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To Patch With Gold

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Vala is quiet, and Daniel distrusts this quiet for completely different reasons than his usual distrust of her rare moments of quietude. She has been quiet ever since they got back from the planet where she worked herself to exhaustion trying to save a people she had previously exploited for her own survival, only to watch them fall to the Ori. He is trying to find the right shape for his question, then realizing that perhaps he should not begin with a question at all, when she makes it all much simpler.

“What’s this?” She is holding the kintsugi bowl he keeps on one of his shelves.

“It’s a bowl,” he tells her, because this is still unfamiliar territory between them, her quiet and fragile and him wanting to help her hold herself together, and all of it in a non-crisis situation.

“Yes, I know it’s a bowl. I mean,” she trails her fingers over the golden cracks, “Why is it like this? The gold is a different texture from the rest, like it’s emphasizing the imperfections or something. Why?"

“It’s called kintsugi, and it’s a Japanese technique. They take a cracked or broken piece and fix it with resin, then lacquer the resin with gold, or sometimes silver.” He holds her eyes with his. “It’s a tangible way of showing, through craftsmanship, that brokenness doesn’t need to be hidden, that it’s part of the history of a thing and can, when properly repaired, contribute to its overall beauty."

“Oh,” she says softly, carefully replacing the bowl. He pretends not to see her wiping her damp eyes, face half-turned away from him.

 

He has misjudged her, he knows now. Now that it is too late to tell her.

Not misjudged that she is one of the most obnoxious people in this or any galaxy.

Not misjudged that she can be selfish and irresponsible.

But he has misjudged the lengths to which she will go, once she commits herself to a course of action. Was she always like that, or has she changed in the short time she has been stuck with him?

And there is another thing he misjudged: that it hurts him to lose her. Not the physical hurt caused by the vestiges of the bracelets’ connection snapping, but the ache of loss when he thinks that, even if she survived, he may never see her again.

He has misjudged.

 

Watching the video is a bizarre experience. It is him, but it is very decidedly not him, telling Vala’s story. She is there, using his body for all her little mannerisms and inflections. It is not a comfortable thing, watching himself as her. Or is it her as him?

When she gets to the part about her pregnancy, Daniel does not think of Star Wars, Merlin, Jesus, or any other myth.

He thinks instead of a hot desert place, and a tent, and a cave, and a child born with knowledge not its own. He thinks of aliens that use humans for their purposes and care nothing for the destruction they leave in their wake. And he thinks of Sha’re begging for his forgiveness when he was the one who betrayed her, not the other way around, because what the goa’uld did was never her fault, because how could his failure to give her the life she deserved ever be anything other than a betrayal?

 

“I said, kill him!"

Over my dead body.

It is not a coherent thought so much as an instinct, an instinct that moves her between the blast from Tomin’s weapon and Daniel.

She has learned a lot today.

She has learned that it is possible to be bereft when forcibly separated from the baby she never wanted to have in the first place. That it is possible to be even more horrified by her enemies’ plans for the child than she was when she learned she was pregnant, and then, later, how and why she came to be so.

And now she learns that she will interpose herself between Daniel and danger, without thought and without question.

She would think about avoiding thinking about the implications of this lesson if the wound in her abdomen didn’t hurt so much.

 

“Leave me, grab her."

“Oh, yeah, like that’s gonna happen.”

Never. Never is when that would happen.

Vala just saved his life, provided them with probably their only chance to escape, and isn’t giving him nearly as much of a hard time as he’s pretty sure she should about him stunning Adria before she had a chance to finish healing Vala.

He is not leaving her behind.

(Not when he has just found her again.)

There is fire, and a Prior, and he feels the beam-out begin just in time to throw his arms around Vala as tightly as he can.

And if he is a little slow to let go once they are on board the Odyssey, well, she is still injured, after all.

 

The others disperse, but Vala reaches out and catches Daniel’s hand. “Could you . . . I don’t think I want . . . "

“Yeah, of course,” he says, pulling up a chair.

“Thank you,” she whispers, and he sees the tears trickling down her face; she hasn’t let go of his hand.

“You wanna talk about it?” he asks.

She looks at him, Daniel who saved her when she burned, Daniel who didn’t hesitate to save her instead of capturing Adria, Daniel who always gives her another chance. If there is anyone she can try to explain it to, surely it’s him. “I’m just so tired of being used. Of one thing or another crawling inside me and—“ she cuts herself off with a strangled sob. Daniel squeezes her hand.

“I can’t begin to imagine what you’ve been through,” he tells her. “I mean, I might be able to empathize a little about the being used part, but certainly not—"

“What do you mean?” she interrupts.

“Oh. Uh. Sensitive question you don’t have to answer, but in Egyptian mythology there was some overlap between the goddesses Hathor and Qetesh, in that they were both associated with fertility. We, uh, encountered Hathor in the early days of the program, and she had this pheromone—"

“Yes. Assuming the question is whether Qetesh had something like that, the answer is yes. It was horrible,” Vala says, staring straight ahead. “I mean, even more horrible than when . . .” she trails off, leaving the implications hanging in the air. She is too raw from this fresh attack on her autonomy to name those of the past for what they were.

“Yeah. So, that stuff. The first time we met her. She, uh, I mean, she sort of managed to get to all the men on base—I guess it must’ve reacted with the Y chromosome, because otherwise it really doesn’t make sense that—"

“Daniel,” Vala says, turning back to him and, feeling sick, realizing what he is probably babbling his way towards saying, “did she . . . choose . . . you? I mean, for . . .” She swallows, searching for a way to say it without saying it. “Did she . . . take . . . your DNA?"

He stares at his and Vala’s hands rather than meet her eyes, and nods.

“Then you do understand,” she says softly.

“Maybe a little. I mean, the whole thing happened in less than a day, and Sam and the other women retook the base and got everyone to snap out of it. Hathor escaped, but we eventually killed her. Mostly I just don’t think about it, you know?” He finally looks at her.

“Yes. The not thinking about it is something I’ve gotten very good at. But it doesn’t stop the nightmares."

“No, it doesn’t.”

“You’re a lot more of a mess than I originally thought, aren’t you?"

He smiles ruefully. “You have no idea."

She smiles back, and they sit in silence, still holding hands. Vala wants to say something about how it doesn’t matter that it was over in a day, that once is more than enough for a lifetime of nightmares, but she cannot get the words out.

Silence is easier. She doesn’t usually like silence, but Daniel has a way of making it bearable, welcome even. He fills silences without breaking them.

Vala appreciates this.

 

The universe is out of balance.

It must be, for Vala to be standing on a balcony with Daniel, in Atlantis at last, trying to find the words to comfort him, because he is expressing a lot of hopelessness considering the enormous success of the mission.

Isn’t he supposed to be the endless fount of optimism in all of this?

She leans to the side and bumps her shoulder against his.

“Whaat?” he says, drawing out the vowel just a little in mock annoyance. Well, she’s pretty sure it’s mock, and if it isn’t, annoyance is better than despair, especially from him.

“We on our own destroyed an Ori ship by destroying a Wraith ship today. So what if they don’t help us? I mean, who needs them and their silly rules anyway?"

He smiles at her, but it still does not reach his eyes.

“I wish I could remember,” he says softly.

It is easy to forget that she is not the only one who lost a chunk of her life to powerful alien forces. She wonders whether it makes it better or worse that in his case the aliens were, at least in theory, benevolent.

“All that knowledge,” he continues. “And they won’t—“ he cuts himself off.

Vala has learned many things since meeting Daniel Jackson. One of those is that, in his universe, the most cardinal of sins is the hoarding of knowledge. Even when he was one of them and had a better understanding of the why of their rules, that was one he could not follow. Knowledge was for sharing, to the benefit of all parties.

She thinks this view is both incredibly naive and extremely admirable.

Except, looking at the lines carved into his face and the desperation in his eyes, she thinks she might need to reevaluate the “naive” part of her assessment. Yet another thing she has learned: there is a fine line between naiveté and hope. The disadvantage of landing on the hope side of that line is that it allows for the possibility of despair.

“Don’t give up,” she whispers, hating the rawness of her voice but not knowing how else to get through to him. “Please don’t give up."

He looks at her then, really looks at her, and she knows he is seeing all the cracks in her, all the places she is broken and doesn’t quite fit together anymore, all the things she tries to hide behind actions like annoying him to death while he uses the Atlantis database. Not that she wasn’t legitimately irritated at his refusal to just ask the damn question, and not that she isn’t genuinely amused by how easy it is to rile Daniel up but, well, those aren’t the only reasons she does it.

He nudges her leg with his foot. “Don’t worry,” he tells her. “There’s a running SGC joke that I don’t even give up when I’m dead, and I’ve invested way too much effort in that aspect of my reputation to slack off now."

Funny how, now that she starts to see them, the cracks in him look a lot like the cracks in her.

She is unsure whether or not she should find this comforting.

 

He’s been thinking for a while now that he should tell Vala about Sha’re. The brief version he gives her in the middle of a mission, however, is not at all what he pictured in his half-formed plans. Especially since, even as he tells her, he is not entirely convinced that he wants to, that it’s a good idea. Sha’re is sacred, Sha’re is private, Sha’re is an unhealed wound he doesn’t like people to know he still carries.

But Vala, well, Vala needs empathy and solidarity, and if telling her a little bit about Sha’re will give her that, then OK.

Except now he cannot stop thinking about how much the way she looked at him when he told her reminds him of the way Sha’re looked at him when he told her about his parents. He cannot stop the twist in his gut that is pain and pleasure both when Vala’s night-black hair catches his eye just so, catches the light just so, because though Sha’re’s hair was different in texture and thickness, it was just that color.

 

It was not a date.

There are many, many reasons for this, all of them good ones, he’s sure, but Daniel cannot help but dwell on the fact that, if they do not find her, if she . . . well, if he never sees her again, then their last conversation will be him denying certain things that may not have been quite as untrue as he would like them to be, and being, if he’s honest with himself, really very condescending and patronizing.

He can’t decide whether it’s selfish or not, but he knows he doesn’t want that to have been their last conversation. He doesn’t want that to be the end.

In matters such as this, he rarely gets what he wants. Nearly always, in fact, when what he wants is for a particular individual to not be harmed, he does not get what he wants.

He hates this pattern, but the universe doesn’t generally give a fuck.

Except when it does, because they find her, and he talks her down, and she remembers him and puts down her gun and lets him pull her into his arms and the piece of himself that went missing when she was taken falls back into place.

He returns the flower that fell from her hair during the drive back to the base. She looks at him inquiringly. “It’s yours. It fell out when they took you. I know you like your hair things, so I held onto it for you.” This both is and is not the truth.

“Thank you,” she says, and her smile is so uncertain that he drapes his arm around her shoulders and ignores Sam’s attempt to make eye contact with him in the rearview mirror.

It still wasn’t a date.

 

Watching Daniel in Merlin’s lab reminds Vala of why it is better to be alone, to not care. Caring about people gives them the power to hurt you, because it lets them in through the cracks and then everything shatters. As Daniel gives way to Merlin before her eyes, she can feel herself fracturing. She will hold herself together and by doing so, keep Daniel here, because he cannot do this, it cannot be worth it.

But then he does, and Adria comes, and he lies. He lies and says he will be right behind her and Mitchell drags her through the gate and it shuts off and Daniel did not follow and she shatters, and no one even notices because Daniel is the one who knows where her cracks are and knows when they are too wide.

Knows. She has heard the stories. Daniel Jackson is legendary for always coming back. He will come back. He must come back. He convinced her to make herself vulnerable, to change, so he has to come back. So she doesn’t have to stay broken.

Has to come back because she needs to live in a universe where he is OK.

 

Tomin.

She doesn’t understand how someone who seemed so sweet and kind when she met him can become this.

Or perhaps it is that she understands all too well.

She feels as though she is simultaneously too guilty and not guilty enough for playing on his feelings for her in order to survive, to escape.

She’s not even sure how much of what she tells him is truth and how much is lies.

All she knows is that she has to get away, has to get back to her friends. Her teammates.

Her home.

The place where Daniel will go when he gets away.

And if, in the process, she can increase Tomin’s doubts, remind him that he does not have to be this, so much the better.

(Maybe she can still save someone.)

 

It is tempting to imagine that it is not Adria, but Vala, in these brief moments of sensuality. It would be easy, it would be a comfort, and it would be the worst sort of betrayal. Because he knows that if he makes it out of this alive and is once more confronted with a flesh and blood Vala, he will remember that he cannot let himself know his desires and his feelings, never mind telling her about them. And if he cannot do that, then he has no right to the escape of imagining it is Vala, not Adria, who presses her lips to his and trails her hands along his back.

He is grateful for the strict sexual morality of Origin, because at least it guarantees that she will not expect that of him. But this, too, is a betrayal, because it was that very strictness that forced Vala to marry Tomin just so she could survive.

Was it always like this, back when it was the goa’uld they fought? Was the cost of survival always pain and betrayal? He thinks it must have been simpler and straightforward once, but then he is confronted with the memory of Teal’c, shooting the goa’uld who was killing him with a ribbon device and thus saving his life. Except, of course, that doing so also destroyed him, because the act of destructive salvation that his teammate saw as the only way forward also killed the goa’uld’s host, who was Sha’re, Daniel’s wife, love and light of his life, who deserved to live in peace and joy more than anyone he’s ever met. Thanks to him, her fate was very, very different.

So yes, it has always been like this. Adria trails her hand along his shoulder and down his arm, and for a moment he allows himself the luxury of wondering why the hell he keeps fighting, when it is always like this.

Adria's dark hair catches the light just like Vala’s did. Does.

Of course. That’s why.

 

Vala knows that voice. She would know that voice anywhere, everywhere. That voice speaks to her in her dreams.

She does not want the Prior to pull back his hood.

More than anything in the world, she needs the Prior to pull back his hood.

There will be a reason. An explanation. Coercion, or strategy, or something, anything, so long as it can be undone.

Salvaged. She needs him to be salvageable. She can forgive him anything, if only he will come back.

The Prior pulls back his hood, and she shatters and becomes whole again at the same time.

When did she acquire this instinct to run towards Daniel, no matter the circumstances? Of course, she has a lot of practice suppressing certain instincts, so Mitchell’s hand gripping the back of her vest is unnecessary. Well, unnecessary for preventing her from actually running to Daniel; helpful in grounding her, in forcing her to think of things other than the impossibility of simultaneous wholeness and shattering.

She wishes the Prior had not pushed back his hood.

She wishes she could run to Daniel, because surely he could explain all this. He wouldn’t even have to say anything, just fill the cracks in her with the silence that he fills with the piercing blue of his eyes and the lines of his face and the quirk of his lips.

Priors’ eyes are always clouded.

 

It isn’t supposed to be like this.

They are supposed to believe him.

They are supposed to believe him.

Daniel understands, on an intellectual level, why they do not. Why they cannot, not quite. He knows that carrying out his plan must be the priority, both his and theirs.

But something in him is breaking and screaming screaming screaming.

Hasn’t he proved himself, time and time again? Hasn’t he earned their trust?

No, whispers the memory of Hathor.

How could they possibly? says the part of him that will always long for the sarcophagus.

Don’t be ridiculous cackles the instability that came from Ma’chello, from the light on P4X-347.

Not with your history reminds his instincts to help and befriend Chaka, Reese, Anna.

You’ve pulled them all into danger too many times admits his curiosity.

Have you seen you lately? is the harsh question of his self-loathing.

But the fact remains: he needs them to believe him. He needs them to look past all those things and see that his plan is, well, not so much good as only, as in only chance of taking out the Ori.

And Vala . . . Vala doesn’t even know about most of those past failures, those reasons that Jack can look him in the eye and say no.

She doesn’t know, and he has chosen to believe her again and again, and still she sits there and tells him she cannot take him at his word. Not about this.

Because of Adria.

Adria who has used them both, hurt them both, stolen things intangible but essential from them both.

They were supposed to believe him.

Vala was supposed to believe him.

 

They had all insisted that Daniel return to the infirmary for the flight back to Earth.

Vala wants to comfort him, like he did for her after Adria.

But he rolls over on his side so he faces away from her. "I just want to be alone right now, please," he says.

She's pretty sure he's lying, even without seeing his face, because she recognizes this. This is what she does. Or did, before him. Before he would quietly follow her and just give her this look and somehow it would be safe to not be OK. Daniel saw the cracks when no one else did, and then saw what was behind the cracks, and somehow in the process made her more whole. Daniel made her feel like maybe she could be like the kintsugi bowl in his office someday: all her cracks visible but repaired; repaired with something beautiful, even.

Daniel, she is realizing, does not let people see his cracks. Not the real ones. He wears his heart on his sleeve, as the Tau'ri say, but he hides his cracks.

But she has seen them before. On a balcony in Atlantis. In the car on the way back to the base, after he stood between her and escape in a warehouse and trusted her not to shoot him, trusted her until she remembered enough to step into his arms and let him put her back together. She thinks she can almost see some of them right now. And he is telling her to go away so he can hide them again.

Do hidden cracks ever get repaired, or do they grow and grow until he shatters?

She thinks about what Sam told her about when Daniel ascended, about what she has been reading in old mission reports, trying to understand why he would do what he did in Merlin's lab.

Yes, Daniel has shattered before. She wants to stop it from happening ever again.

“I don’t believe you,” she says softly, reaching out to touch his shoulder, hesitating, not sure whether physical contact is the right thing in this moment.

“Yeah, I’ve been hearing that a lot lately,” he says, and Vala is stunned by the bitterness with which he bites off the words. Bitterness, anger, and most of all, hurt.

She closes her eyes and withdraws her hand.

She doesn’t know how to fix this.

There is the possibility that it is unfixable. Daniel told them the truth and asked for their trust, and they did not give it to him, not until he took drastic action to prove himself.

“I’m sorry,” Vala whispers.

“I will have you kicked out,” Daniel threatens, still facing away from her, either forgetting or pretending to forget the lack of medical personnel on board.

“OK,” she says, and gets up to leave, deliberately making noise so he will know she is doing so.

She barely makes it to the nearest likely-to-remain-unoccupied room before sinking to the ground and burying her face in her hands to cover her sobs.

 

Vala doesn’t reappear for the rest of the flight. This gives him time to think. And dwell.

Driving her away may have been a mistake.

But if she had stayed, he would have told her. And if he’d told her, she would have felt guilty, guilty for a set of circumstances that was in no way her fault. He refuses to increase the burdens she carries, especially when he knows now how unlikely it is that he understands the nature or the extent of them.

They are alike in that way.

And it does hurt, hurts almost more than he can bear, that she wouldn’t, couldn’t believe him. He would be lying if he tried to claim there wasn’t a vindictive element to his refusal to let her try to piece him back together.

Daniel wonders whether anyone but Vala has even the faintest clue what a tangled mess of selfishness and altruism he is, and always has been.

Jack. Jack has a clue. But Jack left, and will be returning to his state of “not here” shortly after they return to Earth.

Besides, Jack is also on the list of people he was sure would believe him, and who most emphatically did not. Not until it was almost too late, not until after Daniel went to extremes to prove himself.

Daniel has always thought that arrogance was one of the few flaws his detractors were utterly wrong in attempting to ascribe to him. He’s beginning to think he might need to revisit that assessment.

Perversely, he wishes Vala were here to annoy him out of this particular iteration of bad mood and into another one.

More perversely still, he resents that, even if she were here, that would not be her strategy, because she has spent more time with him than with anyone else, and so the growth and change she has undergone have a distinct slant towards behaviors and thought processes that come as close to resembling what he might do as possible while still being authentically Vala-esque.

In short, because she has become, or has allowed herself to show that she is, the sort of person who cares about what he needs, she will not give him what he is mostly certain he needs in this moment. At least in terms of needs that are actually within the scope of possibility.

He has many needs that lie utterly outside that scope. Those, he is well-versed in ignoring.

 

Once she has herself back under control, Vala thinks back over everything Daniel has said since they first beamed him off the planet, trying to find something, anything she can latch onto and change to something else and smooth into the cracks before it is too late.

Whether it is the cracks in him or the cracks in their relationship, she chooses not to examine. She also chooses not to examine why she chooses not to examine this.

This is not her skill set. This is not what she does. This is what Daniel does, the finding of threads, the parsing of sentences, the smoothing of cracks.

She suspects he has never been able to do this for himself.

She wonders whether he will let her try to do it for him.

She chooses not to contemplate what will happen if he continuously does not.

 

Daniel can feel the concern rolling off them in waves, feel them wanting reassurance that he is OK. Wanting to help him be OK.

He is not interested.

What happened, happened, and no amount of coffee, cookies, sympathetic glances, or whatever else they decide to try will change it.

Medical clears him. They debrief with Landry. Jack catches his eye as they leave, clearly wanting a word, wanting to smooth things over.

“See you around,” Daniel says, and leaves Jack standing there.

He feels rather than sees Sam and Teal’c preventing Jack, Vala, and Cam from going after him.

He supposes he should be grateful, but all he feels is numb.

No, he wishes that all he feels is numb. What he feels is hurt and guilt and wrongness and rawness and as though Adria left bloody fingerprints everywhere she touched him as a declaration for anyone who lays eyes on him, look, you see, I made him mine and he let me because deep down it’s what he wanted.

He closes his eyes and leans against the corridor wall, attempting to get his breathing under control.

 

Vala manages to dodge Sam and Teal’c and go after Daniel. She might not understand its nature, but she understands that Daniel is in pain, and she and the others have something to do with it. If they are part of the problem, then surely they must be part of the solution. Sam and Teal’c don’t know everything, and not all habits are good ones.

She hopes she is making the right choice.

She finds him in a corridor, leaning against the wall, eyes closed, pale. She approaches and lays a hand on his shoulder.

There is a hand on his shoulder. A slender, gentle hand, and for a moment he forgets where he is, cannot remember whether he is safe on the base or still with Adria, still needing her to think he is hers, so he reaches up and covers the hand with his own and prepares his lie for when she asks him what he is doing.

But when he opens his eyes it is Vala, looking at him with concern and confusion in her big gray eyes.

He jerks away from her, eyes wide and muscles tense, and as he begins to hurry away from her, recognition and the resultant horror settle like a stone in the pit of her stomach.

“Daniel,” she says, soft and sharp. He stops, but he does not turn towards her. The corridor is empty. “You do not ever need to feel ashamed of doing what was necessary for your own survival."

He turns and slaps her across the face.

No, wait, that isn’t what he does.

He turns, his eyes icy, voice low and cutting, and says “Don’t you dare compare whatever ways you debased yourself to save your own sorry skin to what I had to do to give us a chance of saving the entire galaxy from your mistakes."

She would have preferred the slap.

She doesn’t know how long she stands, frozen, in the corridor, personnel flowing around her with curious, concerned glances, until Sam arrives and steers her back to her quarters.

 

Daniel hates himself.

This is not an infrequent occurrence.

But he doesn’t think he’s hated himself this much since the day Sha’re gave birth on Abydos. Specifically, the moment Teal’c pointed out that he was being a self-pitying douchebag who needed to pull his head out of his ass and behave like a decent human being.

Not that Teal’c put it quite that way, but it was the truth.

He can’t believe he said that to her. Can’t believe that in one sentence, just one carefully-phrased sentence he, 1) made both assumptions and judgments about her past experiences, 2) blamed her for the Ori presence in the Milky Way, and 3) ignored and dismissed her attempt to tactfully let him know that she’d realized at least part of the nature of his relationship with Adria, and she wanted to help him.

He removes his glasses and presses the heels of his hands against his eyes, as if doing so will stop the tears attempting to form there.

He hates himself so goddamn much.

 

“What happened?” Sam asks Vala once they are seated in Vala’s quarters, Sam’s arm around Vala’s shoulders.

Vala shakes her head. She understands lashing out because you are hurt and vulnerable and unsure whether anyone can be trusted with that hurt and vulnerability. She understands this. She recognizes this. She can forgive this.

The problem is the part of her that wonders how much he meant it. She wants to believe he meant none of it at all, but she is still far too fragile, his reactions far too unpredictable, for her to be able to indulge that belief.

She wants to tell Sam. The problem is, Sam is too good a friend to both of them. If she tells Sam only what Daniel said and frames it as his response to her attempt at sympathy, Sam will be angry at Daniel, will go and, oh, what is that lovely Tau’ri phrase? Read . . . read him the riot act on Vala’s behalf. This is not what she wants, because it would not be fair, would make Daniel feel more alone and miserable than she knows he already does. But to tell Sam what she deduced would be, in a strange way, a betrayal of confidence. He did not tell her with words, and he did not mean to tell her at all, but he did tell her, and she is sure he doesn’t want the others to know; if he did, he would have mentioned it when explaining where he’d been, what he’d been doing, and what his plan was.

“Vala, talk to me, please,” Sam tries again.

“I can’t,” Vala manages to say, voice thick with unshed tears. “It’s . . . it’s complicated, and it’s private. Please don’t ask me—“ she sobs once, then stops. She will lock it all down. She used to be so good at that.

Then Daniel.

Then Daniel.

And now Daniel . . .

“OK,” Sam says, and wraps her other arm around Vala’s shoulders and squeezes.

Vala wishes she could find more comfort in the reminder that Daniel is not the only one who holds her together when she breaks. Maybe she would, if he wasn’t the one who broke her this time.

 

“Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c says from the doorway of Daniel’s office.

“Not a good time, Teal’c."

Teal’c does not move. “You are troubled."

“Close the door,” Daniel says tiredly. Teal’c does so. Then he waits.

Daniel can wait, too.

He’s not going to talk about it.

He’s not.

Teal’c is very good at waiting.

Mitchell does not knock before barging into the office.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” he demands.

Daniel attempts to look confused.

“Why,” Mitchell amends, biting the word off at the end, tone clipped and angry, “are Vala and Sam in the mess, with Vala looking like a mess and eating everything with chocolate in it and refusing to say what’s got her so upset?"

“Why would you assume that has anything to do with me?” Daniel says, tone too defensive. He knows why they can’t just leave him to sabotage his . . . friendship . . . with Vala, but he wishes they would. He wishes they would leave him to self-destruct in peace.

“Well gee, I don’t know, maybe because if anyone else made her that damn miserable she would tell us! What the hell has gotten into you, anyway?"

That’s the opening he needs.

“Hmm, I wonder. I mean, it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with spending weeks as Adria’s lapdog for the sake of giving us a chance against the Ori, only to have my teammates, my friends or so I thought, refuse to believe that I was on their side now could it? Hard to imagine why that might be upsetting, I know."

“Hey, whoa, time out. Are you seriously blaming us for hesitating to shut down the wormhole that was preventing the Ori armies from sending more ships through?” Mitchell asks, voice rising. “Especially when the intel came from a Prior—"

“From me!” Daniel yells, cutting Mitchell off. “From a Prior who was me. But you know what, I get it. It’s fine. I’m not trustworthy. I’m a curious, gullible screw-up and should be treated as such. It’s fine. Just . . . just don’t expect me to act like you guys think otherwise, OK?"

Mitchell shakes his head. “You don’t mean that. We don’t think that way about you, and you don’t believe that we do. I’m sorry we had to be cautious, and I’m even more sorry for whatever details of what you went through you’re not telling us. If you need some time to deal, that’s fine. But quit taking it out on us, and . . . look, I never know what the hell is goin’ on with you and Vala, but I’m pretty sure you owe her an apology."

“I’ll think about it,” Daniel mutters darkly.

Mitchell leaves, but Teal’c is still there.

“Something you’d like to add?” Daniel asks harshly.

“Whatever you think you are protecting her from, it is not working."

“No offense, Teal’c, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” This is a lie, but if it’s a lie that will make the Jaffa go away, he can live with that.

“Perhaps,” Teal’c says, and gets up to leave. He pauses by the door. “Whether I am right or wrong, Colonel Mitchell was correct: you owe Vala Mal Doran an apology."

“I know,” Daniel whispers, long after Teal’c is gone.

Forty-five minutes later, Sam shows up.

“Hey, so, Cam told me what you said,” she says cautiously.

“Yeah?” He is too tired for this. Too full of self-loathing for this. But it’s Sam, and she probably ascertained both those things as soon as she laid eyes on him.

“Yeah. Daniel . . . you have to know it wasn’t like that. We trust you. We believe you. We just didn’t know whether you were you. I’m not saying . . . I can understand why that would still be hard. I just don’t want you to think—"

“No, I get it. I was out of line. There’s just . . . it’s just kinda rough right now. I’ll be fine.” It’s the traditional thing to say, that he will be fine. It turns out to be a lie less than half the time.

“Is there anything—"

“No."

“OK.” She says it softly. He probably doesn’t deserve a friend like Sam. A closest-thing-he’ll-ever-have-to-a-sister like Sam. “Do you think . . . do you think you could talk to Vala?"

Daniel doesn’t know whether Sam’s kind, understated way of calling him on his bullshit is easier or harder to deal with than Mitchell and Teal’c’s forthrightness.

“Yeah. Yeah, I should probably do that."

Sam nods, and leaves him to his thoughts.

 

Vala contemplates not answering the soft knock at her door. She knows it’s him. But if he is coming to her, then surely, surely he has come to explain, to apologize, to repair and smooth and make right.

She cannot refuse that, so she opens the door.

Daniel stands there, hands in his pockets, eyes downcast. “Can I come in?” he asks, looking up through his lashes and not quite meeting her eyes. She nods and steps aside.

“So, the thing is,” he says, once she closes the door, “is that I’m an enormous ass. There is absolutely no excuse for what I said to you earlier. None. So I’m sorry."

“Then why did you say it?” she asks, arms tightly crossed over her chest.

“What?"

“Why did you say it?” she repeats. “I agree that there’s no excuse, but you still must’ve had a reason, and I want to know what it is. I think you owe me that."

“Oh, I owe you that?” he says, and she can hear the temper flaring in his voice. “I owe you that? Sure, I mean it’s not like you just assumed, not like you made protecting you—"

Protecting me?” she interrupts, her own voice rising. “What do you mean, protecting me? I’m not the one who needs protecting right now!"

“From Adria!” he shouts. “I was protecting you from Adria, from having to know what she did to me! I didn’t want you to have to live with your daughter—"

“She is not my daughter!” Vala yells. Her arms are at her sides now, hands balled into fists, and she storms right into Daniel’s personal space and hisses, “How many times do I have to say it? I never wanted a child, not ever. They used me as the vessel to get her across the border, nothing more. If I choose to exploit her perception of our relationship in the hopes of saving lives, that’s my business and mine alone. And do you honestly think,” her voice is rising again, “that, that what she did to you is worse than mass murder? Because I’ve seen her do that! Do you think it’s worse than watching her order Tomin to kill you, than watching her try to kill you? Because I’ve seen her do that, too, Daniel! How dare you think you have the right to . . . to limit my knowledge of her atrocities out of some misguided, paternalistic perception that the fact that I was forced to give birth to her somehow changes the way I feel about her?” She is yelling by the end, then her voice drops to a whisper and, almost against her will, she repeats, “I’ve watched her try to kill you."

He stares at her, for once at a loss for words.

Vala nods, blinking in an attempt to prevent the tears in her eyes from falling. “I think you should go,” she says. “You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to, but you don’t get to hide behind some false sense of noble sacrifice when you do it, especially not if you’re going to say things like what you said instead of just telling me you don’t want to talk about it.” She turns until her back is to both him and the door. "I can’t be around you until I’m sure you understand that."

“Vala.” He says it so brokenly that she almost turns, almost runs to him because she knows she knows they are both shattered now, both sitting in the middle of a mess of fragments with no clue how to even begin to piece them back together.

“I’m sorry,” she says, “but I need you to go."

“OK,” he whispers, and she hears his footsteps, hears the door open then close, and she is alone.