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Daniel settled back in his own bed, relishing the quiet darkness. It'd been six weeks since the last time he slept there. Sure, that was shorter than the amount of time he thought he'd be away, but it was still six weeks. He scrubbed his face. Like it mattered, the SGC was more like home than this new apartment. This half-packed, half-unpacked apartment that still felt transitory. This storage closet of cardboard boxes marked "Kitchen," "Books," and "Egyptian Burial Urns."

This quiet, boring apartment Vala had never even seen.

Daniel turned on his side, drawing up his legs. He felt ridiculous—a grown man tucking himself up into a fetal position. He pinched the bridge of his nose, willing away tears.

He'd never met a woman like her before.

He wasn't prepared for her.

Daniel rolled to his back. His ceiling was stark white—cleaner than previous apartments. The building was relatively new. He still wasn't quite sure why he'd sold the house—it was too big, the neighbors too nosy, the teenagers once egged his car. None of that was true, but seemed like perfectly logical reasons. But everything was trivial when he realized what he had lost.

He closed his eyes, trying to convince himself that he was thinking of his house, of privacy and permanence—not intimacy and—and that other thing that he wasn't going to think about.

But there she was—on the edge of his mind, just the way she'd been in the corner of his office for six weeks. Every time he turned around she was there. Persistent. Constant. Annoying.

It had been less than twenty-four hours since he'd lost her. The silence was devastating.

He sat up and took a couple of deep breaths.

"Find something else to do," he muttered. Checking the clock he saw it was 2:57. Only good thing to do at this hour was read.

He pushed away the bed covers and stood up, wishing he was wearing more than his boxers. The air was colder than he thought it would be; goose bumps rose on his flesh. His door would lead to salvation—his book collection and the chance to occupy his mind with something—anything—else. But his bed was an inviting warmth that on a cold night was almost as good as a lover.

He sighed, knowing exactly how exhausted he felt, knowing that he should try harder to fall asleep, knowing that if he got up he'd be awake all night.

He got back in bed, lying on his side, and immediately she was there in his mind. Vala—beautiful, spunky, pain-in-the-ass Vala.

He closed his eyes, never feeling more alone. Even though the bond between them had been fading, he'd grown used to her presence. He'd even—he'd even started to like her.

He turned his face into his pillow, softly cursing at himself.

He should have told her. Would it have been so hard to admit that yes, he liked her; yes, he was attracted to her; yes, he wanted her to stay on Earth? What would it have cost him to admit the truth?

Daniel pulled the covers up around his shoulders and closed his eyes. He inhaled through his nose and could almost smell her hair—sweet, like apples—and her skin—un-perfumed and natural.

He reached a hand into the darkness—knowing he wouldn't find her there, but wanting it so badly that he hoped he could make it real.

His hand contacted fabric—a little lacy, soft—and Daniel thought of her scarf. He had pulled it off her neck on the Prometheus. He had been trying to scold her, show her that she wasn't the boss and that he set the rules. And he'd kept her scarf. He'd asked Landry for her other possessions, but the guys at Area 51 were going over them and it would be months before Daniel would receive them.

But he still had her scarf.

Her real scarf was shoved in the bottom drawer of his dresser, but he gave into the hallucination. He pulled the fabric to his cheek and inhaled, smelling Vala all over again. The fabric was still warm, as though he'd just pulled it from her skin.

"I didn't think you'd get so dramatic over a scarf."

Daniel's eyes shocked open at the sound of Vala's voice.

The bedside lamp was switched on, softly illuminating the woman of his dreams.

"You look surprised." Vala sat on the edge of the bed. She crossed one foot over her knee, unzipping her leather boot.

"Yeah, well—" Daniel scrabbled for his glasses, perching them on his nose. "You're—you know."

"Amazing? Incredible? Lovable?" Vala dropped her voice. "Desirable?"

Daniel reached out, placing a hand on her solid shoulder. Her flesh was warm and soft—the leather touching the edge of his palm smooth and cold. "I was thinking of another d-word."

"Delectable?" Vala pulled her boot off and dropped it to the ground. She gripped the top of her black sock and pulled it off her calf, turning it inside out, revealing porcelain white skin inch by inch.

Daniel pressed his hand against her more firmly. "Vala?"

Vala turned and leaned over Daniel, pushing him back into a horizontal position. "Daniel, I'm here. Just shut up."

She kissed him.

Her breath was warm and cinnamon; her lips were soft and pushing against his insistently. Her tongue slipped between his dry lips, the muscle flexing in his mouth and around his own tongue.

His arms fit around her, squeaking against her leather bodice. He squeezed her, feeling her small, thin figure in his embrace—solid, real, alive.

She gasped, breaking the kiss.

"You're alive," he whispered against her lips. He pressed his forehead to hers, closing his eyes.

He felt her smile, the muscles around her eyes crinkling, her cheekbones lifting. "As are you, darling." She kissed him again, briefly this time. "Does that death grip mean that you've finally succumbed?"

Daniel loosened his hold and leaned back, allowing her features to focus. "Succumbed?"

"To my willful and incessant charm." She winked.

The relief washed from his lungs, his brow immediately furrowing. "Charm?" He released his hold on her and sat up, pushing her away. "Vala—charm is not your strong suit."

She sat back, tucking her bare foot under her leg. "Daniel—I was just in your arms—can't we forget about your pride?"

Daniel sat up straight and folded his arms over his chest. "My pride?"

"Yes, your pride." Vala turned and unzipped her other boot, flinging it to the ground with enough force for the neighbors to notice. "That thing inside you that won't let you admit that you have feelings for me." Her second sock came off, though this one less tantalizing than the first.

"I do not—"

Vala put a finger over his mouth. "You can't lie to me. I know."

Daniel covered his eyes and sighed.

"I felt the way you held me." Vala's voice dropped to barely a breath. "You kissed me back." She ducked her head, her line of sight probably focused on his broad expanse of chest.

Daniel dropped his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "It doesn’t mean anything."

Vala's fingertips pressed against Daniel's chest, slowly allowing more of their skin to meet. "It means everything."

Her arm was thin, but toned, no bulky muscle, but clearly strong. She had the body of a queen, and the face of a goddess. Daniel blinked, realizing he had been staring into her dark eyes for far too long.

"I can't afford it." Daniel pushed the covers off his legs and scooted toward the far edge of the bed—away from Vala.

"Can't afford what?" Vala reached behind her back and began tugging, maneuvering like a contortionist.

"A relationship," Daniel murmured over his shoulder.

Vala stopped moving and quirked her head. Her pigtails flopped with her head movement. "A relationship in general or a relationship with me?"

Daniel bit his lip and then bit the bullet. "You."

Vala nodded. She reached behind her back again and this time her smile was accompanied by the sound of a zipper. She pulled away her leather bodice, naked underneath.

Daniel turned toward her, eyes regrettably locked on her perk breasts. Some part of his brain was fascinated by his reaction to bare breasts—it had been quite awhile since he'd seen any in a setting like this—even longer since he'd actually seen a pair in his own bedroom—and Daniel was reacting as a typical male: staring, drooling, hardening.

She crawled across the bed, still wearing her black leather pants. She plucked his glasses from his nose and placed them on the bedside table. "Wouldn't want these to get broken."

"You already broke one pair." Daniel's hands moved independently and he was touching her shoulder the same way he'd like to touch her breast—delicately, letting the roundness fill his palm.

"Lucky you had a spare." She kneeled in front of him, setting back her shoulders, and lifting her ribcage.

"Lucky," Daniel breathed.

Vala reached out and touched his cheek. "I liked the beard." She sounded almost wistful.

Daniel leaned closer to her. His hand drifted from her shoulder to her chest. The heel of his palm just touched the rise of her breast. He breathed on her cheek and goose bumps rose along her neck. He lowered his mouth to her neck, breathed again, and she shivered.

"I'll grow it back."

He licked her flesh, tasting her neck. She was salty, but definitely smelled like apples—he hadn't just imagined that.

Her head lolled back and she gasped his name.

He kissed, licked, and bit at her neck, sucking, wanting, needing. "We can't—this doesn't change—I'm still not."

Vala's hands seized his shoulders, clawing into the muscle, threatening to tear him apart in the most delicious of ways. "Just let this be, Daniel."

Daniel pulled her against him, feeling her breasts flatten against his chest, feeling her skin enrich his. He kissed her neck over and over.

"I can't. I can't just do this."

Vala rubbed smooth circles into his back. She ran chilling fingernails up and down his spine. She kissed up his cheek to the top of his head. She murmured into his hair, "Would it help if I told you that I love you?"

"Do you?"

Vala's mouth seized his. They each fought for control of the kiss. Daniel thought of the floor of the Prometheus—the two of them locked in their first passionate kiss—each of them battling for dominance over the other in a dance that was clearly a mating ritual. The physical exertion, the frustration, the need for survival—Daniel should have realized then how he felt about Vala.

He gripped her hips and then pushed her, forcing her on her back underneath him.

"Daniel," she gasped.

His name sounded so good on her lips.

"Say my name again." He lowered himself down her neck, across her chest, and to her breast. He left a trail of damp kisses and light bites. He stopped, hovering, breathing over a wet hickey just above her nipple. "Say it."

Her hands seized his head, crushing his face into her breast. Her smell filled his nostrils. She smelled stronger now, much more salty—the scent of her arousal strong and driving his base instincts. He clawed his fingers into her shoulders, needing to touch more of her, all of her.

He nipped her flesh.

She yelped and let go of his head.

He loomed over her, suddenly ducking down to roughly kiss her lips.

"Just say my name," he said calmly.

Vala snapped her mouth closed, exaggeratedly pulling her lower lip over her upper lip.

Daniel cocked an eyebrow. "Vala . . ."

She smiled around her tightly closed mouth.

"Just answer one question. Please." Daniel sat up, straddling her hips. His hands moved to her zipper, tracing the track—she flinched. "Do you want this?"

She grabbed his knees and she at him with something akin to desperation.

"You have to say it." His fingers dipped lower than the zipper track, pressing the leather against her soft flesh.

She closed her eyes and moaned. Her legs squeaked as they rubbed against each other. She shifted, trying to find friction, release—he knew that kind of pain.

"You say it," Vala snapped. She walked her fingers up his bare thighs and into his boxers, shifting the hair on his legs as she rubbed. "You tell me."

Daniel pushed harder, rubbing two stiff fingers in a long stroke. Vala's next sentence was drowned in a moan.

Vala retaliated by running her fingers along the crevice between Daniel's leg and pelvis. She teased the area, tickling into the pubic hair but spending most of her time closer to his hip.

Daniel's head dipped back, his eyes slit open, vaguely aware that he was once again looking at his extremely white ceiling. Except now the ceiling seemed vibrant. The small part of Daniel's brain that retained higher function laughed—the ceiling was vibrant; he definitely needed to get laid more often.

Daniel's head snapped forward, Vala coming into focus after dizzying reorientation. "We're going to have sex, aren't we?" Vala wiggled her fingers, briefly brushing Daniel's penis. Daniel's eyes slipped half closed and his throat gurgled. "That's what this has all been leading towards," he gasped.

Vala slipped her other hand behind her head. She stroked Daniel's penis with the backs of her fingers. "If that's what you want," she softly said.

Daniel exhaled harshly, causing a soft growl deep in his throat. He seized her zipper and yanked.

"Careful!" she squeaked.

Daniel ignored her and started pulling the leather off her legs. He licked her skin as it was revealed—switching from right to left, as though he didn't know which leg he wanted to taste first because—really—he wanted two mouths so he wouldn't have to choose.

He finally flung the pants off the bed. One of the legs must have hit the trashcan because there was a definite toppling sound and a solid thunk as heavy metal hit the hardwood floor.

Daniel stood and ripped off his boxers. His penis caught on the elastic band, springing back painfully. A bead of pre-come smeared across the head of his penis.

Daniel reached for Vala's simple black underwear, hooking his fingers over the waistband. He pulled, snagging the material around her knees. He lifted her slender ankle in his hand, lifting her foot to his face, kissing the bridge as he pulled her underwear off one leg. She stretched her other leg up so he didn't have to let go. The panties went over his shoulder. Daniel imagined them landing just on the edge of his dresser so that they hung off—abused and limp like a sated lover—something he imagined he would be shortly.

For once in his life, he was resigned to being abused and sort of . . . excited about it.

"Daniel?" Vala put her foot on his chest, as though it were her hand. Daniel briefly wondered how often she'd had to use her feet as hands to hold back an over-amorous man.

Daniel blinked. He sort of realized that she was going to say something important.

"What kind of—Earth—what sort of . . ." Vala made vague gestures to their respective genitalia. Then she made some lewd hand gestures that in any other setting would have made Daniel blush and roll his eyes, but currently he found them strangely arousing—shadow puppets as foreplay almost made him laugh.

"Oh." Daniel suddenly caught on. "Contraceptives."

Vala nodded. "Not that we wouldn't have lovely children." She wiggled her toe under his chin. "I just don't think I'm yet the mothering type."

Daniel grinned, pursing his lips. "No, I don't suspect you would be." Daniel looked over his shoulder to his dresser, wondering slightly if he even remembered what condoms looked liked. "I . . ." Daniel thought hard. There was zero chance of him actually having anything. And the nearest drug store was closed. The next nearest was too far away—and possibly also closed.

"It's okay." Vala seemed to understand his hesitation. "We'll be careful." She sat up, her abdomen flexing. On her knees they were nearly the same height. She slid her arms around Daniel's waist. "I trust you. I just thought I'd ask." She looked at him with one eye open. "Though I have to say, it's not like you to not be prepared."

Daniel petted her head, trailing his fingers through a pigtail and letting all the hair run between his fingers. "It's not often that I plan to seduce women."

"So you weren't planning to seduce me?" She kissed his chest, pulling him closer to her.

"You? You happened to me. I had no choice." Daniel laughed. He ran his fingers through her hair again. "I suspect that most things with you are your choice."

Vala grinned. "Most things," she agreed.

Daniel suddenly scooped her up, her legs draping over one arm, her back supported by the other arm. His carried her the two steps to the head of the bed. Her arms encircled his neck, and she leaned against his shoulder. For a brief moment he was a knight in shining armor and she was a princess.

He laid her out on the bed and whispered to her, "I promise." He kissed her shoulder and leaned over her, for the first time feeling their flesh touching. The long length of her torso, the curve of her hip which perfectly fit his hand. Fire ignited under his skin. He closed his eyes because it was all just too much—too many sensations at once and his sight was the one thing he could turn off.

He smelled her hand, felt it shadow his face before her touch rested against his cheek. He leaned into it, turning his face so that his nose brushed into her palm.

His hands mapped her form, sightless. He concentrated on the smoothness of her skin, the light tickling of hair on her arm, the way her side curved.

She placed both hands on his cheeks and guided his face to hers. They kissed. The kisses started off slow, building in passion with each duck of the chin and lick of the lips. The kisses became sloppy, teeth clacking, saliva coating lips; Daniel couldn't get enough.

Their hands squeezed, scratched, and roved each other's skin.

The only sound was frenzied breathing through noses.

Daniel finally pulled back, resting his forehead on hers; both of them panted in each other's face.

Vala's mouth had a glistening ring around it. Her lips were a purplish-pink. He felt like they'd just started and she was already looking bruised.

He rubbed against her, barely sliding his penis against her thigh as he ground his pelvis into her flesh. She pushed her leg against him and moaned.

He grabbed her breast, his hand fully encompassing the soft, firm flesh. Her nipple jabbed into his palm, the erectile tissue forming hard little nubs that beaded against his skin. He sucked on the rise of her other breast, keeping up the gentle cant of his hips. Her moans were the a cappella realization of Daniel's rhythm.

"D-Daniel. Oh god," she ground out, finally finding words.

He squeezed her breast lightly, reassuring, silently telling her, "Yes, Vala. Oh, god, too."

He sucked her nipple into his mouth, worrying it with his tongue. He wanted to leave a hickey. He wanted to cover her body in hickeys. Vala was his and he wanted to mark her so that everyone would see. He wanted everyone to know that she belonged to Daniel.

Daniel flinched, panting over her breast. He couldn't have her. He'd forgotten. They were letting this be for now, but when this was over he couldn't have her.

And that had been his choice.

"Daniel?" Vala's moans stopped. She must have noticed the tension Daniel now felt in his shoulders. She lifted her head, narrowing her eyes.

He kissed her breast and moved his hands to her waist. "I'm fine," he murmured.

"You're not." Vala's fingers carded through his short hair. She tugged gently until he finally looked up at her. She smiled softly—a private look he'd only seen on her once, when she was pretending to still be Qetesh for people who thought they loved her.

He took the hint.

He lifted himself, repositioning between her legs. She opened her legs, resting the flats of her feet against his thighs. He bumped his penis against her folds. She was wet and hot, and that combination made him slide his eyes closed.

He gently pushed.

There was an initial resistance and finally the head of his dick pushed past the muscular lips and he slid in. A haze dropped over him and his back twitched. It had been so—very—long.

He opened his eyes. Vala's lips were tugged to one side in a slight grimace.

"Are you—?"

"Fine," Vala said. She stroked his cheek, resting her hand on his neck. "It's been awhile for me, too."

Daniel laughed—he actually laughed in the middle of having sex. "You're kidding. I figured you had sex whenever the whim hit you."

Vala's mouth opened in an offended huff. "I'll have you know that I very rarely have sex!"

Daniel narrowed an eye. "Yeah. Right."

"I don't." Vala slit her eyes, fluttered her lashes, and spoke in a breathy voice. "I prefer the term 'making love.'"

Daniel shook with laughter, inadvertently thrusting into her. He dipped down and kissed her lips. The laughter was still in his face. "I love you."

Vala's eyes opened wide. Daniel was sure his own eyes were going to fall out of his face. He'd just told her. . . . It couldn't be true. He didn't—he didn't—that—about her.

Her face softened into a broad smile.

"No," Daniel quickly spat out. "No. I didn't mean."

"You did." Vala pointed a finger at his nose. "You absolutely meant it." She poked his nose. "You love me."

"You loved me first." It was the lamest argument ever conceived.

Vala shook her head once. "I never said it."

Daniel licked his lips. He could feel the wrinkles forming on his forehead. How did this woman affect him so much?

"Fine." Vala looped her arms around Daniel's neck. "You don't love me. You said it in a fit of passion and didn't really mean it." Two feet planted firmly on Daniel's ass, spreading Vala open even wider. "Can we get back to what we were doing?"

Daniel swallowed.

She pushed against his ass, bringing her hips towards his. As he slid in, he pushed as deeply as he could go. He pulled out slightly and then immediately thrust again. Vala moaned loudly, her fingers curling on his back.

Daniel kept pace, Vala matching half of his thrusts with a thrust of her own. Each time their pelvises banged together, fireworks went off in the back of Daniel's mind. It had been a few years since he'd had sex, but he didn't think he would have forgotten if it had been like this. This was incredible. He was pretty sure it had to do with Vala.

And then he was absolutely sure it had everything to do with Vala.

Her abdomen squeezed. Her lips tightened around his penis, the channel constricting. Daniel's vision went white for a second and he couldn't thrust because he'd been frozen in a perfect moment. He thought he might orgasm, but fought down that feeling, knowing it wasn't the right time.

His rhythm faltered and it took a few awkward thrusts to get it back.

Vala grinned cheekily at him.

"What?" he breathed.

Vala closed her eyes and grunted. "Knock the wind from your sails?"

Daniel tilted and seized her lips in a kiss. He licked into her mouth, dueling with her tongue and tasting her teeth. The cinnamon he tasted, and the apple and salt he smelled on her combined in a powerful aphrodisiac.

She wouldn't have done something to herself—coated herself in some kind of aphrodisiac. Right?

Vala's hands grew as insistent as her feet and everything she had was pushing them together.

Daniel broke the kiss and looked into her eyes. Her eyes were dark and safe, familiar—like walking into your home with the lights off, trying to keep quiet to not wake your wife.

Vala lifted her head off the bed, leaning forward to kiss him again.

She hadn't done anything to herself. She hadn't even seduced him. He had seduced her, and he hadn't even realized that he'd done it.

He held his breath and banged into her with doubled speed. His ball sack hit her with each thrust, sending a jolt through his spine at every impact.

She called his name and he responded with hers.

Time slowed, and he thrust deeper. Every sensation raced along his nerves. The cool air as he pulled out only stoked the fire as he thrust back in. Vala's head rolled back and forth with each thrust. Her sudden movements, the low groans, the way her face slipped between silent screams and bared teeth, Daniel would have thought she was being tortured.

Except he'd been beneath her skin: he knew.

She cried his name again, and clamped her fingers into his back, sharp enough that his eyes snapped open.

He changed his angle, pumped into her three more times, and felt his orgasm come crashing. He quickly pulled out of her—remembering they didn't have a condom—and crushed his erection against her abdomen. He twitched as warmth spread over his skin, quickly cooling his hot flesh.

He felt her panting, heard her heart thumping rapidly, and then realized he was clinging to her. And in her own way, she was clinging back.

Daniel took a deep breath, steadying his breathing, and lifted his head. He brushed her hair from her face and then leaned over and gently kissed her. One hand found its way to his cheek and her thin fingers stroked his stubble.

Daniel carefully lifted himself off of Vala. The come stuck in stringy trails, briefly connecting them by a mess. Daniel was reminded of the bond they shared through the Goa'uld bracelets—connected to each other by a mess.

He reached over the side of his bed and found his boxers. He wiped off Vala, and then wiped the rest of the come off of himself. His skin was smoother where it had been—it felt different.

Vala's fingers moved where the puddle had been. She tilted her head almost entirely sideways. "Can I stay the night?"

Daniel threw the boxers on the floor and then wrapped Vala in his arms. He kissed her forehead once, twice, three times, four times. He smiled against her hair.

She tucked her arms in between them and lightly touched his chest. Three fingers strayed toward his throat and then traced a line to his stomach.

Daniel reached behind him and using one hand and kicking his foot, he covered them with the bedspread. He kissed her forehead again, lightly rubbing her back.

"Daniel?" Vala kissed his chin.

"Hmm?" The lovemaking had sated him—he was almost ready for sleep.

Her fingers touched his chin, stroking. He felt Vala's breath on his lips. "I did love you first." She kissed him.

He opened his eyes.

He sat up quickly—confused because he was alone.

Vala's things were gone—no underwear on the dresser, no boots by the bed, even the trashcan was upright. And Daniel was wearing his boxers even though he was certain he'd just made love to Vala and almost drifted off to sleep naked with her.

He turned to the clock—3:08. He'd been asleep for minutes, but Vala had been there for at least an hour. Vala had been there.

Daniel closed his eyes, covering his face with his hand.

Daniel hadn't really told her that he loved her; they hadn't really made love.

Vala was gone. If she was alive, she was in the Ori galaxy. And if she was there, she might not be alive for long.

Daniel reached out, searching for his glasses on the bedside table, but his fingers caught in soft, lacy fabric. Daniel clutched it and then scrambled to get a light on.

Vala's scarf dangled from his fist.

It had been in the bottom drawer of his dresser.

Daniel closed his eyes, wondering. Had he taken it out and forgotten? Had he not put it away? Did he sleepwalk?

He drew the scarf to his face, but couldn't smell Vala on it. It smelled stale and dusty, like a tomb.

He fixed his glasses on his face, and then stood up. He put Vala's scarf back in the drawer, its only occupant. He hadn't finished unpacking his clothes and what had been unpacked was mostly stacked on top of the dresser, ready for use.

He closed the drawer and then sorted through the stacked clothes until he found a pair of sweats. He pulled them on and then wandered into the hallway, into the living room, into the kitchen.

Vala hadn't been here. Vala had never been here. It was just Daniel in this empty apartment.