by Vanessa Nichols

He's not sure what he deserves but he's beginning to think that, maybe, there's something better than this.


Her eyes are red when she finds him. Red, with lids swollen, and the fact that she's been crying would be obvious to all but a blind man. He's not blind, not really--unfortunately--so he ignores them instead. He's learning to ignore a lot of things where she's concerned.

"Dinner?" she asks perfunctorily, voice rasping just a little, as she stands near his desk and looks at anything but him. Sometimes, she's a little blind herself.

He shrugs and smiles and offers an enthusiastic, "sure," because that's what she wants him to say. Heaven forbid he quote a recent commercial--she's right, there ARE five-hundred more channels--and decline with a polite, "not tonight, honey--I have a headache."

In actual fact, he DOES have a headache. But that's irrelevant.


They eat at her place--of course--and his chow mein drags reluctant pathways down his throat. He doesn't think he really likes Chinese but she only heard acceptance in his response of "if that's what you want," when she asked if that's what should be ordered. Once upon a time, he thinks, she might have offered alternatives when presented with such a lacklustre answer. Not anymore.

He tries not to blame himself for something he's only a third guilty of.

They make small-talk. Wormhole theory and Goa'uld infrastructure. She has a ration of five sentences for each topic; her words split and reconnected seemingly at random to answer his questions. He tries not to let this bother him--he knows he's not here for conversation. Distracted politeness should be enough, especially since he's not meant to know that it's distracted in the first place.

He doesn't ask about Colonel O'Neill. But he wants to.


After eating, she starts clearing the kitchen and asks him to take her garbage out. It's not collection night for her, he knows, but he does it anyway. On his way back he detours round the side of the house and stares at her shed. It's padlocked. When he moves closer and stands on tiptoes he can just see, through a perspex window, her motorcycle.

He's been reading all he can about them. She's probably forgotten, by now, that she ever promised to teach him. He thinks about reminding her but knows he won't say anything. Not tonight, at least.

When he thinks she's had enough time to stop crying again, he heads back inside.


Colonel O'Neill's been lost for fourteen days now. Strange how, three years on, fourteen seems so much longer than a hundred.

Doctor Jackson commented--rather blindly; he's learning from the best--on just about everything.

He's made no secret of the fact that he's done his reading.


They go through all the motions of being a normal, every-day couple. Even the routine of sitting down to watch TV is followed. He pretends, once more, to be blind when she flinches at a Simpsons commercial. One of these days he's never gonna see again--a part of him can't wait.

Observance isn't all it's cracked up to be.


They've done the day at work, the evening meal, the requisite TV watching. With all the rules adhered to, it's time for bed. They both know it's the whole reason he's here but neither of them say it. Wouldn't want to ruin the romance, after all.

They undress in turns. She takes off his shirt, he takes off hers. When she kisses him, he lets his hands stroke up and down her back, pulling her closer. Foreplay is the only shared territory.

Pants are shed, underwear discarded. He kisses along her collarbone and sucks lightly on her neck. He knows not to leave a mark but tonight he can't help but push the envelope. When she finally pulls away, out of his reach, there's the slightest hint of red on her neck. Whether it'll fade, or darken, he can't be sure. On the basis that if it darkens, he'll be in the ultimate doghouse, he kinda hopes it will. Darken, that is.

His head throbs still, just a little.


With his back against the wardrobe door, and her rubbing against his front, she knows how to push most of his buttons. Which, since he knows all of hers, is almost a fair swap.

Foreplay still; he pushes forward, holds her close, turns, and presses her against the door. Presses against her more. His hands cover her ears, fingers burying into her hair, as he kisses her; slow and deep and long. When anoxia threatens, and they break apart, he drags his hands down her throat, across her breasts, along her stomach, and settles them on her hips. Holding her stationary while he grinds his body to hers.

They kiss and stroke and touch and grind and feel, God, everything.

She drags her nails down his back, cups his ass, strokes his cock. Like he said, she knows most of his buttons. He maps her ribcage with his palms and drags teeth and tongue across her shoulder-blade. And he knows hers.

If this wasn't so wrong, they'd be perfect for each other.


Fourteen days. In a few more hours, fifteen.

Hopefully his headache will be gone by then.


They find the bed in a tangle of limbs; turning and rolling and twisting until she's on top. Foreplay's over; he tries not to mind and closes his eyes. She thinks--he knows--that he's thinking when he does this. He isn't; not really. He's just trying to be blind.

Her eyes are open. Not that she sees him.

It's ironic, he decides, that where he's concerned, she's as blind as can be.


Their bodies fit together rather nicely, all things considered.

And he really does like her. She's smart and funny and beautiful and she makes his body go haywire when she sinks against and clenches around him. So it's not really a problem that she doesn't love him, because he knows that he doesn't love her.

Sometimes, he thinks, that's the only saving grace in this. Because if he did love her, after all, there's no way he'd be doing this with her.

Begin paradox. If he loved her, they wouldn't have sex; since he doesn't, they do; but if he did, he'd want to. End paradox.

They're friends. And he likes her. And if this is the way she wants him to be in her life, well, who is he to complain?

He moans appreciatively. Especially when she moves like THAT.

His fingers trail across all accessible flesh and when he realises her cheeks are damp, he screws his eyes shut even tighter and thanks God he's temporarily blind.

Paradox deux: if he can't see them, are they really tears?


Is it wrong to be with another man's woman? Of course. Is it wrong that when with this woman, he knows she's thinking about another man? Yes.

Is it wrong that out of the three of them, he's the only one who minds?

Apparently not.


She's out of control tonight. Nipping instead of biting, undulating instead of grinding. Her hold on him is loose, unrestrained. His hands rail her sides, cup her shoulder-blades, and pull her down for a kiss--all without reprimand.

He licks her collarbone, rubs dry her cheeks, fondles and caresses and knows that he was right. So he doesn't curse when he comes, not this time, just strokes her body into following his.

He considers saying, "I told you so," but keeps his mouth shut.

She's not a fan of reality, he knows.


He thinks, sometimes, that they're taking advantage of each other. Her using him because another is unreachable. Him using her because he's gotta belong somewhere, and inside of her is as good a place as any.

They're friends, and lovers, and their sex life is pretty much spectacular. But this isn't about love, and he knows that. This is about love lost, love unattainable, and love please-check-the-number-before-dialling-again.

After seven years of a busy signal--and THANK you, Doctor Jackson, for all those telephone analogies--is it really so terrible that she's settled for a wrong number?

Not that he's wrong, he amends silently. They're just not right.


In the afterglow, she wants to cry again. He can tell. For one perverse, malicious moment he considers just staying there, maybe starting a conversation... forcing her to keep it all locked away.

But he's not perverse, or malicious, so he mutters something dishonest like, "be right back," and slips out of the bed. In the bathroom he stares at his reflection, wondering if this has all gone too far. In the beginning it was kinda fun. Beautiful and smart and funny and she wanted him. HIM. As much as he wanted her, he figured. Friends with benefits--how could that be anything but good?

He sighs, looks away, and heads towards the lounge room. Naked, and a little cold, he sits in her armchair and stares into her kitchen. Her keys, discarded near the phone, draw his gaze unerringly and he focuses on them tenaciously.


He tells himself that this is just a phase, a mood. Colonel O'Neill will be back soon--crossing fingers--and Sam will be herself again. In control, he thinks, with a silent, bitter laugh.

And with them back--'cause, let's face it, when one's gone, the other is too--he'll also be back. Jonas Quinn, he of good cheer and many smiles.

Hopefully, he adds, without the headache.


In the bedroom he watches her sleep. Considers climbing back into bed and waiting for her to wake, for the inevitable encore. Which would be fantastic, he knows, even with his headache. They'd probably go down on each other, he thinks, licking and sucking and pretending--they're both so blind sometimes--that this is how it all should be.

She shifts in her sleep, features visible now in the dim light emanating from the hallway, cheeks sheened with shed tears. He shuts his eyes. If he slid in next to her, would she cling to him? Cuddle up close? In her current state, it's entirely possible--even if unlikely--and he opens his eyes again. He told her this would happen, that it would all fall apart. He TOLD her.

"Told you so," he whispers sotto voce.

She doesn't reply. He doesn't want her to.


He dresses quietly, folding her own clothes into a semi-neat pile. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he watches her again.

Her eyes are red, with lids swollen, and the fact that she's been crying tonight would be obvious to all but a blind man. He's not blind, though, no matter how often he crosses his fingers, so he stands and walks away.

Switches off the hall light, finds his boots near the front door, heads into the kitchen. Their coffee mugs--coffee and TV watching; do they really act THAT normal?--are still sitting in the sink so he rinses them quickly and places them in the dishwasher. Slips out the back door and lets it lock behind him with a quiet snick.

The moon is fingernail-size and he stares at it for a long, long moment. He still has a headache but, and he fingers the keys in his hands thoughtfully, it's not bothering him so much now.

He unlocks the shed, wheels out the motorcycle, and after some trial and error, locates the correct key. He removes it from the ring and tosses the rest back into the shed. They scrape to a stop almost exactly where the bike had sat--if that's not a message, he doesn't know what is.


He's rough on the gears and his braking leaves quite a bit to be desired. He has almost no idea of most of the traffic laws--it's next on his reading list, honest--and it's a good thing it's very late--or very early--because otherwise he could well be in quite a lot of trouble. Of course, he probably already IS.

He has a vague idea of where he's going--enough to not get totally lost--but he doesn't really know where he IS. No matter, this isn't about being somewhere anyway. If he really wanted to be somewhere, he'd have stayed at Sam's, aiming for blindness.

His cheeks are stinging from cold, eyes watering just a little, and next time--if there ever is a next time--he'll remember a helmet. Maybe. The wind, the air, rushes around him as he guides a weaving path down the road.

His headache's fading. Finally.

For the first time today--tonight--he smiles. REALLY smiles.


And he's not sure what he deserves but he's beginning to think that, maybe, this is a pretty good start.


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