Daniel was the first to arrive on base, but last to make it to breakfast. Mitchell liked to get everyone together at least twice a week, even weeks where there were no off-world missions planned. Maybe even, especially those weeks. Everyone was so enveloped in their own work at those times they could and routinely did, go days without seeing each other in the halls much less spend quality time together. That was where the breakfast meetings came in. They gathered and talked about what they were working on, what they were up to in their private lives, and stayed connected as a team and family. Every Tuesday and Friday at 7 am. Today Sam, Teal'c, Vala, and their fearless leader Mitchell were already at their usual table when he arrived with a tray of cinnamon rolls and fresh fruit to go with his extra-large coffee.
"You know the rules, Jackson," Mitchell chided him before he had even sat down. He plucked the text from under Daniel's arm and put it on the far end of the table. "We talk."
Pointedly ignoring Mitchell, Daniel gave Sam a sympathetic smile. "How you feeling?" he asked.
"Better. That flu really knocked it out of me."
"I'm telling you, that was a sinus infection at the end."
"This is what we're talking about?" Mitchell interrupted.
"You took my book," Daniel shot back.
"New rule: Jackson doesn't pick the topic of conversation. Teal'c, big guy, what's going on with you?"
"I too intended to enquire as to Colonel Carter's current state of health."
"You'd better be careful, Mitchell, that thing is catching. People around here are dropping like flies," Daniel said, conversationally, but with a small satisfied grin. Mitchell frowned back but refused to rise to the bait.
"Do flies fall a lot?" Vala asked, interrupting the boy's on-going… whatever their friendly antagonizing thing was. "They seem impossible to knock out of the air in my experience."
"It's just an expression that means a lot of people are catching it," Daniel explained.
"Are sicknesses always so contagious on this planet?"
"Colds and Flu are," Sam shrugged. "This time of year, especially."
"Isn't this flu why we all had to get those shots last week?" Vala asked. "What's the point if you're going to get sick anyway? Oh! Wait…. Does the shot make you get sick? That's terrible! Why would you do that? It's barbaric!"
"It's more complicated than that," Sam told her.
"Is this one of those weird Earth traditions that don't make any sense?"
"Kinda," Mitchell allowed. "Now can we please talk about something else? Anyone catch the game last night?"
His question was met by blank stares all around. Even Sam, who usually at least had an idea of what was going on in the sports world left him hanging. Sometimes he wondered what the hell these people did when they weren't hiding in labs and behind reports. Not a one of them had a life.
Mitchell sighed. "Why do I bother with you people?"
Daniel shrugged and reached over Mitchell for the book that had been confiscated upon his arrival. "This is for you," he told Vala handing the volume to her.
"Anne of Green Gables," Vala read the cover. "This is the book Sam was telling me about."
"I loved that book," Sam smiled slightly, remembering long nights hiding under the blankets and reading by flashlight. "I must have read the entire series a dozen times growing up."
"I think I read the entire series in a week when I was a kid," Daniel agreed. "Anne Shirley was my first crush."
Sam giggled. "It must have been hard being in direct competition with Gilbert Blythe."
"My life long sorrow," he sighed.
"Don't spoil it!" Vala interrupted.
"Sorry," Sam and Daniel chorused.
"Why on Earth were you reading Anne of Green Gables, Jackson?" Mitchell asked, incredulous. "There are at least a million boy's book series you could have been reading instead."
"Let's see an orphan who talks too much, uses big words, values education, and despite her best efforts doesn't fit in… can't imagine how I could relate to something like that."
"Melodramatic tendencies…." Sam added with a smirk.
"Stop talking about it!" Vala begged.
"Besides, what makes you think I didn't read the other book series, too?" Daniel turned his attention back to Mitchell.
"Can we please stop letting Jackson pick the topic? Teal'c, buddy, please, I'm begging you here. What have you been up to?"
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Several days later, after zero Vala sightings, Daniel found himself at her door with his hands full, coffee for himself, tea for her, and the next two books in the series tucked under his arm. He frowned at his full hands and settled on lightly kicking the door.
"Vala, it's me," he called. He heard her moving around inside but she didn't answer him. "Let me in, I can't hold all this forever."
The door cracked open, and she peered at him, eyes red, nose running, bottom lip firmly pouting. "What do you want?" she asked.
"I, uh..." he fumbled. "Tea," he finally answered gesturing with the cup. "Are you okay?"
"How can Mrs. Barry not understand it was an accident?" Vala sniffled. "She's a horrid woman."
Daniel couldn't help but smile to himself, Vala had gotten so wrapped up in the story she was even talking like the characters.
"Can I come in, or are you mad at me?" Daniel asked, carefully. "I found the next two books for you," he bargained.
Without a word she stepped back, opening the door for him.
"I take it you're at the raspberry cordial incident?"
She sniffled and nodded.
"I, uh… here." Daniel glanced around and found a spot to put down the drinks and books, so he could pull his handkerchief out of his pocket. Vala gratefully took the offering and blew her nose several times. "You can keep it," Daniel declined her offer to give it back.
"Thank you," she said and went back to the nest she had made for herself on her bed. There were Kleenex, empty cups, and dirty dishes scattered about. Vala pulled her quilt over her shoulders and looked at Daniel with slightly glazed eyes.
"Are you feeling alright?" he asked, concerned. He'd never seen her like this.
"I'm just cold."
"May I?" he asked, approaching her, hand outstretched. She allowed him to put the back of his hand to her forehead, then cheek. "I think you need to go to the infirmary," he told her. "You've got a pretty good fever going."
He helped her up and they were given a sympathetic berth from the staffers on base on their way. Dr. Lam shook her head as Daniel escorted Vala into the crowded infirmary.
"Another one," she said knowingly. "Bed four, I'll be right there." She finished with her current patient and made quick work of her evaluation, confirming her initial impression. "Congratulations, Vala, you have your first flu. I assume you'll be looking after her, Dr. Jackson?"
"What?" Daniel startled at the assumption.
"Just, you two…. You aren't a 'you two'?" Dr. Lam asked uncertainly.
"No," he answered a little too quickly, a nurse giggled into the patient chart she was updating at the next bed. "I mean, I guess, I could help out."
"Good, I need these beds for my SG teams that are getting shot at." She wrote a prescription for an anti-viral, handed it to Daniel. "Bring her in if her fever gets too high."
"She's an alien, shouldn't she stay here? We don't know what the flu will do to her," he protested.
"Her physiology is identical to yours and mine, she has a strong immune system and is in perfect health. She didn't have any reaction to the vaccine. I don't have any concerns. Now get her off my base before she infects anyone else."
"Aren't we all already infected?"
"You'll be fine. Make her soup, give her juice, make sure she sleeps, it's easy." Dr. Lam helped Vala up and handed her over to Daniel. "You have plenty of experience with this; I've seen your chart. You'll be fine."
"Daniel," Vala said quietly. "I don't feel well."
"I know. I got you. " He started guiding her out of the infirmary. "You can stay with me."
Vala had never been to Daniel's house before. Mitchell usually hosted team nights at his apartment and Sam hosted girl's nights at her place. Daniel had nice little almost bungalow tucked in the back of a neighborhood that had kids playing in the tree lined streets and a dog chasing squirrels in the neighbor's manicured yards.
"This must be what Anne felt like when she first saw Green Gables," Vala sighed happily.
Daniel looked at his house thoughtfully. He supposed it did have a picturesque quality to it. He hadn't thought much of it. Jack had gone over it top to bottom looking at wiring and the foundation before he gave it his stamp of approval; Sam had called it 'so cute' as she all but begged him to buy it. Daniel hadn't thought much past the fact that it was in his price range and was immediately available. Plus, the small yard was easy to take care of as it was mostly trees and landscaping.
"I guess so," he shrugged, pulling into his driveway. "I'll get you settled and then go grab some things from the store."
"Is the flu always like this?" She felt nauseous and exhausted.
"Not always. It shouldn't last more than a few days, though."
"And there's no cure for it?" she asked as he opened her car door for her.
"Can't we use the ribbon device for this?"
Daniel chuckled. "I don't think that's a good use of it." He helped her out of the car and led her inside.
"I've never been to your house before," she told him taking in his living room.
"That is true," he agreed.
"It is very much your house," she added solemnly. It was like a live-in museum with artifacts and art adorning the walls, bookshelves crammed with books and more artifacts.
"That's what the mortgage says."
"I mean it looks like you," she explained further. She leaned heavily against him, tired and weak from fever.
"Let's get you to bed," Daniel changed the subject. "Just down the hall."
"Is this your room?" she asked as he opened the door. The bed was unmade and there was an overflowing laundry basket in the corner. "Where will you sleep?" She asked as she crawled into the bed and hugged his pillow, breathing in his scent.
"Don't worry about me." He instinctually started taking her shoes off for her.
"I don't like the flu," she pouted as he pulled the blankets around her shoulders.
"Do they have anything like this where you're from?"
"No." She started to relax, the thick comforter starting to ward off the chills from her fever.
He gently put his hand to her cheek again. "Do you want anything?"
"I think I just want to sleep."
"Okay. I'm going to run to the store real quick. I'll be back in less than an hour."
"I'll be right here," Vala mumbled, her eyes fluttering closed.
Daniel stood at the side of the bed and watched as she drifted off to sleep. Even when she started snoring she looked peaceful. He wasn't sure how long he stood there, but he was self-aware enough to be embarrassed.
"What are you doing?" he shook his head, forcing himself to leave the room. He did a quick check of what he had on hand, not much, before heading to the pharmacy and market.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Daniel looked around and dried his hands on the dishtowel tucked into his belt. It didn't look like his kitchen. There was food everywhere. Real food. Fresh vegetables and herbs covered the counters. Nothing had come from the freezers at the corner store. He felt a little bad. When he made Sam chicken soup last week he'd used frozen vegetables and pre-seasoned stock. He had made it for her with all the good intentions in the world. But, for some reason with Vala staying at his house he had felt inspired. He drove past his usual market to the new fancy grocers a few blocks away.
He'd been curious about the store already. It wasn't that he was trying to do anything special for Vala. It was that he had the time to do something he'd been wanting to do. It was really more for him and she was benefiting from it, too… by pure coincidence.
Then why did he get so self-conscious when he heard Sam came in the front door?
"Hey," she called from the living room after letting herself in.
"You've been busy," she looked around the kitchen. There were pots simmering on the stove, dirty plates, bowl and cutlery in the sink… try as she might she couldn't find a single take out container anywhere.
"I'm just making chicken soup," he shrugged dumping celery into the biggest pot.
"Just soup, hum?" She grabbed a spoon from the drawer and helped herself to a taste. "That's not what you made me," Sam accused good naturedly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked, trying to convince himself he was as innocent as he wanted to be.
Sam just laughed and bumped him with her hip before taking another taste of the soup. "That's really good."
"Not at all different from anything you would do for any other member of the team." She dropped her spoon amongst the dirty dishes in the sink and leaned against the counter.
"No preferential treatment going on here at all."
"There's not," he insisted.
"Um-hum," she smiled at him.
She shook her head. She loved the man, but Daniel was hopeless sometimes. "I brought Vala's things like you asked," she changed the subject. "I brought her toothbrush, a couple changes of clothes, and those not-at-all-hard-to-find early editions of the books you've been buying her."
"I always go to the used-books store first."
"Did you see the publication date on those things?"
Daniel shrugged. "Book store had no idea what they had. I grabbed them."
"You bought the entire set and are giving them to her piece by piece, so you can have an excuse to talk to her!" She couldn't help it; there was an air of romance to it. Even if he would deny it to his dying day Daniel was in love with Vala and these little gestures more than proved it.
"Keep your voice down," Daniel hissed glancing toward the bedroom door. "She's asleep."
"But you have the entire series, don't you?"
"I didn't give them all to her in case she didn't like them. I can sell them for more if I have the set."
"Because you're so good at getting rid of things." Sam gestured widely at his house, every available surface put to use.
"You know, I was going to invite you to stay for dinner. But, if you're just going to keep making fun of me, I won't," Daniel shot at her, smiling despite himself. Sam was right, he'd just keep the series. He needed another bookcase in the den anyway.
"I've had my fill of chicken soup," Sam smiled back. "And it was very sweet of you to make it for me. And it did taste really good."
"I'm making chili," he nodded to the second pot on the stove. "Jack's recipe."
"We can watch the History Channel and you can explain to me why everything they say is wrong," Sam offered.
"Or," Daniel countered. "We can watch the Discovery Channel and you can explain to me why everything they say is wrong."
Sam's eyes brightened. "We can switch off hour for hour."
"Flip to see who goes first?"
Vala woke up groggily in an unfamiliar room. The door was closed, and she could faintly smell something cooking. There were people talking. She sat up, trying to get her bearings. Her head was foggy, everything felt stuffy. She couldn't breathe and when she sat up she got dizzy.
Leaning against the pillows, propping herself up, she took a deep, labored breath. Something rattled in her chest and made her cough. Something goopy and yellow came up. Almost gagging on the sensation, she spit it out into her hand immediately.
"Ugh, god…" she flinched at the sight of it.
A couple seconds later the door opened, and Daniel stood framed by the lights in the other room.
"You okay?" he asked, almost whispering.
"What is this?" she asked holding her hand out. "Is there something growing inside of me?"
Daniel didn't even look, he grabbed a tissue from the box and cleaned the goop from her hand.
"Nothing's growing," he assured her, sitting on the edge of the bed and once again feeling for a fever. "Think you could eat something?"
"I just want to die," she moaned.
Daniel chucked at her. "It'll pass soon, no need to die." He stood up and tossed the tissue in the trash. "I'm going to get you some soup. I'll be right back."
When he left she reached over to the bedside table and switched on the lamp. The soft glow illuminated the room. A framed photograph caught her eye. A young couple sat on a rug in what looked like a large tent. The woman had a scarf tied around her head, the tails trailing down her shoulder combining with the flowing locks of her curly brown hair. The man had a shaggy mop of dark brown hair that hung into his eyes, he wore glasses and he seemed to be laughing at whoever was behind the camera. Between the couple, standing up, making him the same height as the seated adults was a little boy no more than four, chubby with baby fat. He was looking over his shoulder at the woman, but you could tell he was grinning. She returned his gaze, her mouth slightly open, mid-word.
Daniel returned with a tray and Vala put the photograph back. He set the tray across her lap on the bed and even though the mere idea of food made her stomach churn, she couldn't help but appreciate the gesture. There was a large coffee mug of soup, a plate of crackers, water, and a mug of hot tea.
"You don't have to eat anything you don't want to," he told her, fussing with the tray as he put it down, trying to get the legs on even surfaces. "You really should drink, though. Oh, and," satisfied the tray was sable he reached in his pocket for her prescription bottle. "Time for another one."
Vala settled back into the pillows, "I'd say it smells good, but I can barely breathe."
"Hopefully it tastes good enough smell won't matter."
Vala took the offered pill, then looked over the tray. The soup looked good, but she felt ill at ease with the idea of food, so she opted for the tea. It was sweet and had more than a hint of mint in it. She sighed contentedly and almost sank into the bed.
Daniel smiled a little. "My mom used to make it like that," he said, nodding to the picture on the bedside table.
"These are your parents?" she asked, picking up the picture again, studying it more closely. "You look like your father." She knew that smile anywhere, the jaw line.
"I know," he answered a hint of pride in his voice.
"You were a cute baby."
"Thanks. Try a cracker."
"Where was the picture taken?"
Daniel took it from her and looked at it. "I have no idea. We took that set up with us to every dig. It could be Egypt, Belize, India…. whenever I think of my childhood home I think of that tent, not the apartment in New York."
"What was it like?" Vala asked, pushing the thought of her childhood home out of her mind. She felt ill enough without those memories.
"I don't remember much," he admitted.
"What were your parents like?"
"My mom made tea every night," Daniel told her, putting the photo back in its place. "My dad would put some sort of liquor in his. I remember him pulling a bottle out of a trunk every night. I remember them reading to me a lot. My mom would tell me stories about growing up in Holland; my dad grew up in Wisconsin, both on farms. Both only children so the stories were always about pet chickens and escaped goats."
"Goats and chickens?" Vala asked, almost laughing but it triggered a cough again. Daniel put an empty cup in front of her and she spit that yellow gunk out.
"I don't come from a very dignified line," he told her with a self-deprecating smirk, ignoring the phlegm. "Crackers staying down okay?"
"Do you want to try the soup, or do you not want to risk it?"
"Can I have more tea?" she gingerly put the cup back on the tray.
"Of course. Give me a few minutes." He put the empty water glass on the nightstand. "You can use that if you cough anything else up." He took the tray back and left the room.
Daniel startled when he found Sam in the kitchen putting their chili bowls in the dishwasher. She looked at him and smiled, rolling her eyes.
"She asked for more tea," he said lamely. "I can make you some, too?"
"I wouldn't want to get in the way," she teased him.
"She's never had the flu before. She doesn't know what to expect. She coughed up some mucus and thought something was growing inside of her."
"Um-hum," Sam went back to the dishes.
"Oh, nothing," she told him.
"Um-hum," Daniel imitated, putting the kettle on. The truth was, he had forgotten Sam was still there. Something had sparked in his chest when Vala asked about his parents. When she seemed so interested in him. Vala wasn't one to go much further than surface level with people. She'd been burned too many times and didn't let people in easily. It made him feel, special he supposed, that he was allowed in. Even if it was just because of a fever.
"Are you sure you don't want some?" Daniel asked Sam preparing two cups this time. "There's more than enough."
Sam looked over his splay of ingredients as he assembled the drinks.
"Fresh mint, imported tea…." She looked it over. "Raw sugar. "
"I have milk, too. I know you put milk in your tea." Daniel tried to shove down the feeling of guilt and embarrassment that filled his chest. So what if he was making tea and soup for Vala. He hadn't bought this stuff for her exclusively. He'd make tea for Sam and when he made drinks for his friends he made it the way they like. Sam liked milk, so he'd give her milk.
"Did you fly it in from Harvard, Illinois?"
"It's the milk capital of the world," Sam explained.
"How would you even know that?"
"How do you not? Useless trivia is your specialty," she teased him. "And apparently, so is making the fanciest tea and chicken soup known to man."
"I got a little carried away at the store, sue me. That's a no on the tea?"
"No, thank you." She let the matter drop. Daniel would figure it out in his own time. That's what she always told Vala. If Sam pushed the matter too far he'd just put up a bigger front than he already was. Let him pamper Vala, she deserved it for all his bluster and thick-headedness. "I think I'm going to head out. It's getting late."
Daniel glanced at the clock as he rubbed mint leaves, releasing their oils before dropping them into the tea cups. "Time flies when you're making fun of poorly informed documentaries."
"Call if you need any help." Sam dried her hands on her jeans. "I won't tell Jack your chili was better than his."
"Do me a favor and don't even tell him I made it. He'll be gloating for years." Daniel gave Sam a hug. "Thanks for brining Vala some clothes. I didn't feel right going through her," he cleared his throat. "things."
Sam laughed. "You're such a mess." She gave Daniel a peck on the cheek and left.
Daniel finished making tea and found himself straightening his shirt and checking his hair in his reflection on the toaster. He did a quick breath check and blinked away the chili stink. He grabbed a mint leaf and chewed on it to fix the problem as he took the two cups of tea into the bedroom.
It was miserable, this flu business. She fluctuated between uncontrollable shivers and being so hot she kicked all the covers away. Right now, she was cold and no matter how tightly she wrapped herself in the blankets she felt as if there were ice between her shoulder blades. Her nose was so blocked up with that terrible yellow slime it was backing up into her head and threatening to push her brain out. There was a pain between her eyes where a hole was forming from the inside. That was where her brain was going to escape from.
Vala groaned and burrowed deeper into the pillows, desperate for relief. Suddenly, her stomach gurgled in the first familiar sensation this virus brought. She knew what she needed to do, but she was so tired she tried to will the spasm to stop. She wasted precious time and when she finally gave up the battle she barely had time to make it to the bathroom.
She knew from television and movies that the Tau'ri did this in the toilet. It seemed undignified, but at this point, she didn't much care. Vala rushed blindly into the bathroom and imitated what she'd seen before.
Several heaves in, a light turned on behind her. She could hear soft footsteps come down the hall towards her. Without a word, Daniel came in and settled beside her, sitting on the edge of the bathtub. He reached over and gathered her hair with one hand and rubbed her back with the other.
She had no real concept of time, kneeling in front of the toilet. She felt terrible, embarrassed, and wanted to disappear. This was meant to be done in private in an urn to be buried in the forest, not with her face in the bowl meant for something even more private and disgusting than this. And then finally… it stopped.
Daniel spoke first. "How do you feel?"
"Kill me," Vala groaned.
"Maybe later." He stood and wet a washcloth.
Vala took it and wiped her face. "That's lovely."
"Do you think you've got anything else in you?"
"I couldn't possibly."
"For now," he amended for her. His usual condescending, exasperated tone was gone. Ever since he'd come to her quarters, he'd been gentle and caring. His tone soft and almost loving. "Are you ready to get back to bed?"
Vala nodded. He helped her off the floor and back into the refreshingly cool sheets. She sighed and embraced the cold air on her feverish skin.
"Do you want something to drink?"
She nodded again. Talking was too much work. He disappeared and Vala closed her eyes. It was so hot and stuffy. There was no air in this house. Why was there no air?
"I can open the windows if you're warm."
Vala opened her eyes. "Did I say that out loud?"
"You didn't say anything. You just look hot."
"Oh, darling I'm not in the mood." Vala summoned a smile as she sat up. "Some other time."
Daniel grinned and shook his head but didn't argue. "Hot and cold." He presented a mug of tea and glass of Ginger Ale. "I wasn't sure what you wanted. Though, I'm thinking cold…" he handed her the glass.
"Is the only cure for this sickness drinking?"
Daniel shrugged and sat on the edge of the bed. "Not a cure, per say. It's just an old folk remedy. Though, there has been some research into the effectiveness of chicken soup. There may be actual medical-"
Vala put her hand on his knee to shut him up. "Not now."
He had the decency to look embarrassed. "Right, sorry."
Vala sipped at the offered drink. It did have a calming effect on her stomach.
"Can I get you anything?" Daniel asked, trying to come up with conversation.
"I don't think so."
"Do you want me to leave you alone so you can get some sleep?"
"I don't think I could sleep."
"Do you want to come out and watch TV?"
"Your bed is really comfortable." She snuggled in a little deeper.
"Sam brought your books. I can grab them for you."
"I'd love to, but I can't keep my eyes open."
"I could read to you," he offered tentatively.
Something in her chest swelled, but she was relatively confident it hadn't anything to do with the flu. "No one's ever read to me before," she said. "But I don't want to bore you…"
"I don't mind," he insisted. "Hearing you and Sam talk about it I've been toying with reading it again, anyway."
"You were reading it in the other room, weren't you?" she asked.
"You sound like Mitchell."
Vala laughed, which turned into a cough. Daniel handed her a Kleenex to spit into. "You were reading it," she said when she regained her breath.
"I might have started it," he admitted with that reluctant, self-aware, embarrassed grin she loved so much. "And then I felt bad for reading you book so I stopped after the raspberry cordial part."
"That's where I left off."
"We can find out what happens next together."
"Can I have some soup while you read?"
He smiled, genuinely. "I can make that happen."
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
**"Yes, I know," nodded the doctor. He looked at Anne as if he were thinking some things about her that couldn't be expressed in words. Later on, however, he expressed them to Mr. and Mrs. Barry.
"That little redheaded girl they have over at Cuthbert's is as smart as they make 'em. I tell you she saved that baby's life, for it would have been too late by the time I got there. She seems to have a skill and presence of mind perfectly wonderful in a child of her age. I never saw anything like the eyes of her when she was explaining the case to me."
Anne had gone home in the wonderful, white-frosted winter morning, heavy eyed from loss of sleep, but still talking unweariedly to Matthew as they crossed the long white field and walked under the glittering fairy arch of the Lover's Lane maples.**
"You're taking care of me like Anne took care of Minnie May," Vala said, putting her head on Daniel's shoulder. They were sitting side by side on the bed as she sipped her soup and he read.
"To be fair, in modern times the flu is far less deadly than the croup." He tilted his head, putting his cheek on her head. "Want to keep going?"
Vala snuggled closer to his side. He shifted a bit and kept reading.
**"Oh, Matthew, isn't it a wonderful morning? The world looks like something God had just imagined for His own pleasure, doesn't it? Those trees look as if I could blow them away with a breath-pouf! I'm so glad I live in a world where there are white frosts, aren't you? And I'm so glad Mrs. Hammond had three pairs of twins after all. If she hadn't I mightn't have known what to do for Minnie May. I'm real sorry I was ever cross with Mrs. Hammond for having twins. But, oh, Matthew, I'm so sleepy. I can't go to school. I just know I couldn't keep my eyes open and I'd be so stupid. But l hate to stay home, for Gil-some of the others will get head of the class, and it's so hard to get up again-although, of course, the harder it is the more satisfaction you have when you do get up, haven't you?"**
**excerpts from Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery**
Vala's eyes fluttered open. It took her a moment to register where she was, but a deep breath of that still lingering musk on the pillows made her want to hug it closer. Daniel wasn't in the bed anymore, she could tell without looking. She saw the dishes had been cleared from the nightstand, even the phlegm cup, and a fresh glass of water was waiting for her. Her book was laid out next to it, a bookmark in place with where he left off reading to her. She didn't recall exactly when she fell asleep, but she did remember that he had been reading for over an hour when she snuggled down and closed her eyes. Last night had been so relaxing; cough, fever, and congestion be damned.
She would never have thought she'd feel so safe in a home that wasn't hers. Vala spent her entire life looking out for herself. Even when she was living with Tomin she slept with one eye open. It seemed there was always someone around the corner waiting to catch her when she was vulnerable. Here she didn't even have a knife in the room, much less under her pillow, but she felt relaxed and secure. She could hear Daniel in the other room, typing away, and occasionally shuffling papers. There was coffee brewing. Just knowing he was nearby made her feel at ease. He would never let anything happen to her.
She listened to him working, able to picture the scene in her head. He was sitting at the kitchen table, glasses off, squinting at the laptop screen as he typed. There were books spread out around him open and piled on top of each other. He had a pen in one hand, one held in his teeth, and probably one tucked behind his right ear. Daniel always used different ink colors to mark his research: red for outdated information, blue for making notes in the margins, and green to underline text. As he read, his left hand twitched toward the empty coffee mug reflexively reaching for it before he remembered that it was empty.
He had a strange obsession with coffee. Most Tau'ri adults seemed to, but his went beyond. The others ribbed him about it, and coffee themed gifts were common. She had tried to join in on the craze, but the bitter drink was more than she could handle. By the time she put enough cream and sugar into her cup to make it palatable, it wasn't worth the effort. Vala had confided in Sam that she didn't understand what Daniel saw in the drink.
"Daniel's been taking care of himself for a long time," Sam had explained. "When he was younger sleep got in the way of work and school. He had to keep up his grades to keep his scholarship and he had to keep his jobs, so he could pay for everything else. It's not that uncommon with graduate students, really. The problem with Daniel is, he's been living like that for over twenty years and now he's a permanent workaholic. He doesn't know any better."
At that point, Vala had made it her personal mission to make him lighten up. It seemed sad, living your life with your nose in a book. Even at Mitchell's team nights Daniel had a book with him and read during the movie. And it was never a fun book, either. It was work related, old books in ancient languages. So, she distracted him, coaxed him out of himself. She had a pretty good track record of getting him to laugh. She had a better track record of annoying him and getting him to snap at her. But, he always came around, apologizing and wanting to make up for it. If she was lucky, she'd get him to take her out for dinner and even a movie. He didn't read when he was having dinner with her, and he didn't read when he took her to the movies. He never even brought a book with him.
He only paid attention to her. He answered all her questions, indulged her curiosity, and he gave her that look. The one where he'd zone out and stop listening to the conversation and just stare, not at her, not through her, but somewhere in between. It was like he had moments where he saw past who she was, who she had been, and he saw who she was becoming. The person he believed she could be. Someone she never thought possible until he believed in her. Sometimes he even made her believe she was already that person.
She got out of bed and shuffled into the bathroom. Her limbs felt stiff and heavy, yet another thing she hated about the flu. Daniel was watching for her when she came back out.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
She yawned and hugged herself. "Not bad."
"I'd suspect so. You've been out for almost seventeen hours." He got up from the table and gestured for her to sit on the couch. "I could barely get you to take your medicine this morning."
Vala looked over his books instead; they were laid out just as she suspected. "What are you working on?"
"It's, uh, it's a personal project. Nothing really." He tried to brush it off.
She spotted a handwritten page and picked it up, expecting information on Merlin or King Arthur, not a personal letter. "Danny took his first steps this morning," she read, taking a seat at the table. "I wish you had been here to see it, he was so proud of himself. He was playing on his blanket and out of nowhere got up, walked straight to mother and took a biscuit off her plate. I wish I could say his intentions were to share, but he kept his prize for himself." Vala looked up; Daniel was blushing and busying himself with arranging his pens next to his laptop. "Is this about you?" she asked.
He bit his lip before responding. "It's from a journal my mom kept when I was a baby. My dad had a research grant at the American University in Cairo when I was born. My mom and I lived with her mother in the Netherlands."
"So, she wrote a journal for him," Vala finished the story. "So, he would know how you were doing."
"It must be nice. Knowing how much your parents cared about you. Having proof of it."
"I'm sure your parents cared about you," he tried, lamely. "Maybe they were just really bad at showing it."
"My father was a conman, he was only around when he needed money or place to hide out," Vala responded bluntly. "My mother was a good woman when she could be. Before this, she was the only person who ever took care of me." She allowed herself to reminisce. "When I was sick she would let me sleep on her lap. She would sit up all night, holding me."
"See, she cared." He sounded so sure of himself. "It's easy to forget," he confided in her. "Sometimes I think it's easier. It makes it hurt less if you remember the times they weren't perfect."
"As though your parents weren't perfect," Vala gestured with the letter in her hand. "They adored you."
"My mom did. My dad, though? She had to write all that because he wasn't around. He was too busy working. He chose a research library over me."
"I suppose he was the type that always had a book with him?"
Daniel chuckled, caught. "I'm more like him than I'd like to be," he admitted. "But in my defense, it's not like I'm putting my work above my family, my own kid."
Vala raised an eyebrow. "One could argue…"
"Have you ever heard the Earth expression about the pot and the kettle?" Daniel interrupted her.
"The one about how they are the same color, but the pot thinks it's superior to the kettle anyway?"
"Yeah, that one."
"What about it?"
"You can sit around accusing me of being just like my father all you want, but all evidence points towards you being just like yours."
Vala nodded thoughtfully. "Then maybe we should both work at being more like our mothers."
Daniel agreed. "To that end, can I get you anything?"
"Some more of that tea would be lovely."
"Coming right up." He went straight for the kettle.
"My mother used to make a broth when I was sick," Vala said conversationally as she looked through Daniel's research some more. "She made it from a root that she grew in our garden. She'd get it boiling and then sit me at the table with a cloth over my head and put a bowl under my face, so I could breathe in the steam."
"My mom would make me hot baths with salts and oils, so I could soak in it and breathe in the steam… she was big on holistic medicine," he added at Vala's look.
"That's where you get it from," she said. "All your teas and soups when Dr. Lam can just give you a pill."
"My mom took it to an entirely different level," he admitted with a smile. "Mint for headaches, lemon juice for congestion, she had an herbal remedy for everything."
"Hot water with lemon and honey for allergies. You still do that one."
Daniel snipped some mint leaves from the little plant he had bought and got the tea ready to steep. "I bet we can make your mother's root broth. We just need to find the Earth equivalent. We've done it with a few Jaffa recipes."
Vala wrinkled her nose. "It wasn't meant to be eaten. As a matter of fact, once you could smell it, you knew the job was done and you got it out of your house as soon as you could."
"My mom made a sunburn cream that smelled like that. I swear she put camel dung in it."
"Don't say things like that," Vala groaned as her stomach gurgled at the imagery.
"Maybe this will help." Daniel set her tea in front of her and went to pour himself a coffee.
Vala sipped at the tea, her stomach calming almost instantly. She picked up the letter again and when Daniel didn't stop her, she kept reading.
"Her garden was the best in the village," Vala reminisced. "I always wanted to help, but I am rubbish at gardening. I killed any plant she let me touch. She kept letting me try, though."
"Do you look like her?" Daniel asked. They were sitting at the kitchen table, as they had been for the last two hours.
Vala nibbled at her toast thoughtfully. "I can't remember. It was so long ago, and I was so young. I suppose I must."
"You don't have any pictures?"
"I wasn't allowed to take anything with me when I left," she shook her head. Daniel saw the pain in her eyes and knew better than to ask the questions that were burning a hole in his tongue.
"I didn't have anything from my parents when I got put into foster care," he offered. "I forgot what they looked like, too."
"You have all this," Vala looked at the journals, the photos scattered over the table.
"Nick had it all. I found this stuff cleaning out his storage unit after he left. But before that… I can't really describe it…"
"You had memories of them, but you couldn't remember them." She perfectly put into words what the professional linguist had struggled to express. "Their faces were blotted out as if the sun were in your eyes every time you looked at them."
"Exactly." He was giving her that look, the one where he saw the version of her only he could see. The one that made her melt a little inside.
"I can picture everything perfectly, the garden, our house, the shawl she let me sleep with when I had nightmares, even the pattern etched on her bracelet. But no matter how hard I try, I can't remember her face."
"I'm sorry." Daniel didn't know what else to say.
"I don't know why I'm telling you all this," Vala laughed nervously, as she fidgeted with her hair. The look was getting to her more than usual.
"It's probably the fever talking," he offered her a quick excuse. He reached over and cupped her cheek gently, only partly to check her temperature. "I think it's gone down."
She put her hand over his and smiled. "Thank you for everything."
"I'm just glad you're getting better," he smiled back.
They sat there staring into each other's eyes and Daniel's hand slid back into her hair, smoothing back her bedhead.
"I must look terrible," she mumbled.
"You look beautiful," he whispered.
"I couldn't possibly." Despite her desire to see how this all played out, she pulled away from the looming embrace.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…" he shook out of it, his hand dropping away.
"Would it be alright if I cleaned up a bit? Can I use your shower?"
"Yeah, sure. I'll get you some clean towels." Daniel got up from the table and Vala watched him mess around in the hall closet. His shoulders were slightly slumped, and he was mumbling to himself, shaking his head. "I have some of Sam's smelly-girly stuff if you want." He said suddenly, holding out a couple pastel colored bottles with flowers on the labels.
"Should I be jealous?" she asked with a smirk, trying to lighten the mood.
"Insanely. I think these are a holdover from my old place. I brought them here when I moved. I may have moved them twice come to think of it." He frowned down at the bottles. "Do you want them?"
"Sure." Vala got up and took the towels and bottles from him on her way to the bathroom. "No peaking."
Daniel rolled his eyes and didn't answer.
She closed the bathroom door behind her. She'd spent her time in the room before but had been otherwise occupied and had not properly looked around. It was the only non-cluttered room in the house it seemed. There was nothing on the walls and the rug didn't match the shower curtain, and neither matched the towels he had handed her. It seemed everything had been purchased separately with no regard for what was already in place. The only consideration had been the practical purpose.
She pulled back the curtain and started the water. The shower was suspiciously cluttered with products. It seemed Daniel had a secret vain side. She picked up a bottle of body wash, popped the top, and took a sniff. The source of that sweet musk that lingered in his wake wasn't as natural as she had hoped. Didn't matter, at least he had good taste.
She put her borrowed things in the corner and turned the water up to full blast. The hot water was exactly what she needed. She shamelessly extinguished the supply, letting it sooth her aching muscles and encourage the fluid from her lungs. At one point she sat on the floor and just let the water rain down as she leaned against the back wall of the shower. As the hot water began to run out she helped herself to Sam's bath products and with her newly cleared nasal passages she was able to fully appreciate the gesture.
She felt herself again when she emerged from the bathroom, wrapped in a big fluffy towel, her hair wrapped in a second one turban-style.
"I don't think we quite thought this one through," she said looking at Daniel from the hallway.
He glanced up from his computer, jumped and did a double take. He rushed to get up, nearly knocking his chair over, and hurried to the living area. "Sam dropped this off." Daniel grabbed the bag that had been delivered nearly three days earlier. "It should be everything." He handed it over to her, hesitant to look at her for too long or get too close.
Vala made sure to give him her most sultry smile when he did dare to glance up from his own shoes. He blushed and stepped away the moment she took the bag. He mumbled something incoherent and went back to his computer.
"Really, darling, no need to…"
"Just get dressed," he quickly interrupted, suspiciously not looking up when he snapped at her.
Just in case he did look up, Vala let her hips swing a bit more than usual as she retreated into his bedroom. Sam really had thought of everything. Once dressed, Vala took the little toiletry kit to the bathroom and brushed her teeth. She applied a bit of lip gloss, combed and braided her hair, and gave herself a quick glance-over in the mirror. Sam had packed her favorite night shirt and shorts. It was an old Hockey jersey she had appropriated somehow that hung off one shoulder but kept her cozy and comfy. Cotton track shorts provided modesty, but plenty of leg. She'd attracted more than a few looks when wandering the base at night. It always gave her a giggle to see the young Airmen's faces when they unexpectedly ran into her in the hallways.
As she padded out into the kitchen, barefoot, Daniel had another double-take reaction. This time, though, he didn't avert his eyes. Instead, he smiled.
"You and Teal'c watch hockey together?" he asked.
"What?" That was not what she had been expecting.
"That's his team," Daniel gestured to the logo on the jersey. "I think… I don't really pay attention to hockey."
"Do you pay attention to any sports?"
"Jack and I have running bets on curling," he shrugged. She frowned at him. "It's a sport!" he defended.
"What are you working on?" she asked, since he was back at the computer and leafing through journals.
"It's about my parents," Daniel admitted hesitantly. "I was contacted by a publisher. They're putting together a series of biographies and, uh, well they wanted one on Nick and then it kind of spiraled and now I'm writing biographies on him and my parents."
"You're writing a book?" she sat back down.
"How long have you been working on them?"
"About six months."
"You haven't told anyone." Vala tread carefully. She could almost see the walls going up.
"I didn't want the questions."
"Why have you told me? All I do is ask you questions."
"I don't know. You…" he thought over his answer. "You understand. Most people don't know what it's like to grow up without your parents, to barely have memories of them. You're different. You get it. You're like me."
"Except no one wants to read a book about my mother."
Vala laughed off his earnestness. "You'd read a book about anything."
Daniel laughed, too. "A valid point." He saved his document and snapped the laptop shut. "So, you're feeling better. What would you like to do? You've got your books. Or, we can watch TV. I could go to the library and get us some movies. What sounds good?"
Daniel groaned a bit and rolled over. The sun was in his eyes, making it very hard to sleep in. He burrowed deeper under the blankets and sought out the warmth of the body next to him. She smelled sweet and flowery, he breathed in her scent as he snuggled up behind her, hugging her to him. With his arm around her, she shimmied back a bit- her hips fitting neatly up against his. He mumbled fondly and started to slip deeper into slumber. He was just about to start snoring when his bed-mate started coughing. Instinctually, he loosened his grip and when she continued to cough he let go entirely, sitting up with her.
"Are you okay?" he asked, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, looking around the room regaining his bearings.
"I'm sorry," Vala answered once she regained her voice.
As if stung, Daniel sprang out of bed, tangling up in blankets in his haste, falling to the floor, springing back to his feet and staring at her in horror. Vala.
He had slept with Vala.
In his bed.
At the same time.
She smiled appreciatively at him and he looked down at his bare chest.
In his boxers.
He had slept with Vala. Together. In his bed. At the same time. In his boxers.
"I am so sorry," he stammered. "I don't remember doing it. I… I'm so sorry, Vala."
He remembered moving the TV and VCR into his bedroom for her the night before. Going to the library and renting a few movies and making her popcorn. He had watched one movie with her- some romance that culminated with a kiss in the rain that had her sobbing into the pillows and him rolling his eyes. But he had been fully clothed and on top of the covers. How had he ended up naked?
"Really, Daniel, you are too precious," she teased him, stretching and tossing her hair with a yawn. Why did men always make these things so complicated?
After the movie, Daniel had gone into the living room to do some reading. He distinctly remembered reading last night. He had gotten wrapped up in a paper Nick had written about the writing styles and record keeping of the Maya. He had read until about two in the morning before going to bed… on the couch. Yes, he had gone to sleep on the couch just as he had been doing since Vala arrived.
"There's no need to apologize. You didn't do anything wrong." She got up and went to the restroom, closing the door behind her.
Daniel stood rooted to the spot staring after her. He must have woken up at some point, and on autopilot changed out of his clothes and got into bed without thinking. It was the only explanation. It was an accident. It was innocent.
It was embarrassing.
"Not that I mind, darling, but are you going to stand there all day?" Vala asked, coming back into the room.
He stared at her. "I'm sorry," he said again.
She rolled her eyes and sat down on the bed, pulling the blankets over her lap. "I have to admit, I rather liked it. You're very warm."
Daniel didn't know what to do. One time, off-world on a very cold planet he and Sam had woken up to find themselves spooning in the tent while Jack and Teal'c took the watch. Sam had had the decency to be as embarrassed as he was. They mumbled apologies, insisted it had been necessary, and never spoke of it again. That was how situations like this were supposed to work. Vala just saw it as another opportunity to toy with him.
And of course, he played right into her hands.
He snapped out of his self-conscious stupor and grabbed a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt out of his dresser as he fled the room.
"I'm going to make coffee," he mumbled by way of lame excuse.
"Can you make me some more of your mother's tea?" she called after him.
Daniel was still hiding in the kitchen pretending to clean when there was a knock at the door. He peeked out the window and saw Teal'c's big black SUV parked at the curb.
"Hey, Teal'c," Daniel greeted overly enthusiastically when he opened the door.
"Hello Daniel Jackson," Teal'c greeted with a slight incline of the head. "I have come to enquire as to Vala's current state of health."
"Come on in."
Teal'c accepted the invitation. He was carrying a small gift bag, purple with pink tissue paper.
"Is that for Vala?" Daniel asked.
"I believe it is customary to bring a gift when visiting an ill friend," Teal'c explained.
"That's very kind of you. She's asleep right now, but you're welcome to hang around."
"I would like that very much, Daniel Jackson."
After making Teal'c a cup of tea and refilling his own coffee the men sat in the living room.
"You have no television, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c observed, eying the empty space on an old dresser against the wall.
"I moved it into the bedroom for Vala last night," Daniel explained, trying not to look as guilty as he felt. But, he could feel it written across his face in bold permanent letters. I SLEPT WITH VALA.
"Is there progress in your relationship with Vala?" Teal'c asked in the blunt, innocent manner the Jaffa had become known for.
Daniel choked on his coffee. "Progress? What progress? There is no progress. There is nothing to progress. Why would you ask about progress?"
"There is great speculation amongst myself, Colonel Mitchell and Colonel Carter as to the nature of your relationship with Vala."
Daniel's jaw dropped. "You guys talk about us?"
"In fact, the nature of your relationship with Vala is of great interest to many of the members of the SGC."
"Is it not common for there to be great speculation as to the secrets kept by one's colleagues?"
"It's just gossip, Teal'c. Gossip by its very nature isn't true."
Teal'c nodded his understanding, but something about his agreement left Daniel with the haunting feeling that Teal'c had learned how to humor people. They sat in silence.
"Any news from the base?" Daniel asked.
"Would that not be gossip, Daniel Jackson?"
"Not if we stick with facts."
"Colonel Carter has made little progress on the machine found by SG-8 on P9Y-2R9. She is finding it quite difficult to decipher its purpose."
"Are my notes not helping?" Daniel asked, leaping at the change of topic.
"I am unsure. She has not specified the nature of her difficulties."
"Vala's fever is gone so Dr. Lam's going to check it over tomorrow. I'll see what I can do for Sam then."
"I am certain your assistance will be most appreciated."
There was an awkward pause in the conversation. "What are you and Mitchell up to?" Daniel tried to prod the conversation along.
"We have engaged in a simulated battle. Colonel Mitchell is quite upset that it appears he will not be victorious."
"What game are you guys playing?"
"It is called Risk."
"Oh," Daniel nodded. "He's used to playing against me. He slaughters my men every time."
"He is a formidable opponent."
There was another awkward pause. "Want to play Senet?" Daniel offered.
The ancient Egyptian board game was an easy fallback for the pair. They had bonded over the game when Teal'c had first come to Earth. Daniel had spent hours playing a version of the game with fellow Egyptologists, but he still hadn't gotten over the idea that he and Teal'c were the only people on Earth who played the game according to the proper rules. Even though the board and pieces had been found in tombs and ruins, the rules had been lost to Earth's history.
They were still playing when Vala interrupted them.
"Muscles!" she all but squealed. She padded across the room in bare feet, jumping into his lap. "You came to see me."
"He came to see how you were feeling," Daniel said.
"Daniel has been taking very good care of me," Vala told Teal'c. "We've been reading and watching movies. He's made a fabulous tea and one of the best soups I have ever tasted. Which…" she turned her flirtiest eyes to their favorite target. "Is there any left?"
Daniel immediately blushed and looked at the Senet board. "Yeah, yeah I've got some more."
"What about the bread?"
"I got that, too." He hoped Teal'c would tell everyone that he'd been making fresh flat bread, in addition to Vala and Sam telling everyone about the tea and soup. There was dough in the refrigerator, all he had to do was fry it. He doubted anyone would believe that it was normal for him to make so much from scratch. Sam was already giving him a hard time about it and Mitchell didn't need any extra ammunition. "Teal'c do you want any?" Daniel asked trying to sound casual about it.
"I am not currently hungry, Daniel Jackson."
"Lunch for one, then." He stood up.
"I'll play your turn," Vala volunteered happily, eying the game.
"Do you know the rules of Senet, Vala?" Teal'c asked.
"No. But it can't be hard to learn," she shrugged settling into Daniel's spot on the couch.
Daniel shrugged. "Go ahead. I'm already losing."
Vala took his seat and when he returned, fresh bread and warmed soup on a tray, she had inexplicably turned the game around and was leading Teal'c by a slim margin. Daniel frowned and studied the board.
"How did you do that?"
"It was easy," she brushed it off.
"Vala is quite skilled at this game," Teal'c agreed.
"So, everyone is better at board games than me," Daniel nodded.
"It would appear so."
"Good to know." He put the tray down and settled to watch Vala finish the game with Teal'c while she at lunch.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The next afternoon while Vala went tor her appointment Daniel went down to Sam's lab to help her with the artifact. He was frowning over the markings, looking at the notes he left her.
"Yeah, see, right here." He stood and pushed at a symbol and a panel slid open, a light came on and it started humming.
"How did you do that?" Sam asked, incredulous.
"Here." He pointed out in the notes where he had scribbled the translation.
Sam came to stand beside him and squinted down at the paper. "There?"
"Okay, first off your handwriting is terrible," she pointed out. "And secondly I'm pretty sure you wrote that in Dutch."
"Did I?" he frowned at his notes. "Huh… I did. Sorry."
"So…" she bumped him with her hip. "How was it?"
"How was what?"
"You know…" she grinned suggestively, biting her lip.
"You know what," Daniel told her. "I'm a little tired of all these rumors and I'm starting to get the feeling that you're the one behind it all."
Sam rolled her eyes. "Come on… dish."
"I held her hair while she threw up," Daniel deadpanned. That one had shut Mitchell down immediately.
"Oh," Sam made a very un-Sam-like cooing noise.
"What?" he asked, almost panicked. How had he made Sam make that noise?
"The fact that you don't know makes it even sweeter," she told him. "You have it bad."
"I do not have anything… especially not it."
Sam rolled her eyes. Sometimes boys were impossible... and stuck in junior high. "When you're ready to admit it, come find me."
"I will never need to come find you," he told her, leaving for effect.
"You will," she called after him.
"Will not!" he yelled back.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vala got the all clear from Dr. Lam and moved back home to her quarters in the SGC. It took Daniel a couple hours, but he got his house put back together to how it used to be. The sheets and towels were washed, the TV was back in the living room, and dinner was coming from to-go boxes.
Daniel sat on the couch, cross-legged, using a pillow on his lap as an impromptu table to eat his dumplings and lo mein noodles. He found a Star Trek rerun and settled in. Something felt off… his house, usually cozy and private, felt empty… and lonely. He tried to shake it, but his mind kept wandering. The voyages of the Starship Enterprise did nothing to hold his attention.
He picked up his phone and started to dial Vala- but snapped the phone shut before finishing. It was stupid. She was probably still a little tired. And more importantly, she was probably tired of him. But it was probably a good idea to check on her. If she were asleep, she'd probably just sleep through the call anyway.
He started to dial again and closed the phone five numbers in.
Danny, what is your problem? He groaned rubbing his hand through his hair. He took a deep breath and dialed again, convincing himself not to hang up as it started ringing.
"Hey," he caught himself smiling when Vala answered. "I was just calling to see how you were doing."