The waiter has finally left, and now it's just Daniel and Vala. She's exquisite sitting there across from him, her face aglow in the candlelight. He can't stop himself from wanting her to finally hear how he feels: "Listen—"
She leans forward just as he does, eager to tell him something. "Ah—"
Their words collide and they instantly stop, arresting a moment heavy with anticipation. He loves to hear her speak (even when she's badgering him to irritation) but he can't be sure whether what she has to say will derail his train of thought. She's rediscovered who she was before becoming a con artist and a Goa'uld host and a woman trapped in a marriage of convenience by forced pregnancy — perhaps a village lass who led a simple life?
"Oh," she breathes, seeming to realize the gravity of what he needs to say.
"Uh, lemme start," he offers, pointing to himself. If he doesn't say it now, he won't ever be able to say it.
"Okay." She settles back into her chair.
"Um, look, I know it hasn't been easy for you adjusting to your new life here, learning to trust other people and, most importantly, refusing the temptation to fall back on your old ways."
Vala acknowledges his veiled reference to her criminal past with a short nod.
He continues. "But you have worked hard to make a place for yourself with us and, and dinner tonight is my way of saying thank you. Thank you for, for proving me right when I said we could take a chance on you."
Oh god. That's the opposite of what he wants to say. It came out so damn condescending, and he wants to do it over.
She smiles awkwardly and looks down for a second. "I don't know what to say." Ohgodohgodohgod he screwed up. She obviously wasn't expecting him to bring up such a serious subject.
He shakes his head to lighten the mood. "Just say what you were gonna say before I interrupted."
"Okay. I need to use the bathroom."
Great timing there, Danny. If only he'd waited a minute to get settled instead of blurting out everything too soon. He tries to deflect his disappointment, and fails. "Yeah, it's…" He points over his shoulder and nods towards the back of the dining area.
And then she leaves, with an affectionate finger-tap to his cheek, to go to the bathroom — and gets kidnaped. He won't be able to sleep until he gets her back.
"Uh—" she starts. In her hair there's a flower the same color as the one in the restaurant's name: Il Fiore Bianco.
"Listen—" he begins, at the same time.
"Oh." She's so beautiful, it breaks his heart.
"Um. Lemme start."
This time, it'll come out right. "Err, look, you've adjusted to your new life here as though you belong, and in trusting us, we're learning to trust you, and you've risen above our expectations. I was right all along about you. You're proven to everyone that I'm right. This dinner is just a small token of my gratitude."
"What?" She frowns. "So you had a betting pool against me, and won it against all odds?"
"No!" Oh god no this is worse.
"I'd better get more than a meal out of this," she fumes. "I want my split in cash."
"Vala, no, I didn't mean—"
"Fine. Enjoy your victory meal. I'm hitching a ride back to the next planet."
She leaves faster than he can pull out a twenty to pay for the drinks they'd ordered but won't get a chance to enjoy. Why had he wasted time fussing with the tab?
The flower that fell from her hair onto the sidewalk is all he has left of her for weeks.
"Vala, look, I, you, we. Um..."
"Are you okay?"
"Do you need to go to the bathroom before we get started?" he blurts.
"Started on what? You just finished saying we're friends and co-workers out to dinner. Drinks haven't even arrived yet."
"Just… here," he says, rising from his chair and walking over to assist her from the table. "I'll show you where the bathrooms are. Your passion fruit martini will be ready when we get back."
She chuckles nervously and gives him a skeptical look.
There's a man talking on a payphone near the restrooms. Daniel glares at him as Vala slips into the ladies' room.
The next thing he knows, he's waking up in an ambulance. His carotid artery had been injected with some type of knockout drug. He can't think clearly.
Vala's gone. She'd been abducted by the Trust. She never returns.
Earth falls to the Ori.
"Okay," Vala says. "I need to use the bathroom."
"Yeah," he nods. "I do too."
This time he pretends not to notice the guy at the payphone. He enters the men's bathroom after Vala goes into the ladies' room, but immediately comes back out. The hallway's empty.
"Vala!" he knocks on the women's room door.
There's scuffling inside. He barges in, just in time to see the soles of her boots disappear through a window as she's dragged through it. He rushes after her, but gunshots go off, and the fourth shot suddenly turns everything red, and then white, and then he's sitting in a diner, dumping sugar into his coffee.
His waitress Oma tells him not to interfere.
There's a balding elderly man with a white beard in the booth across, flirting with a pixie-haired brunette in her early twenties.
The family at the next table give their order to a waitress with raven-black pigtails and a nametag that reads, "Val".
"Um, look, I know it hasn't been easy for you, adjusting to your new life here, learning to trust other people. Learning to trust me."
"I trust you, Daniel, because you tried to save me from what my own husband wouldn't. When you hardly even knew me."
It takes him a second to process her meaning; Tomin had abandoned her in the village square, whereas Daniel had to be restrained by two men to keep from rescuing her. He steadies himself with a deep breath. "I was a husband once. I have to be honest here; I'm not yet in that… that place where I feel I could get close to somebody again. So dinner is my way of saying thanks. Thanks for letting me be your friend first."
She's stunned speechless, but gives him a shy smile and puts her hand on his. He clasps her fingers and gives them a squeeze before picking up the menu and pretending to read. All he can see are letters, not words.
The waiter returns with their drinks, they finally order entrées, and then share the most enjoyable dinner he's had in years. If this were a date, he'd be certain of a second one, leading to a whirlwind courtship, and the start of completely getting over the death of Sha're. But he can't allow himself to dream when they're so opposite, so wrong for each other. She shows, he tells. She takes action, he analyzes. She bites, he tastes—
"I really need to go to the bathroom before we have dessert," she whispers.
"Oh, it's over there," he points.
"Okay." She leaves, smiling, with an affectionate finger-tap to his cheek and a playful growl. His pants suddenly get tighter in the front as his mind wanders into pornographic territory.
"Your friend has taken ill," the waiter says, interrupting Daniel's reverie as he brings the dessert menu.
"What?" His heart sinks as dread rises. "Where is she?"
"Um… she was escorted outside by another gentleman." God no, not again. If he hadn't let down his guard and stayed mindful of her safety, she'd never have been abducted.
"I don't know what to say."
"Just say what you were gonna say before I interrupted."
"Okay. I need to use the bathroom."
"Vala, wait. Act natural and sit tight," he whispers. "We're being surveilled." He pulls out his cellphone and sends a text to Mitchell.
"Jackson! Rise and shine."
He wakes up in his office at the SGC, surrounded by books and research, searching for clues in the most obscure sources that might explain Vala's abduction. He'd dozed off several times throughout the night, fraught with worry over her, trying to figure out where he'd gone wrong. "What is it? Wh-what's, what's goin' on?" He fumbles for his glasses.
"Barrett, he came through for us," Mitchell explains. "Just sent over a list of suspected Trust safehouses. Hopefully our girl's in one of 'em."
Daniel snaps into action, relieved that there's more action he can take to get her back than just sitting and fretting.
Two agonizing weeks pass until he sees her again, holds her in his arms, and again denies that it was a date.
Almost a year passes when Tomin, clad in Ori armor, clasps Daniel's hand in farewell, giving him a look that speaks volumes. "It was your name she said in her sleep," he declares, before the Odyssey beams him away for his journey to the Supergate and back to his galaxy.
Vala stands in the Gateroom, her brave, wistful smile telling the permanency of her loss. All the painful goodbyes Daniel's had in this room have shaped the way he sees her, framing her in square corners that break with his heart when he reads the dejection written in hers.
This is where you belong. Instead, it comes out, "You wanna get something to eat?"
She shakes her head, her eyes unfocused and wet.
"I mean, not here. Outside. We can go someplace casual, quiet."
She perks up, pulling herself straighter, becoming the Vala everyone usually sees.
"As your friend, or as your co-worker?"
"Both. But," he smiles, resting a hand across her shoulder, "also as my date."
Her startled look shifts by degrees into a Vala he rarely sees: hopeful, warm, trusting. "I'd like that. Very much."