The irony of the situation was not lost on Daniel. In fact, it had him feeling more than a little punch drunk. Daniel had lost track of how many times he'd faced certain death before. He had to think for a few moments before he could count how many times death had 'won'. He had a feeling ascension was out this time around as well. Did I put on a good show for you? He directed his thoughts randomly towards Oma and the other ascended beings he imagined were happily non-interfering in his life.
He was in orbit, around a planet he didn't know the name or location of. There was no hope of the rest of SG-1 swooping in to save his butt again. I'm on my own in this one. Well, not quite. No, his only possible salvation was standing across the room, nervously biting a fingernail, cocking a zat gun in his general direction with the other hand. The urge to touch her smooth, alabaster skin had never before been so dominant in Daniel's mind. He swallowed once more, feeling the knife's blade press into the the skin of his neck. It was now or never. He'd live this one down, eventually, if he could only get out of here alive.
"Vala," he cried out desperately, "Vala, if I'm going to die for it, can I at least get another kiss?"
Twenty-Four hours earlier…
"Is this a joke?"
"Do I look like I'm joking?"
"Do you ever not look like you're joking?"
"Do you ever consider following my orders?"
"You're one to talk."
"Not as much as you. We all know you like to talk. And talk. You're pretty good at it, really…"
"However we both have shown a weakness in knowing when to shut up, as you're demonstrating right now, so how about you shut up and tell me what's seriously going on here."
Jack was silent for a moment. That moment began to stretch out. The faint sound of a clock ticking was all that could be heard in the SGC briefing room.
"I am being serious, Daniel. We need you on this one. Besides, I thought you'd be all over it. New culture to play in! Old stuff to look at! A possible ZPM to make gate travel to Atlantis possible!"
"Like you'd even let me go once we could."
"I did! It's not my fault you… got distracted."
"General Hammond ordered you to let me go, and you've been grinning ever since I came back.. Now come on Jack, you want me to go – without the team – as a spy? Not a recon mission, but an actual, active spy? With the cover of what?" Daniel flicked the briefing in his hand, building up momentum in his speech, "An arms dealer slash drug runner slash bounty hunter? Why not just say I deal in the sex trade while you're at it? All this set up, just so I can look at something a real con artist is trying to pawn off on the unsuspecting? I can't believe this is an official SGC mission. It's like a B-movie."
"As opposed to the missions SG-1 regularly goes on, which are summer blockbuster hits? Come on, Daniel. You're tagging along with SG-7, who have been embedded on this planet for several months now, and been strictly covert ops for the past six years. You're going to look at the merchandise, and tell me whether its worth the weapons grade naquedah they want. Then you are going to walk back through the Stargate and write up a nice report. If we're lucky, it'll even be read by the president, who will no doubt let the person who figured out a way back to Atlantis visit."
"I seem to remember helping to figure out how to get to Atlantis in the first place, and yet?" Daniel gestured around the room, frustrated, not seeing a need to finish his sentence.
In the back of his mind, Daniel knew he was being unreasonably stubborn. This was no crazier than dozens of things he'd done for the SGC over the years. It was just that this latest scheme brought back memories of that aborted trip on the Prometheus, and the last time he had gotten involved in the seedier side of the galaxy. The seedier side, as opposed to the evil side? Rolling his eyes, Daniel admitted to himself what he'd known all along: He'd go on the mission, but that didn't mean he was going to make things easy on Jack.
"Not that I don't miss our bonding times Jack, but tell me again why the rest of the team isn't here for this briefing?"
Jack smirked, and Daniel realized he'd been found out in all of two seconds. This is why you shouldn't be making me a spy, Jack.
"Sorry Daniel, but you're flying solo – hah, Solo on this one."
Daniel raised an eyebrow. Only Jack would decide that yes, Hans Olo was a perfectly legitimate cover identity.
"Teal'c's in major negotiations with some of the rebel Jaffa leaders – something big is in the works – and Carter thinks she's on to something that might lead to us turning the replicators into recycling once and for all. You know I hate to interrupt Carter when she's on to something. Don't worry, if this lead turns out to be real – and right now I have my doubts – SG-1 will definitely be involved"
"And why can't SG-7 video the artifact in question, and I'll review it like I always have in situations like this?"
"This is different, Daniel. This isn't a rock sitting in the middle of some field. P4X-468 is hub for space pirates, and the traders are a paranoid bunch around all those double-crossers. The whole place is rigged with jammers and scanners and who knows what else. Besides, you always like to touch your artifacts, stroke them to see if it brings up a response. When you consider you're usually doing this late on a Friday night, it's enough to make some people wonder-"
"Is there anything else I need to know?"
Jack grinned. "Well, there is the matter of your disguise…"
Warily, Daniel glanced at Captain Miles Naismith and then back at the reflection in the mirror. This just isn't right. He watched his own reaction turn from discomfort to disgust as he realized he really wasn't going to be able to wear anything under the pants, even if he had convinced them to at least let him try. They were black leather, and the cliché leaving nothing to the imagination barely began to describe the way they hugged and clung and generally, well, sometimes even bad clichés were correct.
Captain Naismith studied him in a most unsettling way, and then pulled a deep blue linen shirt that laced up at the collar and billowed out in the sleeves.
"Put that on with the vest that goes with the pants, and you'll be set to go."
Standing there in his bdu's, average height, average build, average everything, Captain Naismith of SG-7 could have faded into the everyday background of the SGC. Daniel found it disconcerting that he had not just this outfit, but a closet full of similar clothing, all issued to him by his military superiors. Then again, Daniel had an office filled with ancient alien artifacts the same military superiors relied on him to figure out. Moments like these made Daniel step back and shake his head at the entire Stargate program..
Slipping into the shirt and vest, Daniel sighed and tried to tell himself that it was just another form of camouflage. Then he caught sight of his reflection again, and groaned. I look like a pirate. A gay pirate.
He heard a wolf whistle, and when he turned around he saw Jack and Sam standing at the doorway. There was no question who the whistle came from.
"Carter, have I ever told you how shy Daniel was when we first met?"
Sam gave him a wicked smile, and held up a camera. "Say cheese!"
"What! No!" Daniel held up a hand in a vain attempt to stop the picture from being taken.
"That'll be perfect for the scrapbook," Sam said, leaning against the door frame.
"It is so nice to see that you've come out of your shell a little," Jack continued his previous point, clearly working up to something. "Are you sure you don't want to come out anymore?"
If Daniel were still ascended, the look he gave Jack at that moment would have hurt. Badly.
"It, umm, does perhaps seem a bit over the top?" Sam said hopefully, and Daniel's expression softened to one of gratitude.
"Thank you. Captain Naismith, I-"
"No," Naismith cut him off with a grin. Daniel suddenly suspected that the ability to blend into a crowd was something the officer had cultivated, rather than his natural state. "For where we're going, and who you're meeting, this is perfect."
Daniel's eyes were twitching, and not from the contacts he was wearing. The event horizon had dumped them not only right in the middle of the city of Lansing, but the marketplace appeared to have grown organically from this natural point of trade. The streets were littered with ships and gliders, not all of Goa'uld design, and in their shadows stood even more tents and tables. What the market had overgrown made Daniel's little archaeologist heart soar. It was a city – an entire civilization. There were just slightly crumbling domes and arches that suggested a pre-Islamic Arab society. The legend of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves came to mind. Appropriate, considering this place is probably crawling with thieves.
He expected to see a flying carpet, or maybe more realistically a snake charmer at any moment. Instead what he saw was a juxtaposition of primitive stone buildings and space ships beyond earth's level of technology outside of the SGC. His feelings towards this mission soared. What were the chances he could get SG-7 to let him hang around, explore the city a little, once he debunked this artifact… He began drifting away from the Stargate, wanting to take a closer look at a mosaic half hidden behind a glider…
"Name and purpose!"
Daniel jumped back as he realized a Jaffa was blocking their way beyond the gate, holding a zat in one hand, and a voice data recorder in the other.
"Victor Rotha, procurement agent for the Dendarri Free Merchants Company, here with Hans Olo. We're here to trade." Captain Naismith nudged Daniel. Daniel was bewildered, at the exasperated look he was being given.
"Err, right, yes, we're here to trade?" Daniel repeated, unsure of why he was doing so. He lifted his eyebrows when this was enough for the Jaffa to nod and step aside.
As they moved further away from the gate, Daniel asked Naismith what the welcoming committee was all about.
"Oh, they know half the people there are lying through their teeth. The voice recorder is what tracks you – you give them a word when you're leaving as well, and that way they keep a general tab on who's around, and who's been around too long."
The further into the market they got, the more Daniel was intrigued by the way every available surface seemed to have been turned into a landing pad. The social structure of this planet was unlike any Daniel had encountered on any planet he'd been to through the gate, and that was saying a lot. "Can't people just leave by ship?" Daniel gestured around to the various ships they were passing.
"They've got similar security set up for incoming and outgoing ships."
"And people agree to this?"
"Well, everyone's aware that if you know the right people to bribe, the information will flow, but believe it or not, its one of the things that makes this place considered more legit than the real underground market of the galaxy."
"Ahh," Daniel nodded, smiling a greeting at a man who was watching them pass by. "So only honest thieves here?"
"Well, I wouldn't go that far…"
The man Daniel had smiled to narrowed his eyes, and moved a hand threateningly towards the weapon at his side. Daniel gulped, and quickly looked away.
SG-7 was set up in a tent tucked away off the main flow of the market, and it didn't take them long to check in. From there, it was just a short walk to yet another tent, where the item they were looking for was supposedly available for trade. Before they could reach the tent, however, Daniel stopped short in his tracks as he was greeted by a rather arresting sight.
The woman who had their back to them was dressed from head to toe in a deep red leather, only red didn't seem to be the right color to describe it. It was the color of merlot as its poured into a glass; the color of roses in full bloom; the color of blood pouring out of a broken heart. Leather boots flowed into leather pants leading to an ivory expanse covered only by two leather straps criss-crossed the small of her back. No, it couldn't be…
He studied the pinned up black curls, and pretended he didn't know who they belonged to as he imagined releasing the lengths and running his fingers it. Even from this distance, Daniel knew that all that leather would feel soft and smooth under his fingers, which clenched into fists at his side just thinking about it. Daniel's vain attempt at denial was doomed to be short lived as the vixen spun around to face them. This just isn't right…Desperate to avoid eye contact, Daniel's eyes instead followed the plunging neckline slashed into all that leather. If he let his gaze drop even lower, there were a few smooth inches of midriff to distract him as well. He bit his lip before swallowing. Hard.
"Greetings!" Captain Naismith was an ignorant idiot. "Allow me to introduce ourselves. I'm Victor Rotha of the Dendarri, I believe you've met with some of the other members of my company, and this is-"
Daniel stepped on his foot before he could continue.
"Daniel Jackson," Her voice seemed to caress each word, and Daniel's eyes finally traveled back up her body, to a grin that could only be described as feral. A few short steps brought her from whatever task she'd been doing at the door to her tent to come to rest in a relaxed pose a few feet in front of them. "Of the Tau'ri, was it?" She continued, with a quick wink to let him know his wandering gaze had been found out.
"Vala Mal Doran," Daniel swore. Names were the source of epithets in most languages. "Of Hell."
Daniel rolled his eyes. "Hardly."
"Your presence here would suggest otherwise." She reached a hand out while saying this, but before she could reach his arm Daniel pushed it away.
"I've come on… business."
"Oh yes." This time her eyes were clearly roaming his body. He crossed his arms across his chest in an attempt at protection as she continued. "What is your business again? Bringing down the system lords single-handedly?"
Daniel raised an eyebrow. "I thought you'd never heard of me."
"Glad I could," she stepped closer, resting a hand on his chest, "stroke your ego"
Daniel took a step back, bumping into Naismith, who had a very blank look on his face. Vala's eyes traveled between the two of them, and then once more up and down Daniel's body. Daniel once again regretted his supposedly necessary choice of clothing.
"You know," she sad with a pout, "I was so sure you liked girls…"
Daniel pointedly stepped away from Naismith before answering. "And I was so sure you couldn't actually be as insane as you come across."
Vala's smile was blinding. "Daniel! How sweet. I would never have such kind things to say about someone who hijacked my ship."
Daniel happened to glance at poor Captain Naismith when the light of recognition went off in his eyes. So he had been briefed on the woman who stole earth's only ship. Apparently not well enough. When he got back, he was going to suggest to Jack that they circulate posters. Well, after he killed Jack. Naismith's face changed once again.
"If you two knew each other, why'd you need me to set up a meeting?" He said, looking like someone who just had his time wasted. "You should know I don't do refunds, Jackson."
Daniel blinked. Right. The SGC had spent months setting up these cover identities with no ties back to earth. Well, he could always kill Vala before he killed Jack. If she was dead, she couldn't tell anyone… Wait, where was Naismith going? He wouldn't leave him alone with her, would he?
Apparently he would.
"So, lover," Her eyebrows began to wiggle, "No that we're finally alone, how can I be of," a pause, as her eyes drifted downwards, "service to you."
Daniel scrutinized the woman before him. Was it possible he could get her to let him look at the artifact, if she had it? This was, apparently, her line of business. He couldn't help but be skeptical.
"I have to say," Vala continued, not bothering to hide the way she was clearly checking him out "your butt looks good in leather. I think you could do with something a little less… flamboyant on top, however." Her voice dropped to a mock whisper, "You might be giving people the wrong idea."
Daniel clenched his jaw. That's it, I'm getting out of these clothes as soon as possible. Daniel regretted that thought almost immediately, as his mind supplied him with images of what he could be doing with Vala without clothing at the moment.
"Don't worry." Vala seemed content to continue the conversation one-sided for as long as necessary. "I know you think I look good in leather too, even if you are too shy to say so. Or," Vala continued, as if she could read Daniel's thoughts at the moment, "Are you here because you couldn't get the thought of what I look like without my clothing out of your head. Rather more forward of you than I would have guessed."
Daniel fought back a groan. Not helping. Definitely not helping. "I don't suppose you'd believe me if I said that meeting you on this planet at this time was entirely not my intention."
Vala seemed to consider this for a moment. "No, you're right, I don't believe you."
This time Daniel did groan.
"Well, I heard," he began walking around, but that didn't seem to keep her eyes from following him, "That you might have something of interest to me. Of course, I'm beginning to question my source. He didn't tell me I'd be dealing with a fruitcake."
That got her attention. "Oh Daniel, I do love it when you talk sweet to me. It makes me want to talk dirty back." Or maybe not.
He stopped pacing. It was just making his blood pump faster anyhow. Letting his voice drop to a whisper, he took one more step to come up behind her and tilted his head towards hers to let his breath caress her ear. "Do you know what I really want from you, Vala?" He felt her arm snake back to grab his waist, but he gripped her wrist before it could. "I want to see the tiles you lifted from the Temple at Villahermosa. In fact, I need you to lay them out," he caught her other arm when she attempted to twist around, stopping her from struggling "In the exact order you found them."
Daniel now stood pressed up against Vala's back, with an iron grip on both her wrists. Vala leaned back, as if settling into an embrace. His heart felt as if it was beating right out of his chest, and that wasn't the only place Daniel could feel his blood pumping. He tried to take a step back, but she followed, locking both of them in a dance that required no music.
"And if I were to do this for you – and I'm not saying I could, mind you." Her still-free fingers began to trace a delicate pattern on his thigh. Quickly his hands slipped down further to grab hers. Daniel moved them to her hips, trapping his own hands on top of hers as she continued. "If I were to do this… there would be, perhaps, a treasure map?"
Not so much a treasure map as a history of events surrounding the temple, written in ancient, with perhaps a vague reference to a ZPM being stored somewhere on that planet, or another one belonging to one of the many Goa'uld who ruled that planet over the years. But if a treasure map would motivate her to show him the tiles, let her believe it. What could it hurt?
"There might be," he said slowly, as if reluctant to tell her this.
Her hair smelt like strawberries and peaches. He wondered how she managed that?
"This treasure… Would I get a cut of it?"
Ha! When she asked, he knew he had her. It was clear that she was, above all else, in it for the rewards.
"Mhm," he hummed with a genuine grin.
"Fifty-fifty?," She began to twist, and he let her this time, until they were face to face, his hands still splayed out on her hips, hers coming to rest on his chest.
"Possibly," Daniel said. If they found the ZPM, she could keep everything else.
Vala leaned in closer then, bringing one hand up to pull his head down. She began laying kisses along his jaw line, before taking a quick nip at his earlobe. Daniel closed his eyes, and tried to remind himself who he was dealing with.
"Daniel?" she said, her voice low and rough. "Daniel, there's something I should probably tell you, darling."
Daniel stopped resisting the temptation to slide his hands inwards from her hips, and really take hold of the flesh on display in all that leather. This time, it was Vala who gasped.
"Daniel…" she trailed off, bringing her hands back down to his chest. "Daniel, I don't share treasure."
The pain registered in his groin before he realized it was from her knee impacting it. This was quickly followed by a shooting pain in his foot where the heel of her boot came down. Daniel was still doubled over in pain when she called out from a few steps away.
"Thanks for the tip, Daniel." He looked up to see her with a smile of pity on her face. "All this time I thought the designs on those tiles were just there for decorative purposes."
Daniel could only look on as Vala retreated to her ship. Running a hand through his hair, he began trying to pull it out as he let out a growl loud enough to make a few people in the area pause and look his direction. With that being the second time she pulled that trick, he should have seen it coming. What was it about Vala that blinded him to all common sense? That's it, Daniel decided, I'm never letting my guard down around that woman again. The thing was, Daniel didn't remember when he had…
"Well that didn't go well."
Daniel spun around to see the no-longer-gone Captain Naismith.
"Where did you go?" Daniel said, thankful to have someone to direct his frustration towards. It didn't seem to phase Naismith, who continued smiling.
"I was around. I've updated the rest of the team on these developments. Is it safe to assume she's not going to show you the tiles?"
"Not unless I break into her ship, zat her, and find the things myself," Daniel said in disgust. Of course she had to confirm that she had the tiles, making it a lot harder to suggest forgetting about them. A crazy idea popped into his head. Crazier that what I've just been through? Grinning, he turned to see Naismith with a similar look of someone lost in thought. "So… Victor Rotha? What kind of resources do you and your team have at your disposal?"
This time, Daniel was going to be prepared. This time, Daniel was going to beat Vala at her own game. This might just prove to be fun.
"Alright, let me make sure I have this correct. This isn't usually the way I do things, you know?" Well, once, but he wasn't itching to repeat that incident.
Naismith smirked in a way that reminded Daniel of Jack. "It was your idea, Daniel."
Yes, it had been his idea, one he'd warmed up to once he saw that the Dendarri Free Merchants Company did indeed seem to have a pretty good arsenal of tools for subterfuge. The first thing Daniel had insisted on was a change in wardrobe which thankfully got very little resistance from SG-7. The pants he was now wearing were still leather – there didn't seem to be any way to get around that shopping in these markets. This pair, however, was made of soft, distressed cream-colored calfskin, and while they still hugged in all the right places, they were much easier to move around in. A brown raw cotton knit top was covered by a tan leather jacket. It had all sorts of useful inner pockets, which he used to store his glasses, along with a radio. A zat he could wear in a holster around his waist, as he wasn't about to face Vala unarmed. Daniel's favorite purchase, however, were the pair of steel toe reptile skin boots, which he shifted from one foot to another in while standing on the dirt floor to the tent making up SG-7's base camp.
"As I was saying, I just want to make sure I have this straight. With this ring," Daniel raised the hand where he had already placed the heavy ring, "If I touch someone with the stone facing out, they will see that I am indeed Hans Olo, or at least, someone other than me. However," Daniel quickly flipped the ring on his finger so that the stone sat palm-side of his hand. "If I touch someone with the stone itself, the antidote will be released, and they'll see me for who I really am. Of course, I don't expect to use that smart little addition, but I wanted to point out its value. I could have used it the last time I had one of these on. Once Vala lets me in to her ship, I'll zat her, tie her up, and call you guys in for back up. We'll need to be pretty quick searching her ship, and I'd recommend at least one of us stands guard over her."
"Guarding a passed out, tied up woman?"
Daniel raised his eyebrows to look down at the interruption.
"Trust me on this one, guys. With Vala, we guard her, no matter how unlikely it seems that she could get away. Make sure you don't take your eyes off of her for a second, either. With any luck, we'll get the tiles, and I'll head back to the SGC straight away, to avoid detection. If anyone does see you assisting me, you should be able to explain it away that I paid you for the services."
God, he might actually accomplish this mission in the one day Jack originally said it would take. At which point he'd shut himself in his office with the tiles, and lock the door until he could justify it had all been worth it.
"You know… You surprise me, Dr. Jackson," commented the same Lieutenant who had interrupted him before.
"Oh?" Daniel asked, not sure he really wanted to know.
The lieutenant shrugged. 'From what I'd heard about you, I never thought you'd be the one to suggest stealing the tiles."
Daniel scowled at him, and tried to ignore the voice of his conscience that had been asking the same question. "Vala tried to steal the Prometheus. I doubt she acquired the tiles honestly. She is not a woman who will listen to reason, and the potential pay off is too great."
"You don't have to convince me," he said, again shrugging off Daniel's passionate defense. "I just hadn't expected this plan from you of all people."
Daniel figured it would be pointless to argue.
"Just one question, Daniel?" Captain Naismith for once looked reluctant to speak. Daniel gave him an encouraging look, glad for a change in subject. "How do you know she'll invite you onto her ship."
"Oh, she'll invite me back with her." Daniel's voice grew low and determined. "I'll make sure of that."
SG-7 had a surprising amount of intel on Vala, considering they'd never known to connect her to the Prometheus incident. They knew, for instance, that every evening since she'd come to the planet, she visited a particular pub in the evening. Even Captain Naismith had looked surprised when his lieutenant volunteered the drink that she appeared to be most fond of. Daniel was sitting in the pub, in a corner where he should – with any luck – be able to remain unnoticed by her, while still letting him see the entrance.
It was a crowded, if rather cliché bar, with small tables tucked away in corners, and larger ones in the middle of the room filled with people drinking, gambling, and other borderline illicit activities. Daniel didn't recognize the smoky scent permeating the room, and didn't think he should ask anything about it. Daniel's table was in a corner almost hidden by a large wood pillar, and about as far from the door as he could get. There was little air movement in the place, creating the kind of heat that had the back of your shirt damp when you lean against a chair, and a cool drink sweating almost as much as the person who ordered it.
Daniel amused himself by wiping away the condensation dripping down the side of the beer he'd ordered to keep up appearances. Not for the first time in his life, Daniel wished he actually had the alcohol tolerance of a normal human being. He hated that it took so little to put him out of his right mind. Rather similar to what he experienced whenever he entered Vala's proximity, come to think of it. Daniel frowned. His mind kept going back to the questions raised about whether or not they were doing the right thing. Of course it was the right thing. Daniel never thought twice about outsmarting a goa'uld.
But she isn't a goa'uld. In fact, she was the victim of a goa'uld.
Without thinking, Daniel picked up the beer and took a sip, as if to wash away the thought of Vala's mere humanity. Grimacing, he pushed the glass further away from him on the table. Focus, he told himself.
When she walked in, he wasn't the only one to notice. Heads turned her way from all corners of the bar, and Daniel heard more than one invitation called out. True to the information he'd been given, she headed straight for the bar, greeting several men with a smile or a wink, which caused a ripple effect of ribbing and jeering around those whom she acknowledged. Daniel didn't care. She now had her back to him, and he was ready to move in.
Daniel stood up, and hit his knee on the table, causing it to lift off the ground slightly before coming down again with a loud thunk. Heads turned in his direction. He quickly spun around, so that his back was to Vala. He stood there for what seemed like an eternity, breathing hard. If she sees me, its not that big a deal. I'll just come back again tomorrow night. Daniel really didn't want to be on the same planet as Vala for another day. Bracing himself, he turned around. Everyone, including Vala, had gone back to their business.
Daniel was pleased to note that she hadn't changed her outfit, because it meant there was lots of skin for him to touch. Touch with the ring, that was. She was leaning over the bar slightly to eye the backside of the young bartender grabbing her drink. Daniel rolled his eyes, and pulled a tablet he'd found in the marketplace out of his jacket pocket. Holding it in front of him in one hand, he deliberately walked into Vala, letting his palm – and the ring – catch against her shoulder.
"Oh, I'm sorry." Daniel was pleased to see the look of confusion in her eyes. He had about thirty seconds to form the mental image she would see from that point on. "I guess I was just so absorbed in this map."
While Vala looked puzzled, and her eyes seemed to have difficulty focusing, Daniel could tell her brain was trying hard to catch up. He hurried on with his prepared introduction.
"Listen, I'm sorry to bother you, my name's Hans. You wouldn't happen to know where I could go to find a good deal on a ship, would you? Or someone who wouldn't mind flying me to a planet with no stargate? "
Vala's gaze focused into something Daniel could only call calculating, but at least there was no sign of recognition. The hand Daniel had on her shoulder slipped down to her waist as she turned around to look at him. Daniel let it linger, ready to get into character.
"Hans… short for handsome, I take it?"
"Hans Olo. It's… German." Daniel bit back a nervous laugh. You are a charming, if somewhat gullible treasure hunter. You deal with women like Vala all the time.
Vala frowned. "I've never heard of that planet."
Now Daniel did laugh. "I'm not surprised. It hasn't produced much…" Daniel faltered. He was getting off script. "Except me, of course."
"Yes, well, you're an attractive enough reason to look further into the planet."
Ok, yeah, they were definitely going way off script. Frantically, Daniel tried to regain control of the situation.
"You still haven't told me your name."
"You still haven't told me what's so fascinating about that map." She stepped away from the hand Daniel still had on her waist at this point, to lean against the counter in a way that showed off just how well all that leather flattered her figure.
Daniel grinned widely, both at the sight before him, and the way she brushed off the question. Well, let her think she was being mysterious, they were at least back on track now. She had tried to steal a glance at the tablet while talking, but he was quick to hold it close to his chest. One of Jack's fishing metaphors came to mind. Something about patience and letting the fish wear itself out before you reeled in the catch.
"Hmm? Oh, I'd rather not say at the moment. If you knew what I had to do to track this down…" Daniel let his grin became sheepish. "Of course, if I can't find a way to the planet, its not going to matter at all."
Vala's attention was clearly elsewhere. Her eyes were scanning the room, even as she maintained her seductive pose. Daniel looked around the room, but while their were one or two men eying him up in a way that suggested they'd had dealings with Vala in the past, he couldn't see anything else that might be distracting her.
Vala stopped looking around, and began scrutinizing him in a way that gave Daniel a harassing sense of de ja vu. He told himself that the effects of the ring couldn't be reversed without the antidote.
"Unless…" Daniel brushed a finger lightly down Vala's arm as he spoke. "You do know someone who could get me to the planet. I promise, it will definitely be worth it."
Come on… You know you want to jump on this one…Daniel had spent awhile – a very pleasant while – thinking up ways to invite himself onto Vala's ship. In the end, he realized it would probably be easier to let her think she was the one luring him in. Here he was, an apparently attractive and susceptible male, with a potential treasure for her to steal. Daniel put as much charm as he knew how into a smile, prepared to be assaulted with the full force of her personality. Why is she hesitating?
Vala returned Daniel's caress with a rather perfunctory one of her own, glancing up at him from under batted eyelashes. "Tempting, but I'd still have to know more. "
Daniel swallowed. There was still something off about her reactions.
"Well… if you'd care to join me where we might not be overheard?" Daniel wondered, as he caught her eyes darting around the room, if she had any idea what the light touch of her fingers was doing to the nerve endings on his arm. Still, she nodded her head, and allowed herself to be led back to Daniel's table in the corner. If his fingers rested on the small of her back for the few steps it took, well, that was just part of the role he was playing. Of course his hands would have to slide up her shoulders when she sat in the chair he pulled out. Daniel found he really was overdressed for the growing warmth of the pub. He slipped off his jacket to hang it on his chair, dropping the tablet into a pocket, and prepared to launch into Part B of his plan. So what if he'd thought she would have already volunteered her ship at this point. He'd still get there, eventually.
Vala still appeared distracted, which was why Daniel almost fell off the chair when her foot began to tease his. Did she just do these sorts of things by instinct? The hardest part of this was going to be not reacting to her advances, or rather, allowing himself to react in the way she wanted him to. Telling himself it probably wasn't the beginning of a leg lock – although with Vala you never knew for sure, Daniel gave her a nudge back of his own, and was rewarded for his efforts by having her attention finally focus back on him.
"So what's the big secret?" she asked, leaning in over the table. Daniel suspected it was killing her to have the barrier between them. He, on the other hand, was grateful for it. He had a feeling he was going to need it to keep his sanity.
"Well, I've only just finished translating the tablet ." He said, stalling, as the toe of her boot began stroking his ankle. He never realized his ankle was that sensitive, or that pointed toe leather boots could feel so… stimulating. He took a deep breath before continuing "You wouldn't happen to know Latin, would you?"
"Latin?" Vala's bewilderment was priceless, and was enough to let him focus for a little while again.
"No, I suppose that would be too much to hope for, there are a few passages I'm still not certain of. It's similar to ancient, though. I don't suppose…?" Daniel let the question linger in his eyes, holding his breath. He needed her to believe she needed him, and not just the tablet. He'd learned that lesson already. He was almost positive she couldn't speak Ancient. Almost.
"Ancient?" Her eyes widened, and the last traces of whatever had felt… off about her demeanor earlier melted away until she was purely precocious Vala once more. "You understand Ancient?" Her voice was incredulous as she asked.
"Hey, I'm not just a pretty face," he said, pretending to be hurt, all the while suppressing the urge to roll his eyes. He even dared to trap one of her knees between his own under the table, wrapping his legs around her slender one in an unseen embrace. Hazily, the thought crossed his mind that if it was treasure Vala was really after, all his flirtations might actually be unnecessary. No, he needed her to believe that he had his guard down, so that hopefully she would lower hers, slightly.
Daniel's thoughts were interrupted when Vala brushed his face with her hand, causing Daniel's breath to catch. "Well, you do have such a pretty face, you can't blame a girl for making assumptions."
Daniel gulped, because she was mirroring the motion of her hands with her other foot, which was working their way up around his calf, under his pant leg. It was enough to almost make Daniel miss the tight pants he'd worn that morning.
"But you can read what the map says?" Vala leaned back, and began playing with the hand Daniel had rested on the table. Daniel let out the breath he didn't realize he was holding. That was a little easier to deal with.
"Like I said, for the most part. It tells the legend of a ruler named Midas." Daniel forced himself to open up his fist to give her better access.
"Is it a map or a legend?" Her fingers were tracing a map of their own along his palm, up to his wrist and then back down to the tips of his fingers. Ok, that is distracting. Daniel thought it was her gentleness that was throwing him off. She seemed almost… subtle.
Vala made sure she had caught his eyes before lifting up her drink with her other hand and slowly licking away some of the condensation on the outside of the glass. Maybe subtle is the wrong word to use. Less violent, at least. Unconsciously mirroring her act, Daniel had picked up the drink he'd left sitting on the table. Before he realized what he was doing, he'd taken a rather large gulp.
"Well, the map is hidden inside the legend." Daniel quickly put the beer down, and brought his other hand on top of hers, reining in her still roaming fingers as well as keeping his own occupied. The heat of her hand inside of his couldn't be that hard to deal with, he thought, as he squeezed her hand.
"Oh, like a riddle. I'm quite good at riddles!" Vala's genuine pleasure at this development radiated from her face, which Daniel found adorable. He lifted up one of his hands to tweak her nose, brushing her cheek at the same time. He pointedly ignored the voice in his head warning him that he was walking into dangerous territory. She was falling for his story, even if it had been the first thing to come to mind when he'd been putting this plan together earlier.
"Its really more of a metaphor, but yes, similar to that."
"And what is this metaphor about?"
They were sitting across the table like two teenagers out on their first date, holding hands, playing footsie, and looking deep into each others eyes. All that was missing was the milkshake and fries to share. Daniel, of course, had never really been on a typical teenage date – he'd been much too shy at that point in his life to even think about it. Even with Sarah, he'd found himself feeling awkward in these sorts of moments. It had really been his time with Sha're that had introduced him to the euphoria of flirtatious looks and touches.
Rubbing his thumb along Vala's, Daniel couldn't help but feel surprisingly grateful that she had helped him to awaken to the idea that he might one day be able to experience such feelings again. If his passions could still be ignited, then surely there was the possibility of meeting someone who he could have a real relationship with. Daniel found himself telling his story almost by rote, his concentration focused on the feeling of Vala's hand in his.
"Well, the legend – legend, mind you – says that Midas was able to turn anything he touched into gold."
The foot that was still stroking his calf stopped in mid motion.
"Anything." Daniel squeezed the hand still tucked inside of his, smug satisfaction penetrating his haze of hormones. If there was ever something that would intrigue Vala, it would be the idea of infinite treasure.
Vala's eyes grew large, as she seemed to take this all in.
"Midas eventually realized the folly of this 'gift' of his, when his food, and in some versions of the legend, his daughter was turned to gold at his touch." Daniel was gaining momentum in telling the story now. "Midas was eventually able to lose this ability by washing in a river, and its said that later the river had similar properties, and was the source of the gold found on the planet. While the Ancients are said to have some pretty amazing abilities, I'm hoping that this actually refers to a piece of technology. A piece of technology that he may have hidden in or near this river."
"Which is described in the map."
"Which is detailed very clearly in the legend, yes."
Daniel wanted to roll his eyes at the way the moral lesson of the myth didn't seem to distress Vala at all. Yes, she would find the Hand of Midas to be very tempting. As tempting as you're finding her hand right now, hmm? Their hands were still joined, resting on the table, but Vala had begun to massage his palm with her thumb, stroking it in steady, slow moving circles. Just as Daniel was thinking that Vala hadn't struck him as the hand holding type of girl, she drew back, and Daniel caught her looking around the room again. He had a moment's panic when he thought that she hadn't fallen for his story. He didn't really have a Plan B. Daniel didn't know if she finally saw what she was looking for or not, but suddenly she had lifted herself up out of the chair, and gracefully plunked herself onto the edge of the table, her legs crossed almost but not quite in Daniel's lap.
"Well, handsome, you are going to end up being very glad that you bumped into me today."
Now there was the Vala Mal Doran Daniel knew and… well, knew. He should really be nervous about the glint of danger in her eye, but after dealing with the other Vala, the one he hadn't encountered before, he was just glad to be back on familiar ground. Reveling in the role he was playing, Daniel leaned back in his chair, and lifted a hand to caress the leg she had presented to him so willingly.
"I have to tell you, I'm already quite pleased at the way this evening's turned out."
Vala's look became positively seductive. "Buy me another drink, handsome, and I promise you, this evening has just begun."
Daniel tipped back the glass of now room temperature beer, and drained the last of it. Gotcha, he thought. Standing up, he leaned over, resting one hand on the table on either side of Vala. His face inches away from hers, he met her look full on.
"I'm going to hold you to that promise."
Daniel stumbled a little as they headed out of the bar and back towards the ship he'd seen her at earlier. One of Vala's hands was around his waist, and had slipped just slightly under his waistband. Of course, Daniel's hand around her shoulders was managing to graze her chest, just a little. Even though this was Vala, Daniel couldn't shake the feeling of not wanting to be too forward. I shouldn't have had that much to drink.
Daniel had, of course, ordered himself a second beer with her drink, to keep up appearances. He hadn't meant to finish it, but it had seemed the only escape from her relentless distractions. When she had offered him a sip of the third drink she had, that naturally evolved into sharing the rest of it. The crisp night air seemed to be sharpening his senses, at least. Night? Noticing he could see stars in the skies, Daniel wondered just how long they'd been in the bar. It had been barely twilight before he'd entered.
"So what was this place, anyhow, before it became the best trading post in the galaxy?"
From the amused look Vala gave him, Daniel suspected he may have been slurring his words slightly. Right, and don't you think a real trader would already know the answer to that question? Especially one who claimed to be so knowledgeable on ancient history? Well, you're supposed to be knowledgeable about ancient history, yet you never did find that out. Why was that, again?
Vala, apparently, was also no stranger to history, because she actually began answering his question. "The city was the home of a minor goa'uld, who fell from his stature completely when he decided to ally himself with his human followers to gain more treasures. The system lords eventually decided to make an example of him, and destroyed him, but the city lived on. At first, I don't think the goa'uld realized that the city was only growing since they took out its leader. Now, of course, there are just enough weapons and ships around here to be too annoying for them to bother with at this point."
It was a strange sort of role reversal, because while Vala was telling her story, Daniel couldn't seem to keep his hands to himself. He pulled her closer into his arms, and even dropped a kiss on top of her hair at one point. There was a strange queasiness in his stomach that he thought might be because this charade was almost over. Either that or he really had had too much to drink.
His musings were cut short when Vala suddenly spun him around, throwing herself up against a wall, pulling his head down to meet hers in a searing kiss. Daniel was on his guard instantly, steeling himself for a kick, a slap, any sort of shooting pain. It was because of this that he cried out so loudly when she bit down on his lip. After a couple of seconds, he realized that he should probably be responding to the beautiful woman who wanted to make out with him. To stay in character, of course.
Deepening the kiss, he combed his fingers through her hair, tugging a little when he met the resistance of the pins holding it up. He sighed happily when at least some of them came undone easily, letting his hand continue to stroke through the tangles he had created. When she raked her nails across his scalp and down the back of his neck, he growled into her mouth, and pushed her further back into the wall, wondering but not really caring why she had given him dominance.
Daniel was turned on, and he really wasn't even bothering to deny it. He felt Vala's knee start to lift, and for a moment he panicked, ready to leap back if he needed to. When she wrapped the leg around the back of his thigh, pulling him in even closer to her, he dragged his lips away from her mouth, never losing the taste of her skin until he found the pulse point on her neck. There, he stayed for awhile, her now loose hair tickling his nose as he let himself have just a brief moment lost to the desire she had stirred up in him from their very first meeting. When she cried out, he felt a greater sense of victory than he had since the day they had activated the ancient chair.
Daniel cupped one hand around her face, his thumb under her chin even as his fingers were still buried in her hair. He let the other slide down to the exposed skin between the her shirt and pants. He looked right into her stormy eyes, amazed to see more than a hint of vulnerability in them.
"You're just full of surprises, aren't you handsome?" Her voice was soft, hesitant even, and Daniel couldn't help but lean in to plant one more soft kiss on her lips.
"We should probably keep heading back to your ship, Vala."
As he was looking directly into her eyes, Daniel couldn't miss the brief moment of uncertainty – it couldn't be fear – in her eyes.
"You're probably right, Hans," she said in that same soft voice as before. "We should head back," a pause, "to my ship."
Daniel noticed that Vala seemed to shiver slightly as they continued walking. Feeling quite warm himself after all that excitement, he slipped out of his jacket without thinking, and put it around Vala's shoulders, giving them a squeeze as he did. She turned and looked at him questioningly.
"You looked cold," he shrugged, kissing her forehead before leaving one arm around her shoulders as they walked. She seemed to huddle into the jacket, leaving Daniel curious again at this seemingly vulnerable side of her. His doubts from earlier reared up again Am I wrong to be tricking her like this? Should I just tell her the truth, and ask if there's anyway she'd be willing to help? No. I tried that already. She's still looking out for herself, she just thinks she needs me, and figures she'll have some fun at the same time. Still, Daniel was beginning to get a sinking feeling at the bottom of his stomach that there might have been a better option – that maybe he took things too far.
When they reached the ship, Vala pulled away slightly, although she did leave a hand on his arm.
"Would you give me a minute?" She smiled coyly.
Daniel nodded, finding himself reluctant to lose contact with her. Over the course of the evening, he'd gotten used to the roaming and resting of her hands on his body. He should probably check in with SG-7, anyhow. He knew they were already way behind the original schedule.
"I don't know," Daniel flirted shamelessly. "Do you promise to only be a minute?"
Only after she disappeared into the ship did Daniel realize that she still wore his jacket. Where his radio was still hidden. Oh well, she wouldn't find it unless she went looking for it. Daniel frowned. Vala just might do that. Oh well, it was hardly an odd thing to be carrying around. SG-7 knew not to contact him on it, until he called them. He hoped they wouldn't think he needed rescuing or something like that, just because things were taking longer than expected.
Daniel spun around to see Naismith standing in the shadows ten feet away. Well, at least he hadn't called on the radio…
"What are you doing here?" Daniel couldn't help but let his annoyance color the tone of his voice.
Naismith raised an eyebrow. "I've been tailing you two since you left the bar. When you didn't check in on time, I headed over there, and saw you were still talking with her."
"Yes, well, things took longer than I expected. She's about to come back out to let me on the ship, so you need to leave."
"Great! I can take her down as she's coming out of the ship, and then we can both go in to grab the tiles."
"No!" Daniel said a louder than he'd intended to. Wait, why did I say that? "I mean, I don't think that would be the best idea at this point."
The look Naismith gave him said everything necessary about what he thought was the best idea at this point. A half-formed explanation came to mind, and Daniel launched into it as if it had been his plan all along. Which it obviously had been on a subconscious level.
"She knows I can speak Ancient. I think I might be able to convince her I'll help to translate the tiles. If I can get her to show them to me in the right order, it'll save me countless hours later. It'll probably take awhile, though, so when you go, don't expect me to check in right away."
"Don't wait up? Jackson, Daniel Jackson is here to work his charms?" Naismith was clearly still skeptical. "Look, are you sure that's the best plan… "
"It is. Trust me."
"Ok, I believe you Jackson. About that kiss back there, though…"
"She kissed me! I was just trying to gain her trust!" Daniel spit out very quickly, and again, louder than necessary.
"What? Oh, whatever you say… No, I was going to tell you – I think she was hiding from someone. There were several people on the streets at the time, so I don't know who, but…"
Daniel heard the door to the ship opening.
"Go!" He tried to keep his voice to a whisper this time.
Daniel beamed a big smile, trying hard not to look like he'd just held a conversation moments earlier as Vala stepped towards him.
"I was beginning to think you'd decided you didn't want me to come in," he said with a mock pout.
Vala grinned, and she hooked her fingers into the belt loops of his pants, using them to pull Daniel back into the ship. "I don't think you know just how much I want you to come on board this ship."
Daniel let himself be led in, and tried not to think about how Naismith was probably still watching them.
"I have a feeling you're about to show me, though…" He tried for a lighthearted tone, but he had a feeling it just came across as nervous.
"Handsome, I promise you, you're about to see things you can't even imagine."
They barely made it in the ship before Vala spun him around with another dizzying kiss. She pushed him back until he felt the uneven wall of the ships hall behind his back. Daniel gripped her waist and it occurred to him that she probably wouldn't appreciate it if he stopped her to ask if she needed his help translating anything at the moment. Then Vala's hand snaked under his shirt to begin kneading the muscles of his back, and all rational thought slipped away.
She had tied her hair up in a ponytail while she was on the ship. As cute as Daniel found it, he decided it needed to go, so he once again combed his fingers through her hair to free it. Between the feel of her hair in his fingers, and the continuing assault of her tongue in his mouth, Daniel was surprised by the sound of his shirt ripping. He broke the kiss long enough to look down questioningly at his now bare chest.
Vala made a poor attempt to look innocent, biting her lip before saying, "Oops," in a voice without an ounce of apology in it.
Daniel's grin was wicked, and he let the remains of his now ruined shirt drop to the floor. He threaded their fingers together and pushed back from the wall to spin her around, pinning her hands above her head. He couldn't let her decide the next move. What he hadn't counted on the way she would feel pressed up against his bare skin, or the way the cool air flowing through a ventilation shaft near them would send rather pleasant shivers through his body. So much for staying in control. Daniel froze with his lips hovering above hers, while every other possible inch of their bodies were pressed together.
What am I doing?
Vala grinned, and her eyes questioning his, as if unsure why he was stopping. Daniel wondered how far he would really take this. He could – should – stun her right now. He should have let Naismith stun her earlier. What did he think he was gaining through all of this?
And again his attempts to regain focus were curtailed when Vala lost patience, and leaned forward to steal the kiss Daniel had hesitated to give her. She bit down lightly on his bottom lip, not letting him break the kiss as she leaned her head back against the wall. Determined not to lose control, Daniel returned the kiss with fervor, making sure to keep a tight grip on her hands, vainly hoping that his assault her would somehow be less consuming than her attacks on his sanity.
Daniel felt the muscles in his arms strain as Vala, using his grip on her for leverage, braced her back against the wall and managed to wrap both legs around his waist. The force of supporting Vala's full weight caused him to stagger backwards for a moment, before adjusting his hold and slamming her into the wall.
Vala's responded by trailing kisses away from Daniel's mouth, across his chin, all down his neck, stopping for awhile at the place it met his shoulder, before continuing her barrage on his shoulder. Her neck twisted as she moved her treacherous mouth up his arm, and that's when it all became too much, and he relaxed the grip he had on her arms. Vala seized this advantage immediately, wrapping her arms under his and up again so that her hands gripped the back of his neck, and pulled him, once again, into a kiss, pushing forward from the wall.
Daniel wrapped his arms around her to stop them both from hurtling down to the ground. As it was, every twist of her body, every new thrust she put into the kiss, was causing Daniel to take uneven steps, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards. He was reasonably sure they were heading further and further into the ship, presumably towards her personal quarters, although who knew if Vala would think that was necessary. As Daniel's willpower was being broken down, he was starting not to care where they ended up, just so long as they ended up there soon. He began to wonder who would know if he... skimmed over some parts of the mission in his report, for the sake of brevity.
"Please remove your hands and lips from my mate, human." It was the voice of a goa'uld, and when Daniel turned, he saw a hand device poised and aiming in his direction.
They had just turned a corner in the hall, and Daniel had become aware of another presence seconds too late. Vala suddenly froze, before jumping down from him and pulling back. Confused, Daniel tried to retain his hold on her.
"Huh?" Daniel intended to give Vala a look of curiosity, but it turned to horror when he saw that she had removed the zat from around his waist, and now had it pointed in his direction.
"Tell me what you have done with Daniel Jackson of earth," she said, her voice hard as steel.
"What!" Daniel took a step back, raising his arms in a show of innocence. "Look, I don't know who you think I am, but there has been a big mistake here."
"Yes," said Vala. "You've made a big mistake."
Daniel opened his mouth, but before he could protest again, his world went black as he was hit with the zat gun's blast.
Daniel had a headache. A very annoying headache that was only being aggravated by the people shouting at each other around him. He kept his eyes closed, hoping to shut them out.
"Vala, don't try to make up excuses. I saw you two together – twice!"
Daniel had never heard such a whiny goa'uld before.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I lured him back to the ship for two reasons, to get him to reveal where the treasure is located, and to find out what he did with D – with a very valuable target."
"You were kissing him!"
"Obviously. Look, can't you take that thing off?"
The fog in his mind was clearing, and realizing the trouble he'd gotten himself in Daniel let out a groan. He immediately wished he hadn't, as it brought Vala and the goa'uld over. Opening his eyes, Daniel studied the goa'uld curiously as his vision cleared, contacts still thankfully in place. The host appeared to be a middle aged, somewhat pudgy man, with a bit of a receding hairline. Something very odd is going on here…
"Don't even think about moving."
Daniel stayed where he was. The effects of the zat blast had pretty much worn off, but as long as he didn't move, it seemed possible they might not restrain him yet. They were no longer in the hall, and Daniel was still without a shirt. From the way the skin was burning on his back, he suspected he'd been dragged into this room by his feet. They were clearly still in the Al'kesh, and mentally Daniel reviewed everything he knew about these ships.
"We are now in orbit around my home planet."
Oh crap, Daniel thought, as the goa'uld began circling him. He knew it was probably futile, but he still couldn't keep from darting his eyes around the room, trying to see if there was any possible way to improve his odds in this situation.
"It would be quite foolish to attempt escape, with what my defense weapons could do to this ship, even if you did gain control of it."
"Yes, all those ships and weapons here to protect the ship... Very foolish," Vala drawled sarcastically, causing Daniel to look up at her.
The Goa'uld glared at Vala, before continuing. "You are only alive at the moment because Vala, my pet, has convinced me that the information you know is valuable."
Daniel had faced down goa'uld more threatening than this guy before. Daniel had faced down pushy salespeople more threatening than this guy. What was throwing him for a loop was Vala's involvement. The story she told on the Prometheus about being a host, and the Tokra helping her out was replaying in his mind, as Daniel tried to think of something that would explain her seemingly earnest disapproval of the goa'uld.
"Look, I don't know what Vala told you, but there has been a huge misunderstanding here. Massive, even."
On the other hand, as unintimidating as this goa'uld appeared, he had some hold over Vala. All of her furtive glances, Naismith's explanation of her kiss as subterfuge, it must have all been to hide her actions from him. Daniel had learnt the consequences of underestimating Vala. Even if she seemed to go to great lengths to keep her adversaries alive – if out of her way – Daniel doubted a goa'uld would share that sentiment.
"Then there isn't any reason I should keep you alive?"
Case in point.
"Wait!" Vala had produced the jacket Daniel had lent her earlier, and when Vala reached into the pockets, his mistake was revealed. Vala had set aside the radio, even set aside the bogus tablet, and was now walking towards him, zat in one hand, and his glasses case in the other. The one with Dr. Daniel Jackson embossed on the side of it.
Daniel groaned. Vala stopped, still several feet away from him.
"Where did you get these?"
"Traded for them in the market. The person who traded them to me claimed they would help in translations – that he'd only picked them up earlier that day. Turns out he conned me. Wasn't connected to you folks at all, now was he?"
The story tripped off Daniel's lips easily after a day of make believe. Inwardly, his mind began replaying some of those make believe moments from earlier. When Vala looked as though she might just accept this explanation, Daniel wondered if he'd just saved or shot himself.
"Then how did you know my name?"
What? Oh. The montage of memories in Daniel's head skipped to an earlier moment in the evening. Vala, a smile on her face, as she laughed off Daniel's question… The moment of panic must have shown on his face. Vala smiled, but when he looked into her eyes, he saw anger, disappointment, and more than a hint of danger. Daniel swallowed, and switched his focus to the hand that still had a grip on the zat. The hand that had its grip on you not that long ago…
"It was all really a bit much. I've met some pretty gullible men before, but not only did you pour out your secrets to a complete stranger, you then all but begged me to come with you on your treasure hunt."
Vala paused, and while Daniel could tell she wasn't finished, he launched into the only defense he could think of.
"But… But you must know how beautiful you are. It was love at first sight, and I'm not talking about earlier this evening. I've seen you around, made some inquiries, and found out your name and that you had a ship. I… I thought Midas's hand might be enough to tempt you to consider me, so I waited in the bar for you tonight, hoping I might get a chance to talk to you."
Daniel swallowed when Vala raised an eyebrow at this explanation. Great, he thought belatedly, now she thinks I'm a stalker and a kidnapper.
She leaned closer then, and Daniel found himself once again looking straight into her eyes, which seemed to dare him to look away. The emotions he'd noticed there earlier had only intensified, and she wasn't even pretending to smile anymore. He held her gaze, wondering what it was she was really looking to get out of him.
"Tell me what you did with Daniel Jackson." Her voice was low and silky, causing shudders to run through Daniel's body before he could stop them.
"I'm sorry. I've never heard of him. Was he a friend of yours?"
Vala's eyes closed off, and Daniel realized his mistake.
"Wait!" he said, reaching out a hand as she straightened and backed away. The solution to the dilemma had occurred to Daniel three seconds too late to implement it. He was going to need to get her close to him again.
That wasn't going to be an easy task, because as soon as Daniel reached forward, he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. Yep. Definitely not a good idea to underestimate a goa'uld. The man may not have looked to be at his prime, but the grip on his shoulders was definitely strong enough to hold him in place.
"Time's up. For the record, it was my ship you were trying to con Vala out of."
Now that's new information.
"I thought it was our ship, dear." Vala's voice was laced with sarcasm, and Daniel was convinced once again that she was as much a victim in this strange situation as he was. They needed to be working together against this guy, not against each other.
"Yes, well, that was before I realized you were going to continue to pick up new men until a better offer came in."
When Daniel got out of this, he was going to bang his head against a table for awhile, before telling Jack to never, ever make him a spy again. Daniel felt the cool blade of a knife press up against his throat, as the grip on his shoulders squeezed down even hard. He gulped. If I get out of this.
"Now, fool, any final words before I slit your throat for kissing my woman earlier?"
His woman? The irony of the situation was not lost of Daniel. In fact, it had him feeling more than a little punch drunk. This goa'uld, whose name Daniel didn't even know, had to be one of the least threatening he'd ever met. He'd faced down much smarter enemies than this before, too. However, what made this situation so scary was the desperate sort of crazy that seemed to be driving the actions here. It was too unpredictable.
He was in orbit, around a planet he didn't know the name or location of. There was no hope of the rest of SG-1 swooping in to save his butt again this time. I'm on my own in this one. Well, not quite. No, his only possible salvation was standing across the room, nervously biting a fingernail, cocking a zat gun in his general direction with the other hand. The urge to touch her smooth, alabaster skin had never before been so dominant in Daniel's mind. He swallowed once more, the knife's blade press into the the skin of his neck. It was now or never. He'd live this one down, eventually, if he could only get out of here alive.
"Vala," he cried out desperately, begging her to look into his eyes and see his need. "Vala, if I'm going to die for it, can I at least get another kiss?"
Vala looked at him, and Daniel caught the question in her eyes even as the goa'uld protested.
"No!" he said in a petulant whine. The knife at Daniel's neck didn't move, and Daniel tried to keep his breathing steady, as he looked into Vala's eyes, and nodded slightly. It was enough.
"Dearest, I don't know what's gotten into you today. This man is harmless, but if you insist on killing him anyway, the least we can give him is a happy final memory."
She crossed the room back to him, and knelt down in front of him. Never breaking eye contact with her, Daniel lifted the hand that still wore the ring. He brushed her face with the outside of his hand, putting as much tenderness as he could into the gesture. It was the only apology he could offer at the moment. The stone of the ring slid across her cheek.
Her eyes flew open in shock, and she opened her mouth, whether to protest or play along, Daniel didn't know, but couldn't risk. He kissed her, invading her mouth, desperate to finally drive her to distraction the way she had been torturing him since they first met. The moment she returned the kiss, Daniel reached down, and grabbed the zat from her now relaxed hand. He didn't even have time for a split seconds doubt, so he twisted his hand backwards, aimed hopefully behind his back, and pulled the trigger.
There was a thud as Daniel's would-be-assassin fell to the ground.
With that taken care of, Daniel moved in to put his arms around Vala, but she had other ideas. She pushed away, staring dumbfounded at him, her arms crossed around her chest in a defensive position. For a few moments, she didn't say anything, and Daniel took in the spectacle of a speechless Vala.
"Now… I'm hoping you know how to get away from this planet, because, in case you forgot, I don't really know how to fly one of these things."
He tried to look more serious, as they weren't out of danger quite yet, but he knew he couldn't keep the sheepish grin from his face. Daniel stretched as he finally got up from a kneeling position on the floor. He looked around the room for a shirt or something to throw on, but short of stripping the goa'uld on the floor, something he had no interest in doing, he didn't see any options.
"You…" Vala tried to speak, but couldn't seem to get beyond the first word. From the way she was staring at his chest, she also seemed to be aware of his half-stripped state. Daniel stood up straighter, and crossed his arms across his chest.
"Err, yes. Me. Hi. I'm assuming you wanted to get away from that creep as much as I did?"
Daniel blinked. What was that saying about assumptions again? Well, at least he still had the weapon, not that that necessarily gave him that much of an advantage over the woman in front of him.
"Vala…?" He asked tentatively, taking a couple steps towards her. "Vala, I don't need to lock you up again, do I?"
"You idiot!" Vala repeated herself, gesturing wildly in his direction, which seemed to inspire her to continue. "You tricked me!"
Oh for pete's sake.
"You tricked me!" Daniel pointed in Vala's direction as he spoke. "Remember?"
"I didn't trick you, I told you the truth." She paused, her eyes storming over before she spun around so that she was facing away from Daniel. "You, however, you lied to me!"
Daniel shrugged, even if she wasn't looking at him. He made sure his grip on the zat was strong, and tried not to think of the unconscious goa'uld still lying on the floor. Is this really the best time to have this conversation? He took another step towards her, when she spoke again
"You told me that you didn't lie. That you tried to be an honest person." There was real disappointment in Vala's voice, which made Daniel grab her shoulder to turn her around, looking at her in exasperation.
"You tricked me when you tried to steal my planet's only ship. You tricked me when you left my people stranded on a ship – this ship, I'm almost certain of it, no matter what he said. You tricked me this morning, and then you kicked me."
Vala smiled, as if remembering the moment. Daniel was losing his patience. Placing his other hand on her shoulder so he could shake them, he tried desperately to get a straight answer out of her.
"Now, do you know how to get out of this part of the galaxy, or am I going to have to get us out of this mess all by myself?"
Vala stared at Daniel, before bursting out laughing. It started in her eyes, but in only moments, it was racking through her whole body, and she was rocking from head to toe. Daniel could only raise an eyebrow, cross his arms, and look at her skeptically.
"What?" Daniel was confused. He'd asked a basic question about the chances or their survival at this point, and she was laughing at him.
"You… Daniel…" She was still laughing, but as she shook her head, she appeared to regain control of herself. "Simon, over here, was under the illusion that I was in love with him, and would let him share my ship, while we searched the galaxy for treasures, or at least merchandise we could convince other people to give us treasure for."
Daniel stared at Vala, confused. "But he's a goa'uld."
Vala only shook her head again, before reaching down to grab a device from under the collar of Simon's shirt.
"No, he's not. This is something else he tried to steal from me, but its just a simple toy to make ones voice sound like a goa'uld."
Daniel was sure that the room had started spinning. Speaking of which… "Then the planet that we're orbiting?"
Vala began walking towards him now, her face full of pity. "Don't you get it? We never left the planet. You weren't out for more than fifteen minutes or so – Simon barely had time to drag you in this room before you woke up. I can't believe you actually fell for his lame story."
Now Daniel cocked his head as Vala began to circle him. Part of him couldn't help but feel relieved. He thought of Naismith, waiting outside the ship. He should really radio him with an update. Then again, he had implied that it would take awhile for him to get Vala to show him the tiles, which seemed like an actual possibility, now. There was still another, nagging voice in Daniel's head, however, that questioned how he could have let himself be duped so badly. He could usually tell when someone was bluffing. No, his first instinct had been right. There had been something odd about the situation. Wait, if this guy isn't a goa'uld, then what power did he have over Vala?
"Why did he seem to think you were, how did he put it, his mate? I didn't think he was your type, Vala?" Daniel asked, gesturing once again to the rather awkward looking unattractive man crumpled on the floor.
Vala smirked. "You're adorable when you're jealous. I promise you, Daniel, you – in whatever disguise you magically take on – are much more appealing than this poor man here."
There was more going on, that much was obvious. Daniel told himself it didn't matter who Vala decided to sleep with – or why – he just wanted to get the tiles, and get back to earth. Of course, now he had to figure out how to get Vala – who seemed pretty pissed off at him moments ago – to do what she hadn't been willing to do that afternoon. All thoughts of the tiles, however, were put on hold when Daniel felt Vala creep up behind him, and wrap her hands around to begin rubbing his chest.
"What are you doing?" Daniel asked, removing her hands.
Vala didn't answer, and didn't seem to get the hint that Daniel wasn't interested in her games right now. She was slowly walking arount to face him, but she let a finger trail across Daniel's back, around his shoulder, and finally flicking his nipple before Daniel could grab her hand.
"You know, if I'd known it was you, I would have been more thorough in my strip search earlier. After all, turnaround is only fair play."
"What?" Daniel was confused, and the memories of exactly what all of her had looked like weren't exactly helping.
"In fact, I'm beginning to wish I had locked the door on the ship. That would have stalled Simon, maybe even given us enough time to really have some fun." Vala winked, before looping her fingers through the belt loops on his pants in a way that was achingly familiar to Daniel. "Of course, I'm up for giving it another try."
"Wait – " Daniel said, needing to understand something. In order to think clearer, he pushed Vala away again. "Are you saying you knew Simon would interrupt us?"
"Well of course, I was counting on it. A slight miscalculation, now that I think about it."
"Well, at the time I thought you had kidnapped yourself, and had me next on your list." Vala seemed to momentarily give up her assault on Daniel, as she didn't step immediately back into his personal space. "First order of business was to search you, then bring in back up."
Daniel stared at Vala as she twisted her hair up into a knot. It figured. He had been busy running his fingers through her hair while she was checking him for hidden weapons or wires.
"So you're saying that the whole time I was …" Daniel trailed off, not sure of what to say.
"Trying to trick me."
"Whatever." Daniel ignored the face Vala made. "That whole time, the only reason you… did what you did, was to see if I was hiding anything?"
Vala smiled at Daniel's irritated tone. "Well, you were hiding something, weren't you? Apparently I didn't go far enough."
Her hands had crept up around his waist again, sitting, waiting. Daniel stood there a moment, wondering just how far she would go if he didn't stop her. Just how much she would go no matter how he tried to stop her.
"Do you always trap your enemies this way?" Daniel asked. He started to move her hands away, but found his palms fixed to her arms.
"No," she said, her voice dropping to a husky tone. "Sometimes I trap friends."
They stood there, like that, for almost a minute. Daniel waited for Vala to make another move. Something, anything, that would be so over the top that he'd have to stop her. She had a motive behind getting under his skin like this. She had as much as told him that. He doubted being friends with Vala was any safer than being her enemy. In fact, it was probably more dangerous.
Is it me, or are her lips coming closer. Daniel's gaze had dropped to meet Vala's, and indeed, he could feel the kiss coming, as if time was moving in slow motion. I need to stop, now, before its too late. Daniel didn't think he could handle this kiss from Vala, because he wouldn't know if it was real this time. Was it ever really real for her? Would he just be the next big prize for her?
Their lips brushed. Daniel felt himself being charged from behind. Strong arms ripped him back away from Vala. Daniel glanced at the floor, where Simon, obviously, was no longer laying unconscious.
"This time I will kill you!"
"No, this time I think I'll tie you up," Daniel said, before stepping down hard on Simon's foot with the heel of his boot. When the man leaped back, howling in pain, Daniel blasted him with the zat again and Simon crumpled to the floor in a heap once more.
"Ok, for the record, that time I didn't want him interrupting," Vala said. "Are you going to steal all my moves? Because that might start to get annoying."
Daniel rolled his eyes. "Well, can you help me tie him up, at least? I know you have to have something around here that would do the trick."
Vala hesitated, and Daniel lost his patience.
"Ok, what is up between you two? I know you can't possibly be keeping him around for the sex."
Vala raised an eyebrow, "Are you sure about that?"
Daniel closed his eyes briefly, which turned out to be a bad thing, as he was immediately assaulted with mental images he really hadn't wanted to see. Looking back down at Simon, Daniel shook his head. No, he thought, she is still hiding something.
"Vala…" Daniel gestured around the room, his eyes imploring her to explain to him exactly what was going on. Vala sighed.
"He works with the Lucien Alliance – the organization you managed to get me on the bad side of the last time we met up. While I don't particularly want to be allied with them, I didn't feel like trying to battle them either. I was hoping to help Simon here make a nice profit on some loot I helped him find, and then find a way to break it to him gently that things between us were never going to work out in the long run."
Daniel considered this. One thing was still bugging him. "Whose ship is this, really?"
Vala seemed to consider this question for a moment, her head bouncing as she obviously weighed a few points in her mind. "Well… It was my ship, which I told Simon was our ship to convince him I was serious about our relationship."
Daniel snorted. Vala glared at him before continuing.
"Since you have once again managed to piss off my connections with the Lucien Alliance, I think I may have to leave the ship for him, though. Of course, that means you need to provide me a way off this planet."
"If you bring those tiles with you, I think I can probably manage that," Daniel said, smiling as he crossed his arms on his chest again. He'd get something out of this in the end, after all. Finally feeling like he knew what was going on, he felt comfortable enough to ask the nagging question on his mind.
"You seemed pretty concerned when you thought something had happened to me."
Vala had been pacing throughout their conversation, but at this question, she froze. She was now standing just off to his side, so he turned to look at her. Returning the zat to the holster on his waist as a show of trust, Daniel then used both hands to gently grasp her arms under the elbows, so that her arms ended up resting on top of his.
"Yes, well, no matter what you said, I couldn't make heads or tails of those tiles. You seemed to be the only person who might be able to help with that."
Daniel continued to look into her eyes, raising one eyebrow slightly to show he was still waiting for a better answer. She sighed, and broke eye contact to look over his shoulder.
"You are a good person, Daniel Jackson. One of only a few I've ever met."
Daniel smiled, and let his thumb brush her arm. Vala took a deep breath, and looked straight into his eyes before continuing.
"I didn't know who you were the last time we met, but I could tell you were decent, right from the start. Then I found out about the fight you and your people have put up against the goa'uld over the years."
Vala let the way her hands rested on Daniel's arms shift slightly, just enough so that she could squeeze his arm. The strength of her gaze made Daniel want to believe he was seeing past her façade this time.
"I never used to believe that it was really possible to take on the goa'uld as a race. You gave me hope that one day, maybe soon, they won't be in a position to terrorize people like m –" Vala blinked, and momentarily looked over Daniel's shoulder. "People all over this crazy galaxy. You made me actually feel guilty when I realized what I had almost done to your people. I steal things whose value can be measured in gold, not potential lives. If I trick people, I do it knowing they probably deserve it. Knowing they'd do the same to me, if given the chance."
Daniel didn't say anything, wasn't quite sure what to say. The last time Vala had gone sentimental on him like this, she had been lying. Well, mostly lying. People like me, she had been about to say. She had been a host at one point, her ability to use the healing device had proven that back when they first met. Daniel thought of Sha're, of Sarah, of the years he had spent fighting the goa'uld for their souls. Now, a woman who had survived the demons was laying the responsibilities of the galaxy on his doorstep. He couldn't help but wonder if maybe he had misjudged Vala, if they all had. Looking at her now, Daniel couldn't help but see potential for something pretty special in her.
They'd do the same to me, if given the chance. Daniel stood there awhile, not saying anything. After everything she had done that day, after nearly getting him killed… Was he the one who owed her an apology? He opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, her expression changed.
"Of course, I'm not sure what to think now that I know the fate of the galaxy is hanging in the hands of someone who can be taken in so easily."
The playful mocking was back in her voice, and the smile on her face was the same one she had greeted him with that morning, which was why Daniel pushed away, retreating a few steps to safety when her hands began to tease his bare chest.
"Yes, well, I managed to get onto your ship, didn't I?"
"Oh Daniel," Vala rolled her eyes as she spoke. She tried to step back into his arms, but Daniel took another step back. "If that's all you wanted, you just had to ask."
She took another step forward, and Daniel found himself backed into a wall. When her arms wrapped around the back of his neck, Daniel sighed and gave in to the inevitable, his hands seeming to wrap around her waist of their own accord. He leaned in, but found his lips somewhere in her hair as Vala's found their way to his ear.
"I'm just messing with you, of course."
Daniel blinked, and Vala straightened herself back up, his zat gun once again in her possession. He stared, bewildered, as his heart tried to catch up with what his brain was already telling him. No! No, I don't believe it, not this time. He desperately tried to make eye contact again, even reaching his hand out to brush her cheek.
She stepped back before he could touch her. Daniel noticed that her hand, the one holding the zat, was shaking. She lowered it to her side, but continued to step away when Daniel tried to move closer to her again. Finally, he at least managed to get her to look him in the eyes again. For the few brief seconds she let him have, Daniel saw enough to tell him all he needed to know. Then, taking in a deep breath, her walls went back up again.
"Now. I believe you have a treasure map to translate for me."
Daniel shook his head, and this time when he leaned in to touch her cheek one last time, she let him. Catching her chin between his thumb and finger, he leaned in, and forced himself to smile.
"Vala," he said.
She looked up at him enquiringly. Daniel let go of her face.
"The tiles… They aren't a treasure map."
"That's what you think, Daniel." Vala turned around, and began walking to the other room.
Over eight years of going through the Stargate meant that Daniel was able to maintain his death grip on Vala's arms even after they came through the event horizon.
"The ring?" He demanded, holding her an arms length away.
Vala sighed, before slipping the ring off her thumb and holding it out to him. Whoever Vala had posed as, the Jaffa at the gate had almost pushed them through to get them off the planet.
Daniel pocketed the ring – once he got back to earth, he'd hand it in to Jack, and someone else could make sure SG-7 got it back. Even after doing so, he found he couldn't bring himself to let go of Vala.
She looked down at his grip on her arm in amusement. "I'm not armed, you know."
"Do you think that means I trust you?"
"I'm trusting you! What am I getting out of all of this again? I had a ship, and now I don't. I had weapons, and now I don't. I had a way to make a truce with the Lucien Alliance, and now –"
"And now you have the beginnings of a truce with earth. At least, we'll cancel the notice to shoot you on sight."
Vala seemed to consider this. "Well, as long as you find a way to defeat the goa'uld."
"Yes," Daniel answered flatly. "I'll make sure we try extra hard, now. Just for you."
Daniel released her arm, and motioned over to the DHD. This planet was one with no inhabitants, and no known source of value. Just a stopover point. A transition point.
Vala wasn't moving. In fact, she now had a hand on Daniel's arm. "Look me up sometime. If I hear its you, I'll let the men your planet will no doubt try to have trail me actually succeed."
Daniel rolled his eyes, but didn't feel inclined to return her sentiments. He was sure if she wanted to, she could find a way to get in touch with earth. In fact, he had a feeling they should probably be expecting her.
Vala went over to the DHD, and dialed a set of coordinates. Without saying anything, she started to walk towards the open wormhole. Then, in a flash, she was standing in front of Daniel, and pulling his head down for a brief, blinding kiss. Almost before Daniel could respond, she had pulled away again, walking backwards towards the Gate.
"See you again soon, Daniel," she said before disappearing into the rippling puddle.
Daniel paused for a moment, as the event horizon collapsed. She didn't know it – he was certain of that much – but she had stolen something from him this time. Something he didn't think he could just take back.
I had a good reputation, and now I don't. I had dignity and integrity, and now I don't. I had contentment with my life, and now…
Daniel broke off the thought before it could form. He needed to get back to earth and debrief before Jack started hearing crazy rumours about what had gone on in that ship.
Daniel walked into Jack's office, put the report down on his desk, and turned to leave again.
"Naismith turned in his report last week already, you know."
Daniel didn't say anything. Couldn't say anything.
"Just read the report, Jack."
"Is this something I'm going to want popcorn for?"
Daniel had reached the door to Jack's office, and was halfway through before he bothered to answer.
"The tiles were decorative, Jack."
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