Bonds – Sequel to "Cracks": Sam visits Vala after "team" night at the SGC.

Sam stretched then smiled at herself. They'd somehow managed to have an SG-1 team night in the commissary. Once they met up with Cameron and Vala it was like putting on the rest of the team, the finishing touch. She brushed her hair, still damp from her shower. Cam and Jack were too much like irrepressible teenagers when put together, trying to outdo each other with outrageous team stories. Even Teal'c had joined in, adding his straight-man counterpoint to their obvious exaggerations.

As she placed her hair brush down, she sobered. There was another member of the team who didn't feel the levity as genuinely as she appeared. As quickly as the thought arose Sam dressed in sweats and sneakers, then gathered a few personal items. She gave the inviting bed a longing glance: it would wait.

Vala's room wasn't far, just a floor above. Sam knocked and entered at the soft reply. Vala sat at the military's version of a vanity table, perked up with her personal artifacts. She was just taking the towel from around her hair, and looked up at Sam through the mirror. Sam thought Vala looked as vulnerable as when she battled post-partum depression months before.

Sam didn't have a clue what to say to her: having a daughter like Adria had to be a heck of a downer. She laid her kit on the bed. When Vala picked up a comb, Sam moved behind her and took it instead. Now the light eyes questioned Sam's in the mirror.

"Please, let me. You have beautiful hair. I'll bet everyone tells you that," Sam said softly. The hint of devastation in her new friend's eyes made her ache. Sam swallowed and deftly began sectioning the damp raven locks. After making a few twists, she used long strokes to gently comb the first one before going to the next. She was glad her hands were busy as the silence stretched.

"That feels wonderful, Sam. Did you have long hair, too? Before the boys made you cut it off?" Vala finally asked. She met Sam's amused, kind face. She was beginning to relax in spite of the cold knot in her gut. Sam smiled. Vala envied her that sincere act.

"Not this long. Actually my mom did. I used to watch her wash it and I thought it was so complicated to do in sections. One day I was old enough to help her and it made sense," Sam replied a little wistfully. "Her hair never tangled that way."

"Your hair's like hers, I'll bet. Short suits you, though. Kind of makes you look more female. The contrast, I suppose," Vala said. At Sam's questioning look, Vala felt a smile. "It just does. And I think the general thinks so, too." She winked at Sam's shock. Anybody that missed the striking general's partiality to Sam was in denial.

"Landry? I'm sure he's checking that it's regulation length," Sam answered. She looked the woman in the eye and gave a playful tug on the section she had in hand. Vala giggled and Sam relaxed.

They grew somber again, and Sam was using the brush when she saw the first glistening in Vala's eyes.

"Sam, your people forced the System Lords to negotiate to keep you out of their way! You fought them and won. Do you know how rare that is?"

"I have a pretty good idea, yeah," Sam replied while her hands worked; the battles, the losses, the stalemates.

"Now you're taking on the Ori. Or you are when you're not being so nice to the mother of all evil space-brats…" Vala said. "I wonder if Adria got her partiality for evil from me. I'm hardly a model mother. I never even got to comb my daughter's hair. Maybe if…" She stopped when Sam's hands stilled and made her look up.

"Not going there, Vala. Whatever Adria is, it's not your fault, and you're not evil. Blame that on her Ori side of the family tree," Sam chided. "In a way, you're just like most moms. You give birth to 'em but you can't live their lives," Sam said after a pause. Vala's lips lifted. "Just a little harder to send her to her room." Vala chuckled, just a little.

"Oh, I tried putting my foot down, Sam. I forbade her to command an army at her age!"

"You didn't! You should have taken away the keys to her hyper drive. She needs a good grounding," Sam replied. The two broke into grins at their nonsense.

This evening was an enlightening one from Vala's vantage point. She actually got to be a part of the celebrated team called SG-1, the original. Nothing prepared her for the warmth that enveloped her from them, as if their past trials and triumphs were transfused straight into her heart. And here she was with Sam - smart and fierce, yet who'd opened up to her and cared like a true friend. Friends were rare in Vala's life; this very life was rare, she realized.

"When four laughing heroes scooped me into a big hug a few hours ago, I felt like I haven't felt in a long, long time," Vala paused as she choked up. "Like I belong, I have friends – I'm home."

Sam continued the long soothing brush strokes until the strands shown in the muted lighting. Then she made two loose braids to drape over Vala's shoulders. She met Vala's anxious eyes in the mirror, and stepped closer and put her arms around her.

"I think it's clear that we're six heroes now, Vala," Sam said softly. "Welcome home." Vala closed her eyes and leaned back, her hands gripping Sam's arms.

Squeezing her gently after a minute or two, Sam stepped back and pressed her hands into Vala's shoulders. A delicious and very expert massage began to work the tension from her, Vala's head easing down as the soothing ministrations progressed. When she became pliant enough, Sam stopped and helped her to her feet, laughing as Vala groaned in protest.

"Incredible! I hope you get to use those talents on some appreciative, broad shoulders," Vala said softly, teasing her teammate into another blush. She shed her silky robe and let Sam shove her into bed with playful annoyance. She settled her sore body on the mattress. Sam sat at the foot of the bed cross-legged and regarded her with such compassion Vala wanted to just hug her forever. "Thanks, Sam. I'm glad you didn't leave me to wallow alone."

"We don't leave our people to wallow alone. We wallow as a team," Sam quipped. Vala grinned before she yawned and settled the pillow behind her. "Besides, we decided: we're keeping you, Vala," Sam said lightly. Vala seemed flighty but she was very sharp and trustworthy (in her way). Probably why she fit into the team, Sam had finally admitted to herself. Unfolding her legs to lie across the bottom of the bed, Sam stared at the ceiling. Allies (and friends) came from unlikely corners.

"You'll have to figure out how to do in the Ori, though," Vala murmured. "Short of spanking Adria and that probably won't work. Wish I could try, though."

"Oh, we'll kick Ori butt. I'm pretty sure even our surrender won't save us. We'd never really believe in them and probably give them, oh, indigestion or something," Sam mused. Vala frowned.

"They'd purge us."

"Ew. We'll find a way," Sam muttered sleepily. "We have to." She sighed. "But I suppose Daniel will tell you that when he stops by," Sam said, smiling when she felt Vala jerk. Daniel had kept a concerned eye on Vala all evening.

"Huh. He barely knew I was there," Vala answered eventually. "Did he?"

"Oh, he knew. I know Daniel. He'll stop by before turning in." Sam closed her eyes.

"More likely a strapping general will be looking for his "friend" before he leaves," Vala shot back softly. A twitch from Sam made her chuckle. "I know men. And when General O'Neill put his hand on the small of your back, just so…" Vala let out a full laugh when Sam sprang up and glared. That gesture was so very telling, even if those two weren't.

"Vala…" Sam said with warning. Vala was chuckling into her pillow as Sam considered using the other one to…

"Vala? It's Daniel." The familiar voice called after a knock.

They looked at each other. Then came another well-known voice.

"Is Carter with you?" Sam ducked her head before facing Vala.

"Just so," Vala smiled meaningfully at Sam. Then, "Come in, boys: we're home!"

THE END.

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