Lost and Gained
Summary: Memorial Day is a day to remember what has been lost, and what has been gained.
Spoilers: The Movie, COtG, Enemy Within, Heroes p.2.
A/N: Just got the urge to do something in honor of Memorial Day. Got it out a little late do to both my own procrastination and my beta not being home until just this evening, but anyways...This fic is heavy in D/V, as that's what I LVOE and write best at the moment, but there is also Jack/Daniel friendship, and of course Danny Angst.
But what it's truly meant to be is a tribute to our heros who have fallen and those still fighting to help us keep our freedom. As the title stated, it's to show what's lost, but also what's gained.
She didn't know why she was even here. It wasn't her place to be amongst these people. They deserved their right to honor and to mourn as the close family they had become long before she had ever crashed into their lives.
Vala looked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She fidgeted with the simple black dress Daniel had picked out for her, hands smoothing down imagined wrinkles. Then they moved up to finger the tips of her raven hair, and brush along earrings she hoped weren't too flashy.
She sighed and stepped back, turning her head from one side to the other. Yes, definitely too flashy. She moved to yank the dreaded things out of her ears.
"No." A quiet voice said from the doorway. Vala looked up into gentle blue eyes, her hand frozen on the jewelry. He was giving her a warm smile, but it did nothing to hide the melancholy chill that had fallen on all of them since they'd arrived. From the way he leaned against the doorframe, Vala could tell he was hurting inside.
It only made the uncomfortable grip in her chest tighten some more, and Vala once more went to tug the earring out of her ear.
"Don't..." Daniel shook his head, the same smile on his face. "They look beautiful."
"They're too much." Vala finally got the first stubborn hook out of her ear and moved on to the other. "Everything I've done is too much. The makeup, my hair..." She ripped the second earring out, and tossed both on the counter.
Daniel walked into the room slowly, hands in the pockets of his jeans.
Vala moved to unzip one of her boots. "And the boots...definitely way over the top. Too high, too showy..." She eyed Daniel in the mirror and pouted. "I mean, look at you. A beautiful silk shirt and a nice pair of jeans. Me? I look like..."
Daniel came to stand directly behind her. Hands still in his pockets, he leaned his head down to rest it along side Vala's gently. "You look amazing." He breathed, the smile still playing on his lips.
Vala sighed and looked into his ocean-esk eyes through the mirror. "Why am I here, Daniel?"
"I want you here." Daniel pulled one hand out of his pocket and reached around Vala to pick up one of the earrings. "We all want you here." He gently pushed the hook back into her ear and moved to do the same with the other one. "You're part of this family now, and you belong here."
Vala shook her head. "No. I'm intruding on something very personal for all of you." She closed her eyes as Daniel brushed her hair back from her face. A frown came to her lips. "Just let me stay here while everyone else goes ahead." She felt Daniel shake his head against her.
"Even if everyone felt you should stay-" Daniel watched Vala open her eyes quickly. "Which they don't-" He emphasized slowly. "There's not a chance in hell of me agreeing to it."
Vala smiled, but it was forced. "I'm an outsider...I have no need to go."
"Yes you do." Daniel said seriously, and Vala wasn't sure what she read in his haunted eyes.
"You say that now, but later you'll be saying something completely different." Vala argued, leaning down to zip up her boot once more with mild agitation.
"Just..." Daniel smiled knowingly. "Trust me, okay?"
Vala sighed, finally nodding reluctantly - She did trust Daniel, but the feeling of overwhelming intrusion hadn't eased at all.
A uneasy silence settled in on the ride to their destination, and Vala found it didn't help her feelings of insecurity. They were never all silent at once. Someone was always talking - usually Daniel and herself, but he seemed more subdued then everyone else and Vala found it seemed out of place to break the sad mood that had settled within the car.
She glanced at Daniel next to her, who was peering out the window. His elbow was propped up on the side console, with his hand to his mouth. His sad eyes watched the passing scenery, but Vala guessed he was a million miles somewhere else.
She turned to look out her own window once more. She got the overwhelming urge to shift in her seat, and bit the down on the need to do so. The tension in the air was making her nervous. She felt anything she did would be wrong to them.
Looking back out the front window, Vala's gaze flicked to the brown eyes watching her in the rearview mirror. They were kind and understanding, and Vala almost felt she could draw comfort from them. Of course he didn't know what it felt like to intrude on something so...private.
It broke her concentration of not moving just long enough for her foot to slip out from under her, accidentally kicking the back of the front passenger seat hard. Its occupant turned to give her a hard glare, and Vala felt so small under the young woman's scrutiny. Everyone else turning their attention to her didn't help in the matter.
"I...didn't mean to." Vala said and attempted a smile. "I...I'm sorry."
"Yeah, me too." The young woman, whose name Vala couldn't remember for the life of her that very moment, muttered. "Sorry that they all agreed for you to come along."
Sam shouted "'Cassandra Fraiser!" at the same time both Jack and Daniel yelled "Hey!" simultaneously. Vala jumped at the sudden noise. Daniel saw the movement, and reached out to place his hand over hers on the seat. Cassie just huffed in response with a roll of her eyes.
"It was an accident, Cassie." Daniel said in a quieter voice. "Vala didn't mean for it to happen."
Vala was taken back by the icy glare the young woman shot Daniel.
"That seems to be the only common thread between you two." Cassie spat out the loaded words, and Vala felt Daniel flinch as if physically hit. If it was possible for an even deeper silence to settle throughout the vehicle, Vala was sure this was the moment it had. She watched Daniel's head drop a fraction, his eyes closing slowly as Jack slammed on the brakes.
"What the HELL is your problem?!" The older man fumed to Cassie, who was once again facing forward, her arms crossed over her chest as she stared defiantly out the window.
"Jack...it's...it's okay." Daniel mumbled quietly, and Vala could almost hear the tears on the verge of breaking free from him.
"No, it's not 'okay', Daniel." Jack snapped, eyes still burning holes into Cassie. "That was a dirty, low blow - one that was totally uncalled for."
Daniel sniffed and that had Jack's head turning to look at his friend instantly. Daniel's head came up, and though his face was calm and well-adjusted, his eyes were bright with unshed tears.
"Please, Jack. Let's just get there."
Jack nodded and turned to get the car once more on the road to their destination.
Vala looked at Daniel, and he turned to look at her. He tried to offer a reassuring smile, but the look in his eyes ruined the attempt.
And once more Vala felt the unsettling grip across her chest tighten another notch, this time adding guilt on top.
As soon as Jack brought the SUV to a stop just outside the cemetery, Daniel was leaning across Vala to open her door.
"We'll try and give you all enough time to do what you need to." He said, his voice surprisingly steady. He subtly ushered Vala out of the vehicle.
"No, Daniel." Sam moved to place a hand on his arm, but Daniel moved quickly out of reach. Vala stepped out, Daniel right on her heels. He closed the door just as Jack started to say something, the only thing she heard being 'Danny-'
"Come on...let me take you to meet an old friend." Daniel smiled down at her as they entered the confines of the cemetery. Vala felt bad at how he was trying to stay upbeat for her sake. They strolled down the maze of walkways beneath the trees silently for a while, until Vala couldn't take the quiet anymore.
"I'm sorry, Daniel." She said, making him stop to look straight at her. "This is exactly what I didn't want to happen. Today is a day to be remembering your friends, not a day for me to muck up things like I usually do."
Daniel brought his hand to her cheek, brushing his thumb along her skin. "Don't be sorry."
"I'm ruining things." Vala sighed, looking down at the ground. Daniel's hand moved to her chin, and lifted her eyes to meet his once more.
"You make things better by just being here." He smiled and moved to brush his lips on hers in a tender kiss. When he pulled away, Daniel's smile turned to a full blown grin and he nodded towards the path that branched out behind her. "Come on."
Vala let him pull her to a headstone not far down the path. It sat just beneath a beautiful blooming tree. Daniel came to bring her to stand before it and held his hand out to the stone.
"Vala, I'd like you to meet Charlie Kawalsky."
Vala glanced at Daniel and smiled at the genuine grin on his face. "You said he was an old friend?"
"Yeah..." Daniel stuck his hands in his pockets and approached the headstone. "I actually met Kawalsky before I met Jack. I didn't get to know him as well as I would have liked, but he was always..." He laughed a bit and looked back at Vala. "I was gonna say nice to me, but I think tolerant of my simple-minded nature is more accurate."
Vala tilted her head curiously. "He wasn't nice to you?"
Daniel laughed again. "He was about as nice to me as Jack was at the time...maybe just a little more." He squatted down and brushed the leaves from the name on the stone. "Charlie liked to find ways to aggravate the crap out of me." He flashed Vala a mischievous smile. "A lot like you, actually."
"Oh really?" Vala grinned, twisting her finger in her hair.
"Of course..." A rough voice coming from up the path had both her and Daniel looking up, surprised. Jack came to stand by Vala, a smile on his face. "Charlie did it to keep Daniel's thoughts out of the bedroom, and you do it to keep them in."
Daniel stood up and walked over to the pair. "So you say." He said nonchalantly with a shrug of his shoulders.
Jack's eyebrows rose several inches. "My, my, Dr. Jackson. Is there something I should know?"
Daniel smiled sweetly. "What's that old military phrase again...Don't ask-" He winked at Vala. "Don't tell?"
Jack smiled and walked over to the headstone.
"You hear that, Charlie?" He laughed, looking up at Daniel with pride. "The scrawny little dweeb has found himself a sense of humor and sarcasm." At Daniel's warning glare, Jack laughed again. "Okay, not so scrawny or dweeby anymore."
Vala ran her hand along Daniel's back. "He's not so little, either." She said with a playful smile. Daniel let out a little cough, his cheeks only turning a little pink.
"And he's got himself quite a pistol of a girlfriend." Jack smiled at the couple, then looked down at the grave. "If you thought Sha're was a catch..."
Vala tensed at the statement, but Daniel just gave his friend a small smile.
"I think Kawalsky would have a heart attack if he'd seen Vala with me." He laughed, and Jack nodded in agreement.
"He'd have a heart attack if he saw you, period!" Jack laughed, Daniel doing the same with a nod of his own.
"Why's that?" Vala asked curiously, wrapping her hand around Daniel's arm. He brought his other hand to rub along hers.
"Oh, I've changed..." Daniel sighed. They began to walk back up the path, giving Jack some time alone. "A lot. You wouldn't have liked the old me."
Vala rested her head on his arm. "I find that hard to believe."
Daniel nodded his head. "No, it's true. Hell, I didn't even really like the old me." He turned his head to look at her. "But we can save that depressing conversation for another time...preferably when I've had way too much to drink to remember it afterwards."
Vala kissed his warm skin and sent him a naughty look. "I can arrange that."
Daniel laughed and nodded his head. "I'm sure you can."
"So who are we going to see next?" She asked lightly.
Daniel opened his mouth to reply, but Jack coming up from behind interrupted him.
"The three of us are going to meet Sam, Teal'c, and Cassie." Jack held up his finger at Daniel's look. "Ah, ah! I don't want to hear it. We finally got you here, and I'm not gonna have Cassie ruin your moment with her-" When Vala looked away, he reached out and turned her grey eyes to meet his. "Nor is she going to get away with insulting you. Either of you." He pointed between the two of them.
The three started to walk again
"She is right, though." Vala couldn't help but argue. "I don't belong here. This is something private between all of you, and I'm just in the way. I don't know why I'm here."
Jack looked at Daniel, who had gone quiet again. His younger friend was staring down at the ground as they walked. His brown eyes went to Vala and he gave her a reassuring smile.
Vala could see the others a little ways down the path, and Jack walked on ahead. As he passed, Daniel lessened their pace. She could feel the tension within him, and when she looked up, the haunted look had returned to his eyes as they looked on ahead.
"You okay?" The words were out before she could stop herself.
Daniel didn't seem to hear them. Or if he did, he didn't make any kind of reply. He just brought them to a stop several feet from the others standing in front of a beautiful statue of an angel. Vala turned her gaze to look at Jack, who was talking quietly with Sam and Teal'c. Cassie was kneeling before the statue, her back to them.
Vala looked up at Daniel as he whispered the words, and her eyes watered at the sight of tears sliding down his cheeks. She wrapped her arm around his back and rubbed gently.
"Yes you can." She said with confidence.
Daniel just shook his head. "She doesn't want me here...I don't..." He stopped as Cassie turned her head, eyes widening as she saw the two. His heart raced at the look, and he turned to give Vala an apologetic glance.
"I can't..." He placed a shaky kiss on her forehead. "I'm sorry."
Daniel pulled out of her grasp, and started to walk back up the path they'd come down. Vala snatched onto his hand quickly. The others reacted just as fast.
"Daniel!" Jack said in a strong, but understanding tone.
"Daniel..." Vala said in a gentle voice, and moved to rub his back soothingly. He trembled beneath her touch.
Sam, Teal'c and Jack came to stand around Daniel, Teal'c moving to block his escape. Daniel just stood there, shaking his head.
"I can't do this." He cried quietly. "Let me go back to the car...please. I don't deserve to be here."
Sam placed a comforting hand on his arm. "Yes you do. If anyone does, it's you."
"No, it's Cassie." Daniel whispered. "This needs to be her moment, and I'm ruining it. That's why I've never come before because she's never wanted me to. I'm just a reminder of why she has to be here in the first place."
Jack shook his head. "That's not true, Danny."
Daniel nodded. "It is." He looked up at Teal'c. "Please just let me go...let me give you all time to be with her."
"I cannot allow that, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c stated gently.
Daniel let out an aggravated breath and ran his hand through his hair. "Why are you letting me ruin this for you guys? Don't you get it? I don't WANT to be here!" He yelled, but it had no effect on any of them. Vala sighed, and moved her hand to his hip to get him to turn around. Daniel pushed at her hand.
"Don't make me force you." She said in a sharp tone. "And you know I can."
Reluctantly, Daniel turned to face her. His blue eyes were like ice as they glared into her grey ones.
Vala shook her head a bit. "Wipe that look off your face because I'm not gonna take it." Reprimanded, Daniel dropped his head.
"I didn't say you could look away." Vala snapped and she pushed his chin up. The hurting look in those watery orbs had her softening her own look. "You think I want to be here? Don't get me wrong - I'm honored that you guys all want me here, but why? I don't know these people. They were long gone by the time I barged into your lives. I didn't want to intrude, but you said you needed me here, so I am. But if you're gonna walk away when you surly need this more than anyone, why did I even come? Huh? Did you bring me here to watch you chicken out? Because if you did, I would rather have stayed home."
Daniel swallowed. "I'm sorry." He mumbled.
Vala smiled and gave him a gentle kiss on the lips. "Don't be sorry." She whispered against his lips. "Be the courageous, 'ready to face anything thrown his way' hero that I know you are. You've been running from this for a long time now, and I won't stand by to watch you do it again. Now you're gonna go down there and spend some time with your friend."
Daniel closed his eyes and rested his forehead against hers. "Help me." He whispered as more tears spilled from beneath his closed eyes.
Vala kissed his lips again. "Of course."
Daniel nodded as he pulled away from her. Taking her hand in his tightly, they slowly began to walk over to the statue. As they passed Jack, Vala shared a look of understanding with him. Now she knew why she needed to be here.
Daniel stopped a moment as Cassie came up to them. Tears were streaming from her eyes, and she looked more than guilty.
"I'm sorry, Daniel." She cried, and he gathered her in a gentle one-armed hug, refusing to release his connection with Vala.
"It's okay, honey." Daniel placed a soft kiss in her hair, trying to keep his tone reassuring. It was hard when he wasn't holding it together well himself. "But I'm not the only one you should be apologizing to."
Cassie pulled away, wiping her eyes. She looked at Vala, who smiled kindly.
"I...I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"
Vala nodded her head. "I know that. Don't worry...I can tell when people really mean what they say to me." She gave Daniel a pointed glance - one that confused the crap out of Cassie. Vala looked back at the young woman. "No offense taken."
Cassie sighed, relief flooding her body. She looked at Daniel, giving him a small smile. "So..." She turned to look back at the grave she had been kneeling at. Daniel took a deep breath, and Vala squeezed his hand.
"Yeah..." He said as he exhaled, taking the few remaining steps to the statue. He looked down at the grave marker in the ground. Tears came to his eyes as he read the name.
Vala kissed his arm as he let out another shuddering breath.
Daniel swallowed against his grief. "Hey...Janet."
A/N: Hope everything I was intending to get across came off just right. This bunny was persistant, and would LVOE some yummy reviews!