoves him against the wall, crowding into his space. He growls, "That Wraith was feeding on you, Captain. And I shot at it and missed every damn time. You gonna tell me again how it's not my fault? You'd be dead if Jo hadn't been there."

The only thing Sam had managed to contribute to that situation was lugging Winchester out of there afterwards. Because Jo was too small, and there was no way Sam was going to leave a even slightly defenseless Winchester in the hands of Walker. God, it would have been even worse if the proximity with the Wraith had completely immobilized him again.

All he'd suffered from this time was a minor headache.

Winchester opens his mouth and Sam talks over him, "And let us not forget that the reason it was feeding on you in the first place was because you pissed it off to get it away from me." He's tired of this man trying to sacrifice himself at every opportunity, it's wreaking havoc on his nerves. "And I'm so sorry."

"Shut up." He's surprised by the roughness in the other man's voice, by the way his eyes are open, so open that Sam realizes they've always been closed before. His breath catches. "Shut up, I was doing my job, and I will continue to do my job. I don't want to hear you bitching about it, or apologizing for doing yours."

For a moment the thick silence stretches between them, and Sam can't help but be aware of the warmth of the man's body, all the emotions in his eyes, reaching up to swallow him. Then Winchester clears his throat, and shifts his gaze to somewhere over Sam's shoulder, says, "A thank you would be nice."

And then he's shoving Sam out of the way, all the coiled strength in his body moving Sam. He marches out of the room without a backward glance and Sam pounds his forehead into the wall and wonders what the hell is going on.

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The fifth time Cassie wanders into the lab looking like a complete mess, and obviously exhausted, is also the first time she apparently decides to bring her social life with her. Sam makes sure she's set to be facing the ocean, just like every other morning, but she moves, and when Winchester runs by his wave encompasses her as well as Sam.

That's bad enough.

Even worse is the fact that Ava joins her after an hour or so, and the two huddle together over their work, not even bothering to keep their conversation whispered. Cassie is saying, "He's really much sweeter than I thought he'd be. He never makes the first move, either, just waits for me to come to him. And, Lord Almighty, once I get him to bed..."

Sam can feel his fists clenching, and takes a deep breath, tries to push the stress away. Ava ruins his efforts, "And? Honestly, you cannot stop there. I told you all about me and Jake, remember." Sam can remember the engagement ring on her finger, the one she doesn't wear anymore.

"He's just...imagine like some of the best sex you've had, right? And then imagine the guy really obviously holding back. Like all tensed muscles and a locked jaw and holding you exactly where he wants you. Like he's trying real hard not to break you, and if he slips he actually might." She shudders.

Sam clears his throat, loudly, and slams his coffee cup, and for awhile they fall silent. And then, Ava again, "Is it true, what they say? About the scars?"

And suddenly, Sam really, really doesn't want this conversation to go any farther. But he can't stop it, and the next best option is just not having to hear it, and he storms out of the room. He doesn't know why Winchester started fucking Cassie, and it's really none of his business, but he'd thought the man had better taste.

He finds himself leaning out over the ocean, sometime later, and stays there until the fury dims.

After that Cassie starts finding her way to their table at lunch, which makes for awkward conversation. She tends to glare at Jo and Sam, while she presses herself in against Winchester's side. Not that Sam can say much about that, since they tend to glare right back at her. Jo even breaks out her knife again.

Winchester is the only one who seems unaffected, he keeps stealing Sam's food, and giving him his pudding cups, even after Cassie declares her unending love for the stuff. Sam feels that this is a huge victory, and eats the pudding with great relish, only realizing that he might be overdoing it when he catches Winchester watching him with a glazed look on his face.

Sam gives the relationship two weeks, three, at the outside, and loses his bet with himself when it hits a month still going strong. And he's not sure when it became his prerogative to break them up, but it is, and he increases his efforts.

It's easy to start showing up at Winchester's quarters when he knows they're having a date night, and the man always looks oddly relieved to see him. He'll join them for dinner, for one of the board games that some of the staff managed to smuggle in, and generally just be around until everyone is far too tired to think about doing anything else.

He tries to feel guilty about it, but he really, really, dislikes Cassie.

Unfortunately, they don't break up, and Winchester goes so far as to start bringing Cassie coffee every morning. Sam would seriously think about making a complaint about coffee at the work station, even though he knows it would be overruled, except Winchester always brings him a cup, too.

In the end, he is left to deal with the fact that he has been completely unsuccessful, and tries to resign himself to thinking of Cassie as the future Mrs. Winchester.

And then she slouches in one day, and proceeds to sit facing the ocean. When Winchester jogs by his wave is for Sam, and Sam alone, and when he brings coffee he brings only one cup. He sets it on Sam's desk, flashes him a smile, and is gone.

When Ava says, voice soft and careful, "What happened?" Sam could hug her, because he's dying to know.

Cassie shrugs, her voice acid sharp, "He wanted us to move in together. Can you believe that? Like I'd be interested in starting a life with someone like him. I honestly thought he understood what we had going but..." And that's about when Sam overturns a chair and marches out of the room before he breaks his momma's rule about hitting girls.

Oddly enough, Winchester keeps bringing him coffee every morning. The man's good morning waves go back to being just for Sam. And Sam keeps showing up at his room at least four nights a week, because they get along and it's good to hang out outside of work, and mostly because it's habit after three months of doing it all the time.

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The fifth time Sam makes a snotty remark about Winchester being a Marine, the other man just looks at him, and says, "Some of us had to work our asses off to get through college." Sam hadn't even really meant it, it was just habit from being raised by an anti–military mother and going to like–minded schools for years. It's the first time he's ever felt bad about sharing that viewpoint.

He says, "Um," and tries to figure out how to get his foot out of his big mouth. This is one of the few times he thinks he's ever seen Winchester legitimately angry, and he doesn't like being the cause of it. Especially about something so stupid. "I didn't know you went to college."

Winchester's laugh is sharp, every bit as sharp as his voice, "I'm an officer, you do understand how the military works, right?" And Sam tries to keep the shamed look off his face, and knows he doesn't succeed when a muscle in Winchester's jaw jumps, when the man turns on his heel and marches away, back ramrod straight.

Which is why Sam spends the next bits of his free time researching everything about the USMC that he can find. He realizes that if he was being completely fair about the entire thing, he would be looking into the Air Force and the other branches as well, but he's not. He also realizes that he probably shouldn't be looking at the Captain's personal file, but that doesn't stop him.

He learns the Winchester enlisted right out of high school, was still seventeen when his guardian signed the waiver to let him go. He'd been top man, out of boot camp, perfect rifleman scores, the works. The man went in Recon, juggled college courses with his training and missions, and somehow managed to get a four–year degree from the University of South Carolina in three. Then he'd went through the commissioning program, just in time to go on tours through Afghanistan and Iraq.

It's at the man's psyche profile that Sam draws the line. There's some things that have to stay private, and he leaves it, untouched. He already has a pretty good idea what it would say, anyway.

When he sits beside Winchester at lunch a few days later the man scowls and starts to jerk to his feet. Sam catches his arm, meets his angry eyes, and is relieved when Winchester relents and sinks back onto the bench.

Sam says, "I know why they call you devil dogs. And leather necks. And I know about Parris Island, and I know that you can run a mile in under six minutes. And I know that when they found you in that bunker in Iraq you were almost dead and the rest of the mission file is under more layers of security than what kind of toilet paper the President wipes his ass with."

Winchester's just staring at him, eyes guarded, like he's waiting for something, and Sam continues at a lack for anything else to do. "I understand, and I'm sorry about what I said before." The Captain shrugs, and slides over his pudding.

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The fifth time someone on their team gets captured, it happens to be Jo, and Sam gets to see exactly how scary Winchester gets over things like that. As nice as it is to be, for once, not the one in need of rescuing, he almost thinks he prefers it.

Winchester just goes silent, sharpens his knives and checks his guns and there's not even a discussion of rescue plans, he just goes and waves them to follow him. Walker just smirks at him, his own weapon drawn, and Sam swallows and hopes that Jo is alright.

She is, if slightly upset over the fact that she's going to be killed in the morning due to the fact that she's a blond woman. It's amazing how much she calms down when she gets a hand on Winchester, even running around in the ritual white negligee the villagers clothed her in.

She starts to make a protest when Winchester orders Sam to carry her out, but the ground is jagged around here, and the villagers took her boots. She's so small in his arms, but heavier than he had expected, all muscle on her tiny frame. She gets an arm wrapped around his neck, and grips a gun in her other, and keeps her eyes on Winchester's back in front of them.

They make it almost to the 'gate before things go all to shit.

Sam never even sees the people gathering around them, but an arrow catches him in the arm, and he stumbles and Jo screams. He catches himself on one hand, which is good, because he's pretty sure he could crush Jo if he landed on her, and pushes back to his feet to the sound of automatic weapons fire. And then there's nothing but screaming, saturating the night air.

Winchester is herding everyone towards the 'gate, the smell of blood and gun powder heavy in the air, and then they're falling through the event horizon. Sam catches only a glimpse of the broken bodies on the ground behind them, and then they're back in Atlantis.

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The fifth time Sam catches Winchester coming out of the infirmary he can see the cotton ball taped over the skin of his inner elbow. And he just panics.

He knows that Winchester wasn't sick before he came to Pegasus, but that doesn't mean anything. They've all been exposed to diseases they have no defenses against, and radiation, and who knows what else. He feels something tense up in his gut, and it only gets worse when Winchester nods at him and absently tugs his sleeve down before disappearing around the corner.

The nurses won't tell him anything about it, no matter how much he pesters them. He even pleads, using the big, begging eyes that have pretty much never failed to get him what he wants, and they still tell him nothing.

He spends the rest of the morning ignoring the work he's supposed to be doing, and researching any diseases that would require blood work to be drawn at least once a week. There's a frustratingly large amount.

He buries his head in his hands, slams his laptop closed, and curses. There's an amused chuckle above him, and he looks up in time to watch Winchester slide a plate of food in front of him. He hadn't realized that lunch had come and gone while he researched. The man nudges his arm with the plate, and Sam picks at it, not hungry.

Winchester's voice is stained with amusement, "O negative."

Sam starts, stares, and tries to understand what that means. Winchester goes on, "I'm a universal donor, and you must have noticed that people have a habit of bleeding almost to death around here on a regular basis." And then when Sam keeps staring blankly, "I give blood, Sam."

Sam says, "Oh." And feels something relax in his chest. Suddenly the food looks a lot more appetizing, and he tries to avoid feeling silly over panicking. He doesn't quite succeed, but he manages to make idle conversation until his sandwich is gone and Winchester gets called away on other business.

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The fifth time Sam mentions a food that he'd love, and Winchester appears with a close approximation the next day, Sam gets suspicious. Especially when the food he'd requested was apple pie, and he hadn't even been aware that they'd managed to find anything resembling apples in this galaxy. It doesn't stop him from eating the pie, because, well, pie, but he stares suspiciously the entire time.

He says around a mouthful of sugar and fruit and perfect crust, "Did you find a replicater or something? Does it make Earl Gray Tea, hot, too?"

Winchester laughs, reaches over and plucks one of the apple things out of the pie with his fingers and eats it with a happy little sound. Says, "I just make friends easy." Jo finds her way over around that time, takes one look at the pie and lunges for it with a fork.

Sam rolls his eyes, "This is from one of your alien harem girls? Because I'm not comfortable eating alien sex pie." Out of the corner of his eye he catches Jo choking on her pie, and reaches out absently to pat her back.

Winchester looks at him like he's stupid, says, "Do you want me to take it away? Cause I'll take it away. I don't have to share with you." Sam doesn't think the man's serious, but just in case he tightens his grip on the pie and tugs it a little closer. "That's what I thought. The cooks here just happen to like me, okay?"

Sam smiles wicked around another bite of the perfect pie, "So you've moved up to Atlantis harem girls?"

He's surprised by the flicker of unease across the man's features. Even more by the painfully serious note in his voice. "Ellen says I'm like a son to her." And there's something there, some deep pain that Sam doesn't understand and can't read. He pushes the pie back towards Winchester, nudges his arm, but he doesn't snap out of the sudden strange mood.

Jo exchanges a glance with Sam across the table, and the rest of the meal passes in silence.

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The sixth time Winchester ends up entirely too close to a Wraith, it's because Sam's crazy girlfriend was apparently in the mood to betray her own kind. He thinks they should have known she was crazy when she went for him over Winchester. Hindsight, and all that.

At the moment Sam has more important things to worry about, like how he's supposed to get his team leader out of the base camp the Wraith have set up to fix their downed craft. And worrying about where Meg disappeared to, because after she sold them out she'd run off. Sam's pretty sure she isn't up to anything good.

Jo shifts restlessly beside him, "They could be feeding off of him already." Sam knows. He's been trying really, really hard not to think about that.

He says, "He probably tastes terrible," and continues trying to rig up the supplies they borrowed from the village into something explosive. He thinks that really, if a woman was going to sleep with him in order to betray him, at least the sex could have been better. He says, "There, done." And then, "Walker still missing?"

Jo snorts, and that's answer enough. They're giving the man the benefit of the doubt, assuming maybe the Wraith took him, but neither really believes it. He tends to disappear at the worst times, and for once, Sam doesn't really mind. He says, "Okay, you know what to do."

There's a blur of motion to his left, which would be Jo sprinting towards the Wraith base and Sam backs up, finger on the trigger of the device. He gives her a minute, and blows their distraction to smithereens. And then he takes a deep breath, gets a firm grip on his gun, and waits for the Wraiths that should be, hypothetically, pouring towards him.

They come. More of them than Sam had been counting on, and he grits his teeth and returns fire and prays the stunner bolts don't come any closer. There are really far, far too many of them to hold his own against, and he watches them creep closer and closer to overrunning him and–

And then Winchester and Jo are taking the Wraith up the ass, guns blazing, cutting a swath through to him and the three of them take off running for the Jumper. Winchester is shirtless, his chest a bloody mess, and Sam looks at him in the gray pre–dawn light and wonders how many years the space vampires took.

Sam flies them home, listening to Winchester hiss in pain as Jo cleans his wounds.

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The sixth time Sam asks about Winchester's family at home, he realizes the other man doesn't have any. Which he should have known already, he'd seen the man's file, he knew that a guardian had signed for him to join the military. He wonders if he can possibly be more of an ass, and tries to salvage the conversation, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked. I–um–my dad died when I was young."

Winchester shrugs, but he's not looking at Sam, says, "Proud product of the foster system, here."

He wonders if the other man's parents were killed, or if he even knows, but thankfully manages to stop himself from asking. He wonders why he wasn't adopted, because he can't imagine the other man was anything other than adorable as a child, but keeps that to himself as well.

Winchester reads his mind, the way he does more and more often, "Apparently I was a cold, tense child. Not exactly the cute and cuddly toddler couples are looking for, you know?" Sam can believe that. For all the other man's charm and easy–going smiles there's something right below the surface that's so sharp it could flay you to the bone if you got to close

He says, "I think you're cuddly." And then realizes that he said it and bites his own tongue so hard blood floods his mouth. Thinks at least he didn't say 'cute'.

The other man looks up at him with sharp, shuttered eyes, and then changes the subject without so much as blinking. "So did you ever take up surfing, going to school in California, and all?" Sam did, and latches onto the safe subject with something like desperation.

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The sixth time a couple actually moves in together, it's Ash and Andy, and they're very sorry about the mess they made in the lab.

Sam's pretty sure he saw it coming a mile away, the way Ash tended to show up wherever Andy went. The way Ash was always leaning over Andy's shoulder to show him something, the way nine times out of ten Andy wore a turtleneck to work.

They're cute, in an abstract kind of way, and everyone's main issue with them seems to be the fact that Ash is Canadian and Andy is from Ohio. They're the first people Sam's had more than a passing acquaintance with to get really serious, and somehow it makes the separation from Earth feel even more complete.

They seem happy, the kind of carefree happy you get when everything in your life is going right, and maybe Sam envies them, just a little bit.

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The sixth time Sam comes in to stare at Winchester and wonder when he's going to recover from the poison, Tessa stops at his elbow, and tells him, "You could just go sit with him, you know." She's a sweet girl, with her big dark eyes and soft smiles, her French accent just noticeable.

Sam smiles down at her, even though it feels awkward, because he hasn't sat at Winchester's bedside since that first time, all those months ago. He comes and he watches and he waits, but always from a distance. And he always has a legitimate reason to be there. He says, "Actually, I'm just here to run a diagnostic on the power couplings in interface A24."

She looks at him like she doesn't believe him, but nods her head and leaves him alone.

He runs the diagnostic, keeping his ears strained so he can hear the soft noises of the machines breathing for Winchester. It's been almost a week since the man took a blow–dart in the neck, and Sam's getting tired of waiting for the anti–venom to work. He hisses when sparks jump across his knuckles, only then realizes that he's torn out a wire he didn't need to, distracted. He has to redo the entire thing.

It's another hour before he's finished, before he's ready to leave, and he pauses outside of Winchester's curtained off bed. He knows what he'd see if he pulled the curtain aside. The man, skin gone pale, covered in tubes and wires.

He pulls them back, just a sliver, looks in just to make sure nothing is going horribly wrong. He's still staring when he registers another presence at his side, and looks down to find another nurse watching him. Carmen says, "He always asks for you when he wakes up. He'd probably like it if you were there to tell him you were fine yourself."

He distrusts the knowing glint in her eyes, opens his mouth to protest that he really was just here to run the diagnostic, and lets the lie die behind his teeth. Says, "Really?"

She pushes him, one tiny hand against his back, "Really." And then she rolls her eyes, and is gone. Sam hesitates a moment more, and then steps over to the bed, smoothes the man's fine hair back from his forehead and waits.

He wonders, absently, if he would be on a first name basis with all the medical staff if Winchester didn't get the shit kicked out of himself every other mission.

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The sixth time they end up off–world for a festival, it's something painfully like a carnival on Earth. They've got a Ferris wheel, admittedly bigger than any that Sam's ever seen before, and something close enough to cotton candy. They've got fruit on a stick covered with candy, they've got rigged games, they've got...well, the prostitutes aren't exactly what Sam was expecting, but they've got those, too.

They're out of place in their BDU's and vests, holding their P90s, but somehow it doesn't matter. He just wants to ride everything, to eat all the food, to relax, for once. And for once, they get to. Nothing goes wrong and no one tries to kill them and the Wraith are marvelously absent.

He eats the cotton–candy–stuff till his fingers are coated with it, and all he can taste and smell is sugar. Jo has some of her own, and Winchester keeps popping something an awful lot like sunflower seeds into his mouth. Walker has corn on a cob, and walks a half dozen paces in front of the rest of them, ignoring them.

By the end of the night Sam's even convinced Winchester to ride the humongous Ferris wheel with him, and it lifts them so high he thinks he might be able to reach out and touch the sky. He laughs, exalting in the warm press of the other man against his side, in the sugar he can still taste on his teeth.

It's a nice night.

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The sixth time one of the miracle cures they sometimes find off–world goes terribly wrong Lily ends up with lethal skin and a dead girlfriend, Sarah. No one had even known that they'd been dating.

It all happens so suddenly that Sam can't get his head wrapped around it, even after it's all said and done. One day Lily's convinced she's going to die, her degrading heart condition getting worse and worse from stress levels and an accidental electrocution or three. One day Major Sheppard's team brings back some plant from off–world, and she's cured.

He hears later that it was Dr. Zelenka that found her, curled around Sarah's body on the floor of her room. He hears later that Sarah had been dead for hours, had already went into rigor mortis. He hears that they couldn't get Lily to stop screaming for days.

Even when she does eventually find her way back down to the labs, she's a shade of the woman she was. She wears gloves all the time now, and lets her hair, for so long kept in a braid at the nape of her neck, fall down over her face. Sam wishes he knew a way to help her, to let her know that he lost someone too, but he can't.

He wonders why they kept it secret, her and Sarah, because neither of them had been military, but it's not his place to ask. Mostly he wonders how many more people are going to lose people they love to this city. He thinks that probably the wisest course of action would be to just not get attached to anyone here.

Of course, he knows he's already so far gone with his attachment to certain people that it's scary.

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The seventh time they get nothing but muffled screams over the radio in the Jumper, Sam disobeys a direct order and abandons the safety of the storm cellar to find Winchester.

They'd barely been on the planet five minutes when the locals told them about the coming storm, and started ushering them towards the relative safety of the cellars. They'd barely been there ten minutes when the people noticed the Jumper and started pleading with them to please, go rescue some of the villagers that were out, lost in the storm.

Winchester had looked at the storm clouds growing along the horizon, looked at the pleading face of the mother staring up at him, and Sam had known what he would say before he spoke. He'd tried to argue anyway, because this was a bad idea, a very bad idea, but Winchester had talked over him, "You three stay here, I'll be back."

And he had gone, the idiot.

Sam had been doomed to sit in the root cellar, crowded in with an entire village's worth of people, listening to the storm rage outside. At first he'd tried to keep a radio conversation with Winchester going, but the man had growled, "Need to concentrate," and went silent.

And so Sam had been quiet, and had waited, exchanging increasingly worried looks with Jo. They waited an hour, and that was far more than enough time, and so Sam started trying to open a radio link with the Jumper again. And got nothing but screams, tearing up the still, heavy air of the cellar.

Sam listens to Winchester scream his lungs out, on and off for ten minutes, and then he can't take it anymore. The locals try to hold him back, telling him that he'll drown, that the lightning can strike a dozen times a minute in these storms, that he really needs to stay inside, and he ignores them. Jo says nothing, just watches him go.

He steals a horse, which he feels kind of bad about, but searching on foot through the pouring, pounding rain is an exercise in futility. Not that he really thinks searching on horseback will be any more useful, but at least he'll be able to move faster.

It doesn't take long in the storm for him to realize that the villagers were not, actually, exaggerating about the lightning. Trees get felled left and right, a house catches fire and then sizzles in the pounding rain, somewhere livestock are baying in panic. And somewhere, Winchester is screaming in the Jumper, the sound still echoing over Sam's radio.

He finds the Jumper by accident, when his horse almost slides off the side of a cliff into a ravine. He barely manages to backpedal and still gets hit by a wave of smoke so thick it makes him choke. The Jumper is crumpled in on itself at the bottom of the ravine, smoking, and slowly being covered in water. He says, "Shit," and can't even hear his voice over the roar of thunder.

It takes him what feels like a small eternity to get to the bottom of the ravine, but at least one side of the Jumper is completely torn apart, and so he can squeeze in easily enough. The screaming has tapered off into rough, hiccupping coughs by the time Sam manages to make it all the way in to the forward section, and he bites back on another curse when he finds it half full of icy cold rain water.

Winchester is slumped in the pilot's chair, and the water all around him is swirling red.

Sam falls towards him, shoving aside debris he can't see under the water, reaches the man and tilts his face up. He's bleeding heavy from a head wound, but it's the wrist thick branch stuck through his chest and into the seat behind him that worries Sam. He says, "Oh my God," and is surprised when Winchester answers him.

"Engines not damaged." The man's eyes are open, pupils tiny black pinpoints in the midst of their startling green. He's got blood leaking out of the corner of his mouth, running down his chin, and Sam wipes at it compulsively. Winchester's skin is cold as ice under his fingers.

"Shit, you're gonna be okay, you're gonna be fine, I'm gonna get this out of you, okay? Hold on."

Winchester shakes his head, or possibly it just lolls to the side, coughs out, "No. Fly. Fly the Jumper. To the 'gate. Engines work." And Sam wants to argue, so badly it burns along his nerves, but he knows the man is right. God, he hates it when Winchester is right.

He settles into the sodden co–pilots chair, feels the controls jump to life under his hands. Prays. And thinks one more time that this is a really bad idea, before coaxing the Jumper to rise. Beside him Winchester screams, harsh and guttural, and the branch tears out of his chest, and Sam's hands don't stop shaking until they're safely through the 'gate.

He sits at Winchester's bedside for almost three days, holding his hand without thinking, before the man finally wakes up.

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The seventh time they accidentally get 'gated to the wrong world Sam's pretty sure he falls in love. Madison is beautiful, and charming, and intelligent, and about three days away from Ascending. Which is really about Sam's luck.

He gets one night with her, long and wonderful and everything he's not had since Jessica died, which seems like a lifetime ago. She's soft and delicate everywhere Jessica was strong, everywhere Winchester is hard, and he doesn't like the way that thought sours his stomach.

Neither does he like the way Winchester's eyes are distant and disappointed the next morning, when they dine on her fine sweet breads and crumbly perfect cheeses. The man looks like his pet dog just got killed, and when Sam tries to ask him about it he just shrugs. Turns and talks to Jo and ignores Sam for the rest of the time they're on the planet.

In the end, she wants Sam with her when she goes. It's not as impressive as he'd always assumed it would be. And it's even worse, because Winchester is painfully distant with him the next week. Right up to the point when Sam shows up at his door with some of the Athosian mead and an apologetic smile.

He just wishes he knew what he was apologizing for.

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The seventh time Atlantis has one of her Great Power Failures that they all just assume Dr. McKay can fix, Sam ends up trapped in an elevator with Winchester. Which would be fine, except the man has a flask of whiskey and the dirtiest time wasters that Sam has ever heard.

Winchester is currently singing a very off color jaunty, which is bad enough. Even worse is that he's singing it on key, and it's knowledge Sam doesn't want, that he can sing. That his voice goes soft and low, smooth as velvet over words that make Sam's ears turn red.

"There once was a man Robin Hood, who lived in Knottingham wood, he learned how to fuck, from old Friar Tuck, and made Marion whenever he could."

Sam says, "You're disgusting," and thinks that his scorn would be more effective if he wasn't laughing helplessly around the mouth of the flask, tasting whiskey thick and bitter on his tongue. He's sagging against Winchester's side, which should be weird, but he's pretty sure he's drunk and it's cold in the elevator and the other man is very, very warm. He snuggles closer and hopes Winchester doesn't notice.

Winchester just snags the flask from him, takes a long drink and continues, "I had me a wench from East Broint, who bade me her skin to anoint, the girl had arthritis, and so I decided, she wouldn't mind one more stiff joint."

"Where did you even learn all these?"

Winchester shrugs, which has the added bonus of shifting Sam even further into his space, says, "You'd be surprised how much free time I used to have between–" he cuts himself off, tries to cover it by taking another swing of liquor.

Sam blinks in the darkness of the elevator, feels his eyelashes drag on the underside of the other man's chin and thinks he should really move back some, "I have top secret clearance, you know."

But apparently it's not that, because the other man is silent for the rest of the time that they're stuck. He lets Sam stay cuddled against him, and keeps sharing his whiskey till it's gone. Sam's not sure why he misses the limericks, but he does.

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The seventh time one of them gets violently sick off–world it's Sam, with an emphasis on violently. He's suddenly so fiercely angry he can't stand it. At the natives of the world they're on. At Jo. At Walker. And, well, he's not really angry at Winchester at all. There's something else, there.

He knows he kills a man, one of the hunters out in the woods after the elk–like creatures that inhabit this world. He knows that he intends to kill Jo, staring down into her furious eyes, playing the knife blade along the sharp line of her jaw.

He'd thought about taking her, at first, imagined her tiny body under his, but she wasn't the one he wanted. He planned to use her to lure out Winchester, who he was pretty sure was stalking him. Get the man out in the open, take him down, wipe that cold military mask right off his face.

She says, "This isn't you, Sam, please, you have to fight this."

He likes the way her skin turns immediately angry red when he backhands her. He thinks that she's being exceedingly useless as bait, that he'll just kill her and go after Winchester on foot. And that's when burning pain erupts from the back of his skull, and blackness reaches up and bludgeons him into submission.

When he wakes up he's in a cell in Atlantis, the anger still singing along his nerves. He rolls to his feet, scanning the room, finds Winchester leaning casually against the outside of the cage, smirking. Sam stalks over to him, doesn't lean against the bars, because he's seen what the shields can do to you. Just looms, liking the way the other man still manages to stare him down, inches shorter than him.

He growls, "I was coming to find you next."

Winchester shrugs, "Should of got me first, Sammy. Might have had a chance if you had." His tone is flat, vowels drawn out almost lazily. Sam's pretty sure that if the cage wasn't between them he could get the man's voice high and desperate in a matter of minutes. He'd really like to. "Beckett says you're suffering from an allergy to some kind of pollen. Says it should wear off in about a day."

Sam rolls his neck, because honestly, who cares? He cuts back to what's important, "I thought at first I'd tie you down, too, but it might be more fun to just pin you. I know you'd have fought me, but, mmmm, I could take a few bruises and scratches for the cause." He rocks his hips into the air, imagining.

"Jo says you didn't hurt her." He says it like a challenge, and suddenly his finger is on the trigger of his P90.

There's a snarl on Sam's lips when he answers, "Don't talk about her." And Winchester's head cocks to the side, his eyes narrowed like he's trying to figure something out. "It's not like her puppy–love obsession with you is going to last anyway. You need something solid, someone solid. Someone that could hold you down and fuck you into the ground and–"

Winchester spins on his heel, marches stiff backed to the door and then stops himself with visible effort, and turns back. His voice is icy as the artic, "Listen to me real good, cause I'm only going to say this once. I am here because you're my team, and someone has to make sure you don't off yourself till this is over, but if you don't keep your fucking mouth shut, I will stun you again."

Sam smirks, but keeps his mouth shut. He'd much rather be conscious, much rather be able to drag his eyes over Winchester's body. It keeps him pretty occupied for the next twenty hours, until the rage just drains out of him as quickly as it appeared.

He goes to his knees and the last thing he sees before he passes out again is Winchester turning the shield off with his brain and sprinting over to his side. He vaguely wonders how he's going to fix the mess he made, but it turns out he doesn't have to worry about it. No one ever mentions the incident again.

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The seventh time they visit M3X–890 Sam begs off, because there's nothing else for him to do there, it's just a trade agreement. There'd been no technology to speak of on the planet, and he'd tried the whole team spirit thing for the first six missions, but drew the line at the seventh. He has important work to finish on Atlantis, and Winchester assures him that they'll be fine without him along.

And then his team misses their check in. He hears second hand and is only just reaching the 'gate control room when there's off–world activation and Walker's IDC comes through. Sam's sprinting up to the 'gate when the man falls through the iris, followed by several arrows.

Jo and Winchester are nowhere to be seen.

By the time Dr. Weir gets the story out of Walker, Sam is geared up for a rescue mission, vibrating under his skin. He'd heard Winchester and Jo and harvest rite and blood sacrifice, and that was all he needed to know.

They send him with Jake's team, and if feels weird to not be following Winchester. To be taking orders from someone whose mind he can't pretty much read. To be fighting beside someone who's every action he can't anticipate and who isn't moving in synch with him so perfectly he'd taken it for granted.

He finds Winchester tied to a humongous alien tree, the man's wrists bleeding from struggling against the bonds. He stores away the way Winchester's face just relaxes the second he appears, as well as the warm feeling that floods his chest. He cuts Winchester loose, sees Jake freeing Jo on his other side, and laughs in relief.

And then of course they have to run from the furious natives, but that's okay, because he's running beside his team leader again. When Winchester stumbles he steadies him, and when Sam almost turns the wrong way Winchester's hand on his lower back keeps him on track.

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The seventh time some orphaned child tries to convince Winchester to adopt her, Sam tries really hard to keep the grin from overwhelming his face. At first he hadn't understood why every child in the Pegasus galaxy lacking a parent latched onto Winchester, but it hadn't taken that long to figure out.

The man radiates protectiveness. He might as well be carrying around a sign that says: If you are young or scared or in trouble, come to me, I will make everything all right.

The girl is maybe seven, all huge brown eyes and thick red hair. They watched her parents die, not two days ago, and she's been glued to Winchester's side since a Wraith drained her mother dry. She ate off his plate at breakfast, one tiny hand balled into Winchester's BDUs.

Her voice is soft and careful when she asks, completely ignoring the rest of them, "Can I come back with you, to your world?"

Sam smiles, can't not, and then feels it fall off his face when he sees Winchester's expression. The man looks so shattered, so upset, that Sam reaches out to him without thinking. He flattens his hand on Winchester's back, kneels down so he can look the little girl in the eye. Says, "He would show you his world if he could, but we're going to find someone here to take care of you, okay?"

Winchester flashes him a look that could mean anything, and the girl starts crying, big silent tears. She buries her face in Winchester's shoulder, and Sam jerks to his feet, because he can't take looking at the desolation on the other man's features anymore.

It's the first time Sam realizes that Winchester would adopt every orphan they ran across, if he could.

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The seventh time in his entire life that he gets high, he gets so terribly sick he thinks he might die. He makes Winchester promise to kill him if he isn't better by morning. At least he thinks he does, it's hard to be sure if any words are making it out of his mouth around the vertigo and nausea.

He thinks, in one of his bouts of lucidity, that it is mightily unfair that he's the only one that got sick off whatever weed the natives were smoking. It's his luck to have a bad trip on an alien planet with only other stoned people to take care of him. Fortunately, Winchester is there, and Sam trusts that the other man will make sure he's okay. Or kill him. Or whatever.

He tries to choke out his ultimatum again, and Winchester holds his hair back and he pukes his guts out behind a tree. God, he just wants to die, anything to get the world to stop lurching under him, to end the terrible headache, to stop what he prays are hallucinations.

Winchester pulls him close, when his stomach is empty, cradles him and is possibly rocking him back and forth. Either that or the world is swinging loose on it's axis again, and seeing as the world is pretty much a bitch, Sam wouldn't put it past her. Winchester soothes, "Hey, I got you, I'll take care of you."

Sam chooses to hear that as confirmation that he'll be dead in the morning if this isn't over, and relaxes.

Of course, that turns out to be a fucking lie. He should have known not to trust Winchester, that scheming bastard. Sam thinks about ending it himself, but his entire body hurts too much to move and so he just lays in Winchester's lap and waits to die of starvation or insanity, or something.

By midday he comes down, and finds himself curled around Winchester's hips, his face buried against the other man's stomach. He smells good, like laundry detergent and man and Atlantis, and Sam nuzzles closer, mostly still out of it.

Winchester sighs, and cards his fingers through Sam's hair, and murmurs, "It's okay, Sammy, I got you." And Sam pretends he's still high for another half an hour, just to prolong the sweetly delicious contact. He almost wants to catch another whiff of the evil pot, just to cuddle against the other man longer. And then he realizes he must still be out of his mind, because nothing is worth going through that again.

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The eighth time Winchester makes really good friends with the locals he ends up coming so terribly close to staying that Sam cold clocks him in the jaw and carries him back through the 'gate.

This ends up causing what Dr. Weir tends to refer to as a diplomatic incident, mostly because Winchester had somehow managed to get engaged to the goddess–queen of the planet. It's not that Sam doesn't appreciate Tara's choice in god–king, it's just that he's not going to share his Marine with anyone. Even if, for all intents and purposes, Winchester would really, really like to be shared.

Sam's not sure what made the other man choose Tara as the woman that he was willing to give up Atlantis for, but he's determined to make a strong case for the man to change his mind.

He feels guilty about the bruise that's already turning Winchester's jaw different colors. He even feels, absently, guilty for dragging the man away from somewhere he might have been legitimately happy. Just not guilty enough to give him back.

And then Winchester moans his way back to consciousness in the 'gate room, and shoves away from Sam. He takes a step, stumbles, and Sam catches him under the arms, and the man just sways into him. He ends up staring down into Winchester's green eyes, blown wide, pupils huge, and has time to realize that something is wrong before the man is pushing away and standing on his own again.

Winchester's shaking his head, like he's trying to get water out of his ears, not saying anything. Jo grabs his elbow, says, "Sir? You okay?"

No answer, and Sam grabs Winchester's shoulders, shakes him and expects to be shoved off. Nothing. He ducks his head, trying to get a better look at the man's expression, says, "C'mon, talk to me here."

And Winchester blinks, straightens his shoulders, and words just start pouring out of his mouth. "The Company rested now for a while, drifting south on the current that flowed through the middle of the lake. They ate some food, and then they took to their paddles and hastened on their way. The sides of the westward hills fell into shadow, and the sun grew round and red. Here and there a misty–"

"Stop!" Jo's voice, her eyes wide and panicked staring up into Winchester's face. The man's mouth snaps shut with an audible click. Winchester's shoulders sag just a little, and some of the lines of stress around his eyes ease. Jo switches her gaze to Sam, says, "Was that fucking Lord of the Rings?"

Sam's not listening, too busy restraining the urge to clamp his hands over Winchester's ears and get him far away from anyone who might try suggesting things to him.

In the end it turns out to be a drug, and Dr. Beckett assures them that the effects shouldn't persist more than a few days. Sam doesn't let Winchester out of his sight until he's sure it has worn off. He keeps seeing Tara, whispering into Winchester's ear, the way the man's face would go curiously still for a second before breaking into a wide smile.

It makes his knuckles itch.

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The eighth time Winchester touches something that Sam specifically told him not to, they end up trapped in Sam's memories, which is probably the last place he wants the other man to be. He's not exactly proud of all the things he did in his youth, and there's the whole invasion of privacy thing, too.

They're watching his six year old self make macaroni and cheese in the huge stainless steel kitchen Sam remembers from his childhood. Winchester wanders around the kitchen, P90 cradled to his chest like he expects a Wraith to burst out of the walk–in freezer. Sam just watches and tries not to feel sick. He knows what's coming.

He can see the burner, red hot, he can see his baby–fat pudgy hand and he closes his eyes because he doesn't want to see. And then he's screaming, well baby–him, and he knows that there'll be macaroni all over the marble floor that he'll have to explain and a angry burn across his palm and his mother won't be home for hours.

Winchester is cursing, loudly, and Sam opens his eyes to find the other man trying to gather up his younger self, frustrated by his inability to touch the memory. He tries to say something, anything, but all that makes it out of his throat is a ragged, choked on, whimper.

Winchester cuts his eyes towards him, and just like that he's at his side. There's a hand on Sam's back, big and warm, turning him away from his sobbing baby–self, another on the back of his neck, pulling him down until his forehead is resting against Winchester's shoulder. And the man, telling him firmly, "It's okay. It's okay. It's over, that's over now, it's okay."

And Sam feels the memory jump, smells the peppermint and cinnamon smell that was the inside of his eleventh grade English teacher's office. He groans, pushing his face against the rough fabric of Winchester's shirt, feels bile rising in the back of his throat.

He knows what's going on, he doesn't have to look. He knows he's thirteen, all knees and elbows and sharp intelligence without the benefit of common sense. He knows that Mr. Murray's hand is on his knee, that the man's breath smells like coffee, dancing across his cheek.

He knows that nothing happens, because Ms. Lenore, his Physics teacher had walked into the room and taken one look at what was going on and went off. Winchester doesn't, and he can hear the growl in the other man's chest, and suddenly he's being held tighter, Winchester's arm around his waist like a steel vice.

And then Ms. Lenore is screaming in the background, and his memory slip slides again.

It goes like that, one horrible memory to the next. Being fifteen and in college and scared out of his wits when he wasn't frustrated out of his mind, because none of this was hard, either. The first time he got drunk, and waking up not remembering where he was or who the woman in his bed was. Watching his mother die of cancer, slow and inevitable as the orbit of the moon.

And Winchester just holds him, hard comforting strength, enough strength for both of them.

Memory jumps, and he's back in the flooding Jumper, he can feel the icy water around his thighs. He can smell Winchester's blood and taste ozone from the constant lightning strikes and Winchester, the real one, startles. Starts to say, "Why–"

Memories jumble all over each other then, so quickly Sam can't keep track anymore. Watching Winchester get fed on by a wraith, imagining it, knowing he was tied up on a planet about to be sacrificed to some crazy made–up god. Watching him say he was going to stay with Tara, hearing him tell Layla that he would die in her place if he could. Seeing the skin falling off his hands as he piloted the Jumper back home.

Sam latches onto the man holding him upright, clings to him, terrified that if he lets go Winchester will be torn away. Taken by one of the dozens of times that he should of died and didn't.

And then it's over, and they're back in the abandoned lab, standing across from each other. Winchester's hand is hovering over the device, about to press it, and he snatches it back. Sam meets his eyes, terrified by what emotions have to be playing over his face, and the man clears his throat and looks away.

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The eighth time someone gets possessed by some crazy alien ghost/tech thing, it's Jake. Sam figures that pretty much sucks out loud to begin with, the situation made even worse by the fact that Jake is in the labs when it happens.

Sam was just walking back into the room from lunch, licking a last smear of chocolate pudding out of the corner of his mouth, when everything went to hell.

He has time to see Ash and Andy arguing loudly over a computer, though for what reason he can't fathom. Andy works in botany, Ash in astrophysics, but whatever. Maybe they were working on a wormhole plant. He has time to see Lily, slouched over her computer, looking still like she might break at any moment. He has time to see Jake leaning over Ava's shoulder, whispering in her ear as she blushed.

And then Jake had slid a hand around the back of her neck, and Sam heard the crunch of vertebrae across the room. There had been a stretch of terrible silence, as everyone slowly turned to stare at Jake, and then an eruption of sound and movement.

Sam throws himself behind a desk to avoid the bullet aimed at his head, barely hears his own voice over Andy's terrible screams. "Captain Winchester! We have a serious problem in lab–" and his voice gets cut off when Lily's body slams into the far wall, limp and bloody.

There's a tiny voice in his ear, yelling, "Sam! Sammy! Dr. Montgomery!" He ignores it, looking desperately around for a weapon. Somewhere behind him Ash is dying noisily, with terrible wet sounds that Sam can't think about.

And then Jake is standing over him, P90 leveled at his head, and Sam thinks that he's not going to die here. He snarls, draws a leg back and slams his heel into Jake's knee cap. Feels it crack and hits it again. The soldier stumbles backwards, cursing, and Sam springs to his feet, follows him.

He slams the man into the wall, grabs his arm and bangs it until Jake drops the P90. It clatters loudly to the floor just as the man butts his forehead into Sam's nose and Sam stumbles backwards, feeling the crush of cartilage, feeling blood flood his mouth and trying to spit it out.

Jake tackles him to the ground, and Sam has a glimpse of his face, twisted up in rage, and then there's fists pounding down into his face. He flails a hand out, knowing the P90 has to be there, somewhere, close. He's choking on his own blood, wondering how long it'll take his cheekbones to shatter, wondering how many others Jake will kill if he gets out of this room.

His hand closes on the grip of the P90, and he concentrates, swings it up. This close, he can't miss.

He rolls onto his side in the following silence, trying to breathe, trying to slow the panicked stutter of his heart. Twenty seconds later there's a flood of voices and people into the lab, and he hears someone get noisily sick. And then Winchester is rolling him onto his back and pulling him into a sitting position, and Sam grabs handfuls of the man's shirt and just holds on.

They have the funerals two days later.

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The eighth time they manage to end up in jail, they get convicted of murder. Well, he and Jo and Winchester do. Who the hell knows where Walker ends up, the man has a habit of disappearing when there's any kind of trouble brewing on the horizon.

Sam can't say he's even that worried. This tends to happen more often than it should, and Winchester has a Plan and so he relaxes and concentrates on the way the man fills out his BDUs. And then the room that the natives locked them in starts getting smaller, and he starts worrying.

Jo says, "Um."

And Winchester says, "I know."

And Sam says, "Oh shit."

The walls are completely unremarkable, except for the way that they're closing in. There's no windows, the door is sealed, and there's no helpful control panels that Sam can try to hotwire. There's nothing in the room to brace against the walls or the ceiling, which also happens to be shrinking and lowering.

Jo says, leaning her shoulder into the wall like that might potentially stop their imminent death by crushing, "Isn't there supposed to be a trash compactor or something?" And Sam laughs, desperate, already bent nearly in half by the ceiling.

Winchester is on his back, feet braced against the ceiling, brows scrunched together, his lips moving soundlessly. It takes a half second for Sam to realize that the man's saying, "Off. Off. Off. Off." It takes another for him to realize that the walls aren't moving anymore.

He laughs again, joined by Jo who has collapsed into a boneless heap on the floor, says, "Ancient? It's Ancient tech. I could kiss you."

That gets Jo's attention, but Winchester ignores him. Scrunches his face up again and hisses out, "Open," and the walls start expanding again. Sam watches the ceiling return to its appropriate height, and figures it's for the best that he's being ignored.

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The eighth time people assume that Winchester and Jo are married Sam blurts out, "Why don't they ever think you're with me?" and when his team members pivot to stare at him with amused looks, he hurries on, "I mean. Jo. You and me. Um. I could just as easily be your husband."

He curses himself under his breath, more when Winchester turns away trying to hide the smirk on his face. Lately it seems that Sam isn't actually capable of keeping his foot out of his mouth. He's starting to worry it might get him kicked off the team.

It's just, he's tired of watching them pretending to be married. The way Winchester lets her curl into his space on those missions. The way he feeds her food off his plate, the way they share rooms. Even though Sam knows damn well they never do anything, because he stays up all night to listen, just in case.

He's tense for the rest of the mission, but thinks he manages to hide it pretty well. Right up to the point that Winchester slides two pudding cups across to him, and clears his throat pointedly. He looks up, surprised by the uncomfortable cant of the other man's shoulders. Winchester says, "I just want you to know, that if you and Harvelle are, um, involved, that you don't have to worry about it. Technically that shouldn't be allowed on a team, but we're hardly in a typical situation and I'd make sure you weren't split up. Um."

The man is on his feet and out of the cafeteria before Sam can protest that he and Jo aren't doing anything. And, ew, she's like a sister to him. Which is just as well, because somehow Sam doesn't think he's quite ready to admit the truth.

He's also fairly sure that admitting he'd really like to get involved with Winchester would get him taken off the team. And possibly left to die on an uninhabited planet somewhere.

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The eighth time he kicks Winchester's ass all over the make–shift basketball court the other man throws his hands up in defeat and promises vengeance if they can ever figure out how to set up a baseball diamond. Sam laughs at him, bouncing the leather ball that isn't quite as big as a basketball, and certainly isn't as light. Says, "Come on, we've got the court for another half and hour."

The man scowls, braces his hands on his hips and rubs his chin on his shoulder. He's wearing a thin tee–shirt, ragged jeans and sneakers. And he's dripping sweat, his hair dark with it, his skin bronzed and shining. Finally, the other man shrugs, and says, "Fine, but we're playing no blood no foul."

Sam has no problem with that, at all. He thinks if there's more fouls that'll mean that Winchester ends up pressed against him more. He's already been enjoying himself far too much guarding the Marine, chest molded against his back, the bump slide movement of their hips and chest making him glad he'd worn his thick jeans instead of the swim trunks he'd been considering.

Winchester plays dirty as fuck, trips him at every opportunity. Sam takes an elbow to the throat, and gets tackled while making a jump shot. He's covered in bruises by the time he meet the twenty–one point mark and wins the game, flat on his back with Winchester sitting on his chest as they watch the ball circle the net before falling in.

He grins up at the man, who scowls and thumps him hard on the shoulder before rocking to his feet. Sam limps for the next three days, but it's completely worth it. Especially since Winchester still kicks his ass every time they spar.

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The eighth time someone falls off Atlantis it happens to be Sam, and he knew it was a bad idea to be attempting those repairs. But, well, Dr. McKay was busy off world and Dr. Zelenka had more important things to work on, and so it fell to him.

It had all been going so well, he'd been almost done when the wind had kicked up and his foot had slipped on a patch of wet metal. Then there'd been nothing but the breathlessness that went with a freefall, and the crush of brutally cold water rushing up to meet him.

The water drags at him immediately, heavy in his clothes and boots and hair. He can taste bitter salt on his lips, trying to force its way up his nose. He coughs and flails and tries to hit his radio, only to find it missing.

He's staring up at the bottom of the western pier, wondering how long it will take anyone to notice he's missing, and if he can tread water until they think to come looking for him. It seems unlikely, and he almost curses before realizing that would, in fact, allow water to flood his mouth.

He's pretty sure he's going to die. Drown, if hypothermia doesn't get him first. He's pretty sure that no one will even know, that the sea will just take his body, drag him down into the depths. Maybe someday he'll wash up on the mainland, nibbled by the fishes.

He tries reaching for the Ancient technology of the city, tries turning things on and off to draw attention to his predicament. Then he tries floating on his back and screaming for help, in case anyone is there to hear him. And then he stops trying anything, because he's getting really tired, and his extremities are numb, numb, numb.

At first, he thinks he imagines the low whine of the Jumper engine. And then its shape is hovering over him, and the rear hatch is sliding open. He sputters, and watches as the Jumper lowers closer to the water, till it's hovering barely a foot above the surface of the waves.

When Jo's fair head pokes out the back of the ship, rope dangling from her hand, Sam laughs and for his trouble gets a mouthful of water.

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The eighth time they try to steal something it turns out to be an empty ZedPM, which they don't know at the time they're stealing it. Sam's got it tucked up under his arm like a football, following the bright flash of Jo's hair through the dark woods. He can hear Winchester behind him, the occasional fire of a P90, the man's rough breathing. And behind that, he can hear the Genii soldiers.

They're struggling up the side of a hill and he's sure the soldiers are gaining on them. Shit, whoever the hell put the 'gate on top of this mini mountain has earned Sam scorn for the rest of his life. Which might be short, if he can't keep his legs pumping.

And then there's not the sound of Winchester's footfalls following his anymore. He stumbles to a halt, looking over his shoulder, breath catching sharp in his lungs. Winchester is crouched down behind a tree, P90 tucked into his shoulder. The moonlight is catching on his hair, silvering it, turning his skin to alabaster.

Winchester catches his eyes, yells, "Go! I'll hold them!"

The Genii are so close Sam can see them, vague shapes moving in the greater blackness, and shakes his head. He stumbles back to Winchester, catches him by the elbow and hauls him to his feet, starts dragging him up the mountain. Winchester is growling into his ear, "You need the time I can give you, you need to go, just go."

And Sam shakes him, because sharp as he suspects the man is, sometimes he acts like an idiot. "I'm not leaving you." He keeps a hand on Winchester's elbow all the way back to the 'gate, just to make sure he doesn't try to do anything stupid.

Jo gives them an odd look, Walker ignores them some more, and they fall through the 'gate, and back home.

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The ninth time someone he barely knows calls him Sammy, he blows up in their face. He knows damn where well they picked the habit up from, Winchester has a disturbing way of throwing the nickname into any conversation when he's particularly worried or angry or affectionate.

Pretty much any conversation at all, actually.

Which is fine, Sam figures that after the man saved his life the first dozen times he got the right to call him whatever he damn well pleased. But that was one person, and none of the rest of them had any right to be calling him it. It was personal, private, something between him and Winchester, and he wanted to keep it that way.

So when Kavanaugh drawls it slowly up into his face, right after a particularly asinine remark about Sam's work on translating what had turned out to be an Ancient nursery rhyme, Sam snaps. He is vaguely aware that he's looming over the other man, snarling, aware of how low his voice has gone when he growls, "You don't get to call me that."

Kavanaugh sneers up at him, "What, that your little fuck–toys pet name for you? That what–"

It's not until he's feeling the sting in his knuckles and Kavanaugh is wiping blood off his split lip that Sam realizes he hit the other man. The scientist stares up at him, glasses crooked on his face, and Sam unclenches his fists with substantial effort.

He doesn't say anything like: If you talk about him again I'll kill you. That wouldn't be very professional, and Sam is a professional person who really, really wants to keep his job. He has a sinking feeling that it all shows on his face anyway, because Kavanaugh doesn't say a word when Sam spins on his heel and marches out of the room.

He only realizes that he could very well have been channeling Winchester for the last five minutes when the adrenaline finally starts to fade. He thinks that, maybe, it's not such a bad thing.

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The ninth time they sweep M1X–324 looking for Winchester, Sam tells himself not to give up hope. That if anyone could survive the subzero temperatures in the planet's twenty hour night cycle, it would be Winchester.

Sam tells himself that no doubt the man will have some elaborate igloo set up by the time they find him. He tells himself that the cold will be for the best, that the man won't be feeling the pain from whatever the hell the natives had done to him before sending him off on this crazy solstice ritual. He tells himself all that and more, and none of it helps.

When he sees the heat spot, tiny and far away from the any of the settled areas, he feels something relax in his chest. It takes them an hour that feels like a year to reach the heat spot. Sam bounces off the walls of the Jumper, painfully glad that they had someone else with them to fly, because he's in no headspace for it.

By the time they land snow is swirling around so thickly that Sam can't see more than a few inches in front of his own face. He lurches out of the back of the Jumper, screams for Winchester and his voice gets ripped away by the roaring winds. Behind him someone is yelling for him to come back, to search with the group, but he ignores them.

He trips over Winchester.

The man is curled up, half covered with snow, and Sam just picks him up without thinking. His body temperature is way down, but he's alive, Sam can feel him breathing in his arms. He's alive, and they're going to take him home, and everything will be okay.

On the ride back they get Winchester stripped down to his boxers, and Sam and Jo end up wrapped around him, because body heat tends to warm faster than anything. Winchester's skin is like ice, but Sam's seems on fire, and Jo is lukewarm where they inevitably brush against each other.

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The ninth time the locals bring around their jugs of moonshine, Sam's really very sure he should decline, except that's pissed natives off before, and they really can't afford to piss these people off. There's the prospect of something deliciously close to coffee in the trade agreement, and Winchester had told them all very severely that they were to be on their best behavior.

Sam had thought, privately, that meant that Winchester was trying to hook up with some native princess, but he had been wrong. Winchester had been lounging beside him all evening, Jo on his other side. And Walker...well, none of them even tried to keep track of him anymore.

The moonshine is almost tasteless, the way the best of it always is, it doesn't even burn. Sam smiles around it, feeling loose and relaxed. It's been so long since they've had a mission that went well. Since the natives were friendly and no one was trying to kill them.

Winchester takes a swig after him, and starts to pass the jug down to Jo. She's curled up on the pillows they were given earlier, snoring softly, and Winchester's expression softens so sweetly it makes Sam's chest ache before the Marine passes the jug over her head.

Sam grabs the other man's wrist, because he'd like that soft look directed at him, now.

Winchester turns to face him slow as molasses, half his mouth still curled up into a lazy smile, and Sam can feel an answering smile splitting his own face in half. He leans forward, till his head is pillowed on Winchester's shoulder, breathes in the gunpowder and sea salt smell of him, and hums.

After a moment Winchester curls his hand around the back of Sam's neck, warm and possessive, and Sam closes his eyes. Sam slings an arm around the man's stomach, breathes deep, and contemplates kissing Winchester.

He's aware that there are very good reasons he shouldn't do it. Mainly that the other man is probably straight. There's also that whole thing with Winchester being in the military, and all. And them being on the same team.

But he really, really wants to. He thinks he should, thinks he will, and then he falls asleep.

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The ninth time Winchester almost gets killed on one mission, it's Walker, pointing a gun at his head. Winchester is already a bloody mess, swaying on his feet, but he pushes his forehead into the barrel of the gun, teeth bared in a snarl. Walker is yelling, "Guess it's going to be me painting the Jumper with your brains, huh, you cocky bastard?"

Walker is bloody himself, injuries inflicted by Winchester when Walker had tried to kill Sam, convinced he was selling them out to the Wraith. Sam hadn't seen Walker get a hold of the gun, but he had, and everything had gone downhill from there.

Winchester leans forward, arms stretched out to the side, rumbling, "Go ahead, you fucker. Think you're a real big man with your P90, don't you? Attacking your own team. You should be ashamed, you traitor bastard cocksucker."

Sam makes himself look away, because crouching behind the pilot's seat is not actually helping the situation at all. Jo is peeking in over the rear hatch, she meets his eyes and scowls fiercely. He knows she's all out of ammo, the firefight earlier where Winchester had almost died for the fourth, fifth and sixth times had taken care of that.

"Cocksucker? Me. That's rich." Walker laughs, harsh, and then jumps topics, "He's a danger to the city! He's a danger to all of us, and I realize you have certain attachments to him, but someone has to take him out. And if I have to put you down because you're in my way, I will."

Winchester flails his arms again, and Sam realizes, finally, that the man is pointing very emphatically towards the co–pilot's chair. Sam moves, quickly as he can, jams his arm up under the seat and closes his hand on the grip of a pistol.

Walker's yelling, "Out of the way!" and there's the sharp retort of the P90 and Winchester goes down with a spray of blood and a choked off scream. Sam swings the pistol up, a Colt with a pearl handle and he wonders where the hell it came from, because it certainly isn't military issue, and then he puts a bullet through Walker's head.

Jo is cursing, dropping by Winchester's side, tiny hands tearing off his vest and shirt. Her skin goes from porcelain white to crimson within seconds and Sam notes it in some distant part of his mind. He stands over Walker, and pumps the rest of the clip into his chest, just to make sure he's dead.

And then Jo is yelling at him, "He took a slug in the chest, you have to get us back ASAP!"

So he does.

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The ninth time Hendrickson implies very strongly that Sam had better give up some information on Winchester if he wants to keep his position on Atlantis, Sam walks out of the room and tells the door to lock behind him. It's one of the best uses for the ATA gene that he's yet found.

He hadn't realized that there was quite so much of an undercurrent of dislike towards Winchester with certain parts of their higher organization. He knows that it's something about the other man's record, something he did in one of those missions of his that are sealed so tightly Sam would have to expend a lot of energy to open them.

Sam gets the impression that they've been waiting for Winchester to mess up. Not Dr. Weir, and not Major Sheppard. But the others, those that he's pretty sure were sent by SGC just to keep an eye on things. He doesn't like it, and he doesn't approve.

Winchester is waiting in the hall outside, at attention. Sam startles, because he hadn't expected him, and gapes for a moment before saying, "What's up? You heading to the cafeteria? Cause I'll walk with you." He winces as he speaks, because he's pretty sure that's the definition of desperate, right there.

"I'm meeting with Sergeant Hendrickson, actually, there's some questions about Lieutenant Walker that require my presence." Winchester's doing that thing where he reads off the script behind his eyelids. Sam hates it, so much. And there's also no way that he's letting his Marine anywhere near Hendrickson right now.

He catches the man's elbow, tugging him down the hall, "He said you could go on. Um. All cleared up, the questions, I mean."

Winchester grins like he knows he's being lied to, but doesn't protest. They walk side by side down the hall, all companionable silence until Winchester speaks, "What you did back in the Jumper. You're okay?" He doesn't say: When you shot Walker in the head, and then five times in the chest. It hangs in the air, anyway.

Sam sighs, remembering the way the man's sightless eyes had stared up at him afterwards. Says, "He shot you."

Winchester looks at him like he's sizing him up, and never mentions it again.

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The ninth time the new guy that they freed from the Wraith saves their asses, Sam starts to wonder why none of the other teams snatched him up first. Bobby Singer officially rules.

The man is older, true, but he's fast and vicious, and he knows the Wraith like the back of his hand. He's got a few weird little social ticks, and talks funny the way all the Pegasus natives do, but those are hardly problems. Compared to the teammate he replaced, he's pretty much an angel.

He's great. Really. Sam just thinks they need to lay down some ground rules.

Bobby, whose real name happens to be long and unpronounceable by anyone but Jo, has a thing for Winchester. He watches him all the time, sharp pale eyes that track Winchester's movements on missions and through Atlantis. Sam thinks it's kind of ridiculous that everyone on the team is lusting after their leader, but then, he can't blame them either.

Neither is he going to just sit back and let Bobby have thoughts, though. He's seen how inventive the other man can be. And so he ambushes the older man outside his quarters one morning, sweeps him off to an empty lab, and locks the door behind them with a thought.

He says, "I see the way you look at the Captain, and–" and here's where he ran out of prior planning. He's sure there's got to be something logical he can throw in there, but for the life of him he can't think of a goddamn thing. And then words are pushing out of his throat without his permission, "He's mine. So stop it."

Bobby smiles, it's so weird to see someone with facial hair, Sam is momentarily distracted. And then the other man's voice, soft and teasing, "With my people we would not let a man like that go long unclaimed."

Sam feels his eyes narrow, his shoulders tense, "Yeah. Well. I just did, didn't I? You know, this is mine, that is yours, mess with mine and you'll get yours. That kind of thing?" The other man just smiles infuriatingly smugly back. Sam waves the door open behind them, grunts out, "This is silly, just go."

Bobby does, but pauses in the doorway, "He is a good man, but that is not why I watch him. He is lit up with pain, all over, much of the time. I worried, but it is not he I have my eye on for what you imagine."

"Not all of the time?" And Sam knows he should just let it go, really. But he can't. Even if the man probably reads Winchester better after a few weeks than Sam after knowing him for months. He'll take his epiphanies where he can get them, even if they're from someone else.

"Sometimes, when you are with him, it is less." By the time Sam manages to talk around the pressure in his throat, Bobby is gone, taking his answers with him.

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The ninth time they're sure they've found a way to beat the Wraith, they really haven't, but they only figure that out when they're surrounded by more ships that Sam likes to think about. They've delivered the payload that everyone and their mother back at Atlantis had been sure was going to work, and frankly, it wasn't.

Sam's vaguely aware that across the galaxy there are a dozen other teams finding out the same thing they are, and says a little prayer for their safety. And then he goes back to worrying about his own.

Winchester says, "Everyone buckle up," in that terribly calm voice he uses when he knows they're totally fucked. Sam buckles into the co–pilots seat, reaches for the weapons systems and Winchester hisses, "Don't. Don't touch anything."

And for a beat, silence, utter and absolute as they wait.

And then the Wraith darts are firing on them from all angles and Winchester shuts his eyes and they spin and bob and weave like an insane fly. Every now and then Sam sees a drone fire, sees an answering explosion. Mostly he fights against the urge to stick his head between his knees and hurl.

They're presently on a collision course with a hive ship, and Sam chokes out, "Captain–"

"Shut up, shut up, shut up." Winchester's eyes are open now, jumping across all the input flashing over the Jumper's screen. He throws them into a corkscrew spin, jerks the controls down so hard at the end that if the dampeners hadn't been on Sam's sure they would all be jelly. His insides kind of feel like jelly anyway. But they slide by the hive ship, so close that Sam thinks he would have been able to reach out and touch it were the Jumper not closed in.

Jo, in the back, is laughing, throaty and desperate. Sam would like to join her, but his heart is presently in his throat. Beside him Winchester is chanting, "Leaf on the wind, leaf on the wind," and Sam grabs his shoulder and squeezes hard enough that he knows the other man is paying attention to him.

"I don't like how that one ends."

Winchester spares him a glance, quick and sharp, and then jerks off a nod. "My bad." And throws them into another barrel roll, before taking them into a 360 degree loop to take a Wraith dart up the ass. And then there's nothing but empty space between them and the 'gate and Jo whooping in the back and Bobby laughing at her, and Sam squeezes Winchester's shoulder some more.

They don't 'gate back to Atlantis, no doubt there are far too many others doing that. But Sam found them a nice, uninhabited planet, and they slam through the 'gate and out over the desert, and there's not a Wraith in sight.

Winchester reaches up, and for just a second his hand is over Sam's on his shoulder. The smile they share feels like electricity, and Winchester's hand is shaking, just a little. And then it stops, and his fingers are all lean strength over Sam's hand, squeezing and Sam thinks they're holding hands and blames the pounding of his heart on almost dying two seconds ago.

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The ninth time they run into something really, ridiculously horrible, it's a thing with Winchester's face. It moves like the Captain, talks like him, and smiles like him. Really, there should be no way to tell them apart, and Sam thinks that maybe the team has been spending far too much time together, because they all know immediately that it's not their leader.

Sam draws on it first, followed by Bobby and Jo, in sync with each other the way Jo and Walker never were. The thing holds its hands up, confusion furrowing its brow, says, "Hey, hey, Sammy, what crawled into your panties and died?" It even gets the accent right, that mix–and–match drawl that Winchester has from being shuffled across half the mid–west growing up.

Sam is not impressed, "Where is he?" He doesn't even remember why Winchester had split from the rest of them. Setting up a perimeter, maybe.

The thing drops its expression of innocence like a mask, suddenly looks bored and irritated. "Now that would be telling." It steps forward, and Sam fires a warning shot over its shoulder, pleased when its eyes go wide. "You son of a bitch!" It even curses like the Captain.

Sam meets Bobby's eyes over its shoulder, nods his head once and the man fades off into the woods. Sam's never seen anyone track quite like Bobby, and trusts him to find Winchester. He's fairly certain that he and Jo can hold off the doppelganger. Says, "If he's hurt things are gong to go really badly for you."

"Don't you want to know what I want?"

He pauses a second, considering this, searching down into his chest to see if he does. "No. No, I really don't." He doesn't care. And maybe that's a failure on his part, because he is the scientific portion of this little group, but right now he couldn't give a flying fuck. It has Winchester, and until they get him back, the thing is as good as dead.

The thing shifts its focus to Jo, grins at her like a wolf, "And what about you, can I interest you in anything since your friend is being so unreasonable?"

Jo's face is a stone mask, and obviously the thing is pitifully unaware of how bad an idea it is to get on Jo Harvelle's bad side. She's Air Force, she's maybe five foot five, one hundred and thirty pounds, and Sam has seen her make a Marine twice her size cry. In public. She growls, facing the thing but addressing Sam, "If he's hurt I just want you to know that I'll be checking the woods. For about a half an hour. I'll understand if the prisoner tries to escape or something like that in that time."

And that's when the thing rolls its eyes, and jerks towards Jo. Sam's barely aware of pulling the trigger, but the thing's chest goes bright red with arterial blood, and it goes down, limbs jerking. Sam pins it, because it isn't dead, damn thing apparently had the Captain's ability to live through pretty much anything as well.

It spits up into his face, "You'll never find him! He's going to die from dehydration, not three feet from water, wondering why you didn't come for him! He's going to lay there on the stone and feel his body shutting down one organ at a time and know that no one in the world gives a damn if he lives or dies! He's–"

Jo kicks it hard in the side of the head, and Sam watches its eyes roll back up inside its skull. He presses his radio on, "Bobby, he's by water of some kind, maybe in a cave, I think he might be hurt, you have–"

Bobby cuts him off, short and to the point the way he is over the radio, "I have found him, do not worry. He is very worried about you, are you alright?"

Sam grins stupidly up at Jo, and radios back an affirmative just as Jo levels the barrel of her P90 on the thing's forehead and pulls the trigger. Sometimes a bullet in the head is the best kind of beneficial relationship you can hope for with the natives.

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The ninth time someone calls Atlantis home, over Earth, over everything, Sam realizes they're right.

He didn't have anything back on Earth to begin with, not after his mother died. He'd been getting doctorate after doctorate, but that had mostly been a way to pass the time, the same way the research projects were. He'd had a few girlfriends, but they'd never hung around too long. He'd had a dog, but it had hated him.

Here, he has almost everything he could ever want. A job he loves when it's not trying to kill him, and sometimes even then. A team that feels more like family than his mother ever did, no matter how much he had loved her. And, well, he doesn't exactly have Winchester, but he'd really like to. He doesn't have a dog, either, but that's probably for the best.

He's still thinking about it when he sits down for lunch, automatically handing Winchester the most disgusting thing on his plate and getting the man's pudding in return. He waits till Jo and Bobby slide into their seats, wondering about the way the two follow each other everywhere, says, "This place is home for you guys, too, right?"

There's a pause, where everyone stops eating and kind of stares at their plates thoughtfully. It's Jo that answers first, nodding her head emphatically and grinning absently. Bobby follows suit a moment later, cutting his eyes towards Jo in what Sam deems to be a very suspicious manner.

Winchester takes a moment longer, and then shrugs, and leans over the table. His voice is whisper soft and secret confidential, "There's just one thing that would make it perfect." Sam leans in, so close he can see Winchester's freckles, the spread of them over his pale skin. He feels his hand twitch, and concentrates to still it.

"What's that?"

The man leans even closer, till his breath is dancing across Sam's mouth and Sam can feel himself going cross eyed and doesn't care. There are some things he's not willing to miss for anything. And then Winchester murmurs, "My car," so softly that Sam's sure he's the only one that heard it.

Sam chokes, and Winchester leans back in his seat, grinning smugly. "Your car? Your car?" He's vaguely aware that Jo is laughing at him, again. He can't really blame her. He thinks he'd be laughing at himself, if he could get over how high pitched his voice had gotten.

Winchester nods, waves a hand absently, "I had the sweetest ride, a '67 Impala, satin black finish, all the original body work. She was gorgeous, hand stitched leather upholstery, an engine I rebuilt from the ground up. God. She was my baby."

Sam tells himself, firmly, that he did not just get hard listening to Winchester talk about his car. And then he shifts, uncomfortable, and bites on his lip, because goddamnit. The other man doesn't seem to notice anything amiss, staring dreamily somewhere over Sam's shoulder. He sounds blissed out when he continues, "Bench seats in the front and back. Mmm. That back seat."

Sam has to wait almost fifteen minutes after everyone else leaves before he can stand up.

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The tenth time Sam tries to make a list of things he needs from Earth, he ends up leaving it blank.

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The tenth time Sam carries Winchester back to the Jumper, because the man has a goddamn death wish, the man is almost dead by the time they get close to the Jumper. He won't tell anyone what the natives did to him, but he's terribly pale, so bloody that Sam can't see the actual wounds.

Jo is running point, Bobby bringing up their six, and Sam tells himself that he shouldn't be glad he's the only one big enough to carry Winchester. But he is, anyway. He likes knowing that he can do this, at least, can get his Marine the hell out of Dodge when the situation calls for it.

He'd like it better if Winchester weren't dying in his arms.

The man has one arm slung around Sam's neck, his head leaning against Sam's chest, and he whimpers with each step. Sam cradles him closer, realizing for the first time that he is actually cradling the other man. No fire man's carry here. He hopes Winchester doesn't mind.

Winchester is saying something, shouting to be heard over the weapons fire and their own ragged breathing, "Tell you something."

Sam spares a glance down at him and almost trips over a root, "Tell me later." The Jumper is right there, thank God, and he follows Jo up the ramp at a run, hits the closure as soon as Bobby makes it in. Jo scrunches her face up, and a moment later the shield activates, which stops the banging shots that had been echoing against the hull. Sam takes a moment to be ridiculously thankful she got the gene therapy recently.

Especially because that means that he'll be able to tend to Winchester on the way back to Atlantis. She takes off for the pilot's seat without having to be asked, Bobby on her heels.

Sam lowers Winchester to the ground, hating the way the man clings to him, body arching away from the ground like just touching it is agony. Sam soothes, "Hey, it's okay, okay? I'm gonna take care of you until we get you to Dr. Beckett, just, just lay still, okay?"

Winchester grunts, shaking his head from side to side, says between clenched teeth, "Gotta tell you." Sam starts to shush him, again, but the man's hand slides across the floor, finds Sam's and grabs on. Sam can feel Winchester's blood squishing against his skin, stares dumbly down at their intertwined fingers, and feels something in his chest clench. Winchester says, little bubbles of blood forming in the corners of his mouth, "Dean. S'my name. You gotta call me. Dean. Now that you know."

Sam does not say that he knew that before, even though he did. It means something, and it's not something Sam wanted to happen when the other man thought he was dying. Beggars can't be choosers.

He cups one of Dean's cheeks, says, "You're gonna be fine," and tries to get his other hand out of Dean's grip. But he won't let go, holding onto Sam like he's his last anchor to the world. Sam gives up, after a moment, and starts trying to clear the blood off with his free hand. Any second now they're going to be through the 'gate. Any second.

Dean's choking up at him, tugging on his hand, "Gotta call me Dean. Please. Please. Sammy."

And he tries for a smile that he knows comes out broken, says, "Okay. Dean. Okay. It'll be okay." And Dean smiles up at him like he maybe just said the best thing in the world, and his teeth are bloody, and the event horizon swallows them all.

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The tenth time Sam catches Jo and Bobby hiding out in the Jumper bay, he turns around and walks out as quickly as he can.

He hadn't exactly been surprised to find them, the first time, and certainly wasn't surprised any of the following times. It's just that he wishes they found a more private place for their little meetings. He didn't see any problem with either of their quarters.

He's almost out of the danger zone when Bobby's voice surprises him, not even directed at him, "When I first came here, Samuel warned me to stay away from Winchester." The older man sounds highly amused, and Jo giggles. Sam can imagine them smiling at each other, and mimes gagging even though there's no one there to appreciate the gesture.

Jo's voice is full of laughter when she speaks, "I think that Dean might be the only person on base who doesn't realize our scientist is head over fucking heels."

Sam knows he shouldn't be eavesdropping, but it's gotten to be something of a habit for him in the Jumper bay. And it's not like he's making them talk. They could be somewhere private, it's not his fault that they choose not to be.

Bobby sounds thoughtful, maybe puzzled, "I do not understand how he does not know. It is painfully obvious." Sam winces, because it probably is. God. He hadn't realized everyone was so aware of his school girl crush.

He can almost hear Jo's shrug, "Dean's got issues like you wouldn't believe. Well, maybe you would, you're the one that told me about the whole lit up with pain thing. I don't think he believes that people can love him."

Bobby snorts, and there's a suspicious wet sound that Sam doesn't want to think about. And then their conversation about him and Dean is apparently over, because there's only soft sounds and moans after that, and Sam beats a hasty exit.

He's not sure that there's that much of a difference between eavesdropping and voyeurism, but he doesn't want to try to test that theory.

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The tenth time they meet the Genii or their allies, Sam dies. He thinks. He's getting this all secondhand, after all. But Jo seems pretty sure that he was dead, that the Genii had stabbed him through the chest with the knife. She's also sure that after they drove the crazy bastards off Dean had lost his shit.

She says that the Captain had dragged him off, down into the depths of the city they'd found, while she and Bobby followed, confused. She said that when they'd reached the command chair none of them had been sure what Dean was doing, just that he'd laid Sam out in front of it and–

And that was where things got vague. She knows that Sam was dead. She knows that Dean had turned the chair on far easier than he ever had before, and that the man's face had been twisted up in terrible concentration.

She doesn't know how Dean convinced the Ancient device to bring Sam back to life, only that when he had it had been horrible. That Dean had screamed, arched up off the chair as electricity danced across and over him. She knows that when it was over Sam had been moving and Dean had been still.

She and Bobby had tried to get Dean out of the chair, but his flesh had been literally burned to it. His hands sunk into the arms, his back and legs attached to the device. They probably could have removed him, she said, except that the Genii had shown up with reinforcements at that point.

Sam still doesn't understand why they didn't get Dean out of there. He's furious, more angry than he can ever remember being, and Jo takes one of his hands in both of hers and makes him look at her. Tells him that Dean had ordered them out, had said that he could hold off the Genii with the chair long enough for them to get back through the 'gate.

Sam feels ill, wants to go sit in a corner and have a fit, or punch something. But there are more important things to deal with right now. He says, "So who's organizing the rescue?" Because he will be included. Dean Winchester and his stubborn Christ complex be damned.

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The tenth time he pushes air into Dean's lungs with no response Sam prays to every god he can think of, and then any nameless ones he might have forgotten. Jo is screaming into her radio, and Bobby is guarding the entrance to the room, though Sam isn't really sure why.

The only thing they found on their way back into the city was dead bodies, people fried and crushed and torn apart at the seams. Sam knows he shouldn't be surprised that the Ancients came up with technology to do that, but seeing its effects is chilling anyway.

Then they'd walked into the command chair room to find Dean still in the chair. Faintly smoking.

Sam had pulled him out, leaving behind pieces of his uniform and hunks of skin. Whatever he had done, whatever power he had manipulated, it was more than he should have. Maybe Major Sheppard could have used it without being hurt, maybe not.

None of it really matters, right at this moment. Dean's not breathing, though his heart is beating, fast and irregular under Sam's hand. Sam lowers his mouth over the other man's again, pushes air into his lungs, watches his chest rise and fall. Jo's voice cuts through the hazy around his mind, "–bring in the medical team, we're secure, we're–"

Sam breathes for Dean, in out, in out. He's dizzy and lightheaded with it, and then Dean's mouth moves under his. The man coughs, tries to twist onto his side and almost bites through Sam's lip when he tries to close his mouth around a scream.

Sam jerks back, rolls Dean and rubs his back, aware he's saying things but deaf from the pounding of blood in his ears. Dean's got a hand around his arm, squeezing while he sucks in deep, ragged breaths. And then Jo's there, her tiny hand on Sam's shoulder, saying, "Doc, the others are gonna be here in a few seconds. You might want to, um, shut up."

And Sam has time to bite off the words pouring out of his throat just as the medical team floods into the room. He wonders what terribly embarrassing thing he was saying, and then decides he doesn't want to know.

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The tenth time Carmen assures him that Dean will be okay, just fine, really, he starts to believe her. She could just as easily be lying to get him to leave her alone, but by now he pretty much trusts her. They've got to be friends, by now, by virtue of the sheer amount of time he has spent hanging around the infirmary.

But he has to ask, "What's wrong with him?" because Dean had been spacey and out of it all the way back to Atlantis. Had been staring into the middle distance while the doctors hooked him up to various drips and carted him away.

She shrugs, hugs a chart to her chest, "Mostly? He's exhausted. Whatever he did expended a lot of his reserves. The burns are superficial, but he's dehydrated as well." She pauses, and Sam's known her long enough to read the conflict on her face. He raises both eyebrows at her expectantly, and she continues, "Carson's more worried about the mental stress. He thinks that there might have been feedback from the Genii that died."

Sam shifts, keys his voice to pleading and fixes her with the biggest puppy dog eyes he can muster, "Can I see him, please? Just for a few minutes."

"He needs rest, Sam." She looks at the floor and Sam stares at the top of her head and imagines psychically compelling her to let him in. She sighs. "Fine. But just a few minutes. I'm the one that gets in trouble when you fall asleep in there."

Sam barely hears anything she says after: Fine. The chair beside Dean's bed is pretty much shaped to fit his ass perfectly at this point. Sam settles into it, slides a hand onto Dean's hip, and settles to watch him sleep. He's surprised when the other man's eyes flutter open, when Dean rolls his head to get a good look at him.

When he tries to push himself up off the bed Sam braces a hand on his chest, and holds him down. Dean glares at him, but settles, rubbing absently at his eyes. Sam says, "If you ever do anything that stupid again, I will kill you myself, you idiot." It's not what he had planned to say.

Dean has the nerve to snort, to mumble before his eyes slide closed again, "I love you too, bitch."

Sam rolls his eyes, and doesn't even think about it. Leans forward and pillows his head on the bed and lets his eyes drift closed. He feels kind of bad getting Carmen in trouble by staying here, but that's not actually going to stop him. Dean might need him when he wakes up, or something.

"Jerk."

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The tenth time Dean looks up at him and says, "Um," only to trail off and walk away, Sam's had about enough, and puts his foot down. Metaphorically.

What he actually does is stomp off after Dean and force him into an abandoned lab and order the door closed behind them. Of course Dean just rolls his eyes and it opens again and there's a brief battle of wills where Sam starts to close it only to be interrupted by Dean. It swings back and forth until Atlantis apparently gets irritated with them, and the door freezes half way open and won't budge.

Dean frowns, says, "You broke it."

Sam starts, "I did not–" and then cuts himself off because he is not actually three years old. He says, "Look, I don't know what's going on with you, but we have to talk about this." Because Dean's said barely a dozen words to him since he got out of the infirmary. And, as previously stated, most of them had been 'um'.

"I can't talk about this." Dean makes a motion between them, and Sam hadn't realized they were standing so close until Dean's fingers poked into his chest. Dean's speaking slowly, looking into Sam's eyes like maybe he's saying two different things and waiting for Sam to catch up. He repeats, "I cannot, under any circumstances, talk about this." He leaves his fingers rest against Sam's chest, soft, questioning.

Sam stares, down at the other man's hand, long fingers pressed into the blue fabric of his shirt, and goes, "Oh. Oh. I don't think that counts, with me, I mean. I'm civilian. And stuff."

Dean shrugs, and Sam's aware that he's closer, that the man is walking him backwards towards the wall with just the pressure of his fingertips. Dean's voice is a low growl, his mouth so close Sam can taste coffee on his breath, "You need to tell me to stop."

Sam grabs his wrist instead, puts Dean's hand on his hip and the man steps between his legs and presses him into the wall. Dean kisses him, his hand on Sam's hip tight and his other hand behind Sam's neck, angling him into the kiss properly. Sam groans, and feels the curve of the man's smile and puts his hands everywhere he's been wanting to put them for the last six months.

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The tenth time Jo knocks his foot under the table, and nods at Dean with a knowing grin, Sam feels a low knot of worry in his belly ease. He'd known that she heard something, back on the world where he died and Dean brought him back and almost killed himself in the process. Known that it had most likely been highly incriminating, and had worried accordingly.

But she doesn't seem overly concerned with whatever admissions poured out of Sam's throat when relief had made him forget where they were. Sam's glad, mostly because he's still not sure what he said. He's pretty sure it's the gist of what he found in his high school girlfriend's diary the time he had accidentally read it.

Well, without the hearts with his and Dean's initials inside, because that's hard to verbalize.

In fact, she seems downright pleased with the way he's leaning into Dean, with the fact that the other man is blatantly groping his knee under the table. Sam thinks about how close she and Bobby are sitting and figures maybe she's just not being hypocritical.

He'd feel worse about knowing that their entire team was fucking if he wasn't ninety percent sure that Major Sheppard's team was, too.

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The tenth time Dean kisses him, it all finally starts feeling real. They're actually in one of their rooms for once, crowded onto Sam's tiny bunk. Sam would protest that there's not even enough room for him on the bed, but he's preoccupied, and saves the complaint for later.

Dean kisses with the quiet intensity he brings to everything, under the surface. There's a playfulness to the nip of his teeth over Sam's bottom lip, to the flick of his tongue into Sam's mouth, a brush over the top of his mouth carried into a slow twist around Sam's tongue. There's softness in the way he's got his hands cradling Sam's head, the weight of his hips between Sam's thighs.

But he's frighteningly focused, like this is the only thing that matters. Like the soft sounds he's pulling from Sam's throat are all that he can hear, that Sam's skin is all he wants to smell, feel, taste. He's so there, so completely and totally intent, that Sam feels every thought of work that's plagued him nonstop since he stepped through the 'gate for the first time just dissipate.

He melts, under the slow, knowing touches, and feels the rumble of approval in Dean's chest pressed against his own.

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The tenth time Dean fucks him, they're in Dean's quarters. Literally just done being debriefed, and Sam's picturing a hot shower and maybe a quick trip to the infirmary because the cut on his hand might need stitches and Dean drags him through the door and two steps into the room.

And then the man takes a deep breath, and a step back. His voice is gravel rough, and he won't look at Sam, "Are you okay? Do you need to see the doctor, anything like that?"

Sam blinks, looks at his hand and decides that it can wait, it hasn't bled through the field bandage yet, "No. Dean, what's–" is all the farther he gets before Dean is on him, yanking him down into a bruising kiss, hands working his vest off with intent.

It takes Sam a half second to get with the program, and then he's shrugging his shoulders out of the vest, and Dean's a step ahead of him, tugging Sam's shirt up and off and latching his mouth over the taunt skin of Sam's neck. Dean's got Sam's pants open and then they're around his knees, and Dean growls, "Floor. Now."

Sam very nearly just falls on his ass, but saves it to something marginally more graceful. He's tugging his boots off, kicking his pants off his feet while trying to watch Dean quickly and efficiently tear off his own clothing. The vest gets set down gently, because there are probably explosives all over it, but the shirt goes sailing and the boots thud against the wall.

Sam says, "Dean–" but then the other man is there, mouth hot and desperate over his, one hand behind Sam's head and it's a good thing, because he hits the floor hard enough that it might have cracked his skull open otherwise. There's so much skin, everywhere, and Sam presses his hands across Dean's shoulders, still sweat slick from running for their lives earlier. Or maybe from this. Sam isn't sure.

Dean groans, pushes the kiss harder, till their teeth clank together and Sam tastes blood and knows it's not his own. And Dean's never been like this before, usually there's so much control there that Sam wonders how the other man manages it. Sam thinks that this is Dean's quiet intensity, with the playfulness and softness striped away.

And then Dean's got one of his thighs between Sam's, shoving his knee up and under Sam's hip, and Sam's arms curl around his shoulders automatically. Dean's mouth slips off his, trails desperate biting kisses down his jaw, down his throat, sharp nips that Sam will have to wear stubble to cover tomorrow.

When Dean thrusts against his stomach, hard and fast forward and a slow drift back, he lifts Sam's hips off the floor. It's a weird feeling, like being folded and Sam hisses, curses.

And Dean freezes. Sam can feel the muscles under his hands, already strung tight, go still and tense. Dean's mouth comes off his collar bone with a wet pop, and just like that the man is on his feet, crossing the room.

Sam blinks, sex drunk, and has only managed to struggle into a sitting position by the time Dean throws the sheet off his bed at him. By the time he gets the almost–cotton off his head Dean is in the bathroom, the door closed, and Sam can hear the water running full blast. "Dean?"

Dean's voice is low and tight, "You shouldn't be here right now. I'm sorry. I'm not–I shouldn't be around people right now. I'll see you later. In the mess hall."

Sam thinks about this, and decides that it is just not a good idea at all. Even remotely. He shoves himself to his feet, pads over to the bathroom and scowls at the door. He bites his lip in concentration, and the bathroom door slides open. Which, okay, apparently Dean wasn't trying that hard to keep him out.

Dean is standing in the shower, arms braced against the wall, staring up into the pounding spray. There's blood on the other man's chin, running in pink rivers down his chest. Sam shifts uncomfortably, and then figures what the hell and starts to step in behind him.

The water is ice cold, and Sam jerks his leg out, hears himself, "Are you crazy, what are you doing? Get over here," and then he's reaching into the water because he must be insane and grabbing Dean and dragging him out. The man's skin is still warm, so warm that Sam just wants to press against him, but Dean's not meeting his eyes, and Dean is not relaxing into his touch. "I thought we were gonna, um, you know." God. He is thirteen.

"Can't. Hurt you." Dean's biting his words off, and standing stock still in the middle of the bathroom, like he's waiting for Sam to leave. Sam thinks about what he knows about Dean, thinks about Cassie all those months ago and: like he's trying real hard not to break you, and if he slips he actually might.

Sam makes himself smile, tips Dean's face up and holds his chin so the other man has to look at him. Says, "You didn't. I was just surprised." Dean snorts. "Hey. I trust you, okay? Come on. Come to bed with me. Please."

There's something in Dean's eyes, some fire that Sam's never seen before, and he wants to burn in it. Dean's voice is almost a whisper. "I can't be nice right now." Sam thinks that he and Dean might have different definitions of nice, but they can argue about it later. Sam tugs on Dean's arm, back towards the bedroom, and apparently that makes up the other man's mind. Dean says, "Here," and Sam's on his back again without knowing how he got there.

Dean's sucking on his neck again, up behind his ear, teeth and tongue and lips and his fingers in Sam's mouth, palm butted up against Sam's chin. He's got his other hand around Sam's cock, quick sharp little jerks, kneeling between Sam's legs with both knees propping Sam's ass up.

Sam tries to keep up, and fails pretty spectacularly.

There's touch, everywhere, Dean's fingers tracing the inside of his mouth, Dean's tongue painting patterns across his chest, Dean jacking him off like he means it. And everywhere the press of Dean's overheated skin, covered with water that's warmed to body temperature and is mingling with their sweat and Sam's back slides across the tile and Dean rumbles.

Sam swallows around Dean's fingers in an attempt to keep from drowning in his own spit, and Dean rocks down against his hip, pushes him across the tile again. He can feel the rough grout digging at his skin, but can't bring himself to care.

He's overloaded, jerks his hips up into Dean's grip and the man slides his hand lower and squeezes and Sam bangs his head against the floor because goddamn. Dean's never pulled that shit before either. Dean's voice is a rumble, right under his jaw, the drag of his lips over skin wrecking havoc on Sam's already overloaded nerves, "Wait."

Sam flails an arm out, keeps one anchored around Dean's shoulders, and finds the wall behind him. He doesn't mean to hit it, but it feels good, and the noise is immensely satisfying, and so he hits it again. Dean is grinning against his skin, against the mark he's sucking into Sam's skin, and Sam flattens his hand on the wall and curls his fingers.

And then Dean's fingers are finally out of his mouth, and it feels like there's too much space in there without them and Sam gurgles. Dean abandons Sam's neck, and engages in an all out assault on Sam's mouth, sucks on his tongue and drags his teeth across Sam's bottom lip and Sam hits the wall again for good measure. The skin that Dean had been sucking on feels cool now, sends little electric tingles through him and Dean's tongue is in his mouth.

Dean sliding a finger into his ass should not be a surprise. Sam is a scientist, for God's sake. It kind of is, anyway, but the best kind, like finding out that you had a rich uncle that left you everything. Sam groans, sucks on Dean's tongue and slides the hand splayed across Dean's back up, curls his fingers around the back of the other man's skull and tries to pull him closer.

And then there's another finger and Sam's kind of really glad that they fucked earlier today as well, because otherwise he thinks this might have hurt a lot more.

He has time to register that the fingers are gone, and then Dean's got a hand on his knee, moving his leg where he wants it and Sam bucks against him. Dean growls, right into his mouth, "Do not fucking come until I'm in."

Sam fingers around Dean's head curl up on reflex and he wishes he had more hair to twist them in. He tries to take a deep breath, tries to slow things down so he has a chance in hell of meeting Dean's request, but there's no way. He settles for growling back, "Hurry up then."

Dean kisses him again, hard and distracting and the corner of Sam's mouth gets caught between teeth and there's a fresh burst of blood. But none of that's important to the greater fact that Dean is pushing into him, is pushing him into the wall, and then Dean's hand isn't on his knee anymore, but braced above Sam's shoulder, halting his forward momentum.

Sam's leg takes the opportunity to flail like it's being electrocuted as Dean settles into him, and he can feel the other man's grin, curving against his lips. Dean slides out, and Sam takes the moment to notice that Dean is somehow on his knees, bent over him, Sam's hips lifted up to his, and then Dean slams back into him and Sam doesn't care how they're tangled up or whether or not it should be physically possible.

Dean's forearm, braced against Sam's shoulder, is quivering. Dean's whole body is shaking, getting worse with each thrust and Sam isn't sure how the other man is keeping any kind of rhythm at all. He drags his hand on the wall back to Dean's body, and holds on tight as he can.

And Dean breathing into his mouth, still jacking him off on top of everything else, rumbles, "You can come now."

Sam's not sure if he should be embarrassed or not when he does, the second the words are out of the other man's mouth. He doesn't care. There's fireworks going off behind his eyes and his throat burns suddenly and he wonders what the hell he's yelling. Whatever it is, Dean's breathing it in, mouth over Sam's, open and hungry and Sam pushes up and takes another kiss.

Dean's hips stutter then, and the man makes a sound like he might be dying, and then he's all loose heavy weight collapsed on top of Sam. Which is making Sam realize how much his back aches from being bent almost in half, and how much his injured hand is throbbing from pounding on the wall, but he doesn't mind at all.

Dean slurs sleepily against his neck, "Don't get hurt anymore."

Life is good in the Pegasus galaxy.

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