The sun was bright in the sky, and it’s still warm enough that I felt comfortable in only jeans and a tank top, but every breath tasted like fall. Until I came here, I’d never stuck around one place long enough to notice that kind of subtle change. I squinted at the forest across the park, trying to discern if the trees looked less green than they did three weeks ago, when we’d last had a chance to come here.
Sam and Mitchell were off jogging on a trail somewhere through those trees. Mitchell invited the whole team, but Daniel had merely raised his eyebrows, and then returned to the book he had brought along. I said something about taking one last opportunity to work on my tan, but my decision was tied to Daniel’s. Teal’c declined, but not long after they left, he announced his intention to take a walk. Before he left, though, he gave me a long look that felt as close to a wink as Muscles could manage.
That look, and the changing season – those are my reasons for acting so foolish, and I’m sticking to them.
I decided the trees were too far away to make out whether the leaves were starting to turn. But luckily, we were sitting on a picnic blanket just underneath a large oak. Leaning back, I rested my head in Daniel’s lap to look up at the canopy of leaves over us.
“What are you doing, Vala?”
Good. Daniel’s tone was amused, not annoyed.
“I’m looking to see if the leaves are changing colors yet.” I chose my words carefully, and sure enough, Daniel only grinned before going back to his book.
I forgot all about the silly leaves, and focused my attention on the texture of Daniel’s jeans against the back of my neck, the warmth radiating from his body to mine, and the need to keep my breathing light and even. I closed my eyes, but felt no need to dream.
Sometime later, Daniel began playing with my hair. He never looked up from his book, so maybe he never even realized he was doing it, but it pushed me over the edge. I’d been battling Daniel to see who had the greatest self-control for far too long, and I wanted to surrender. Reaching up around his book, I wrapped my hand around his neck and pulled his head down.
Our lips touched for one impossible moment before Daniel jumped up, dropping both his book and my head on the ground.
“Damn it, Vala, for once can’t you just lay off?”
For a moment, towering over me like that, he was Scary Daniel. The Daniel who faced down Goa’uld and Priors without fear of retribution. The Daniel who had made me feel like a fool for imagining he could be attracted to me.
I pushed myself up until I was standing face to face with him.
“Come on Daniel… A beautiful day, one of the last we’re going to get this summer…”
“What, you’re bored, and you thought you’d have some fun?”
I gave Daniel a hopeful smile. “You and I, alone on a picnic blanket? You have to see it can’t get more romantic than this.”
I was begging him to open his eyes and see what was going on here.
“I’m so tired of this game you insist on playing. Do you honestly think you’ll ever convince me to have sex?”
Daniel really didn’t need to carry a weapon with him, when he could wound someone so deeply with just a few words. I tried to look him in the eye, to see if I could catch a glimpse of what was really going on in that hard head of his, but he turned away, staring at those same trees I’d been looking at earlier.
“It’s going to happen one of these days Daniel. That’s how things go between a man and a woman…” …in love.
Daniel turned back around suddenly, and the anger in his eyes made me take a step backwards.
“No, Vala, its not. Would you please get that through your head once and for all.”
One of these days, I’m going to quit waiting for Daniel Jackson to stop burying his head inside of his own history. One of these days, I’m going to give up on the man ever catching a clue. One of these days, when I stop loving my Daniel.
One more moment, before I gave up, and let Daniel keep his carefully created glass house.
“Well, you know me, I guess I just got caught up in the moment.”
I think it might have been my sarcasm that made Daniel frown, but I made a point of walking over to the furthest corner of the blanket before sitting with my back to him. I heard him sit down and pick up his book.
How could I have been so foolish as to try to force this. Its taken years for Daniel to trust me as a friend, and now…
I’m hugging my knees, resting my chin there. In less than a month, it will be exactly four years since I first came to earth. Four years since I bound Daniel in those damned bracelets. Four years later, and I’m the one bound as his prisoner. If I’d known the future consequences of my actions back then, I wonder if I would have done things differently? But I’m a different person now, than I was then. A better person. Daniel’s made me a better person.
There are so many things I want to say to him. You know, Daniel, at one point, yes, all I was looking for was sex. I thought if I could just sleep with you, I’d be able to forget about you. Then you went and saved my life a few times, not to mention that time I did die, and somehow, my perspective changed. Don’t get me wrong – I still want to have sex with you. Only for the first time in my life, I think I might enjoy it more if in between the sex, we continue to talk and argue and maybe move in together and possibly even plan a future together.
I’m not sure what’s stopping me from saying all that. Maybe the same thing that stopped me from ever really apologizing for those bracelets. I don’t think its pride. I gave that up around Daniel ages ago. I suppose I’m worried that even after all that, Daniel will still find some reason to find me unacceptable.
Sam and Mitchell are coming back from their jog now. They’re still a ways off, but I can see them approaching. I’m not positive, but I don’t think Daniel’s turned a page in his book since he sat back down. This promises to be lovely and awkward. Sam won’t say anything – at least not here – but Mitchell might.
The realization that Sam, Mitchell, and yes, even Teal’c can see what Daniel can’t sinks in. I need to get out of here.
Still facing away from Daniel, I stand up. I think I can feel his eyes burning into my back, but I don’t want to turn around to see whether or not I’m right.
“I’m going to go stretch my legs for a bit.”
Why I feel the need to announce this, I’m not sure. Daniel is smart enough to figure it out when I walk away. Maybe because announcing it gives me an excuse to stand here for a minute and wait for him to tell me not to go.
The trees that seemed so far away really only take a few minutes to reach. Once I’m sure I’m hidden by them, I stop, stepping off the path to lean back against the trunk of a particularly inviting looking tree. I notice a flash of color on the ground. There on the grass is a perfect, blazing red leaf. I reach down to pick it up, but while I’m doing this a teardrop slides down my cheek and lands in the middle of the leaf. I trace a finger through the moisture, along the darker veins that run throughout the leaf. Its feels like velvet, as if it were still full of life, instead of all but dead. I lift it to my face, to wipe away the tears that won’t stop. The scent of the earth fills my nostrils, but when I try breathing deeper, I end up sniffling.
I’m crying. Of course I’m crying. That’s why I ran away, isn’t it? So that I could do this here, away from everyone else?
Footsteps. Someone’s coming.
I begin walking again, certain I’ll soon be passed by a stranger just out to get some exercise. Or maybe it’s Sam. I don’t really want to talk to Sam right now, but Sam would be better than –
Not Sam. I pick up my pace slightly, not turning around. The footsteps behind me break into a jog.
When Daniel grabs my arm, I catch of glimpse of the shock in his eyes when he sees my tears before I wrench my arm away.
“Leave me alone, Daniel. Please.”
Its difficult to run while wiping tears away, but I manage long enough that when Daniel finally catches up to me, we’re both panting. Still, I’m blaming the tears, which won’t stop.
I’m still short on oxygen when Daniel kisses me. Both of his hands cup my face, and his thumbs wipe away the lingering tears. His lips are softer than the leaf still curled in my hands, and when he breaks away, I notice his face is almost as red.
I work up the nerve to voice the one nagging fear weighing on my heart. “You’re not going to blame that on me now… are you?”
“Yes, I am.”
I blink, certain my eyes are about to fill again.
“It’s entirely your fault that I’m obsessed with your lips.”
I’m being kissed again. I hold back a whimper when it ends too soon.
“And its definitely your fault that I don’t know what your skin tastes like, but I’m still craving it.”
I want to point out that really, that one is his fault – he could have found out a long time ago, if he hadn’t been so stubborn, but then Daniel’s mouth is on my neck, and all that comes out is a moan, which unfortunately makes him stop and look up.
“And that sound right there? I’m blaming that sound for why I’m probably not going to be able to stop myself now.”
I look up into Daniel’s eyes, and have to blink at what I see there. He’s let down all of his walls, and I can see how much this is scaring him. I reach up and wrap my hands around the back of his neck, holding him in place in case he tries to look away.
“Then it’s a good thing I don’t want you to stop right now. In fact,” I pause, to make sure he understands. “I hope you’ll never stop. Ever.”
“Ever?” he asks, and I know once he’s processed this, we’ll sit down and talk this out and it will probably take hours and we might even end up yelling at each other again, but for now, he just needs reassurance which I’m happy to give.
“You’re stuck with me for good now.”
The question in Daniel’s eyes is still hesitant, so I push back my own fears to find courage for him.
“Don’t you remember? I’ve stopped running,” I admit, and then we’re kissing again, only this time Daniel isn’t hesitant, and I’m actually kissing him back, and neither of us is interested in stopping, even when we run out of oxygen again.
Later, I wish that Daniel had thought to bring that picnic blanket with him, and find out that lying back in a bed of leaves isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds, especially since it really is still too early for there to be many leaves on the ground, but none of that really matters. It also doesn’t matter who figured what out when, although I’m sure we’ll talk about that at length eventually too.
I’m leaning back against Daniel’s chest now, his arms around my waist and his mouth nuzzling my hair. We’ve discussed the need to eventually go back for the past twenty minutes or so, but neither of us feels like moving yet. Daniel’s heartbeat feels slow and steady, and I contemplate making it race one more time. I realize my fear is that when we leave the cover of these trees, out of sight even from anyone walking along the path, Daniel will revert back to his previous state of denial.
Daniel’s lips move in to nibble my earlobe. “We should leave, soon,” he whispers.
“Yes, we should.” I turn to let Daniel see my smile, and end up losing myself in a kiss instead.
“No, I mean we should really get out of here. Go back to my place or something.”
His words come out quickly, all in one breath. Daniel is as scared as I am. It’s both surprising and comforting.
I stand up, holding out a hand for Daniel to join me. He tries to pull me back down again, but I hold my ground. Once he’s standing, I push him back against the tree. My kiss is fierce and possessive. My Daniel needs to realize something. I’m never letting go.
Let the wind fall wild across my path
Even though we barely move, there's no turning back