Weather Patterns by Cleo the Muse
Rating: All Ages
Genre: Gen, Friendship (Daniel/Vala), Pre-ship (Daniel/Vala)
Episodes: Set post-series, no real spoilers.
Synopsis: Daniel takes a break from saving the universe to save himself.
Status: Completed as of October 9, 2007
Notes: This story kept me awake, forcing me to finish it to its satisfaction. It could be considered either D/V friendship with canon UST (all one-sided from Vala) or pre-ship.
Pour down your warmth, great sun!
While we bask, we two together.
Winds blow south, or winds blow north,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together.
-- Walt Whitman, "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"
The first time she noticed was two months after the Ori were finally defeated.
Daniel, in his unquestioned capacity as the most experienced of Earth's archaeologists, won himself the opportunity to excavate a meaningless site on a planet SG-1 had visited nearly ten years ago, or so the report said. As low as it was on the list of the SGC's priorities, supplies and crew availability were to be severely limited. Daniel didn't care, just so long as he got the opportunity to return to his long-lost roots.
Out of sheer boredom with the daily comings-and-goings of the SGC, Vala Mal Doran volunteered herself to join Daniel's dig, jokingly referring to herself as his personal assistant. The title, of course, was said with much leering directed at the handsome archaeologist, yet he accepted her offer with a roll of his eyes and a humorous twist to his lips. After the rest of the preparations were completed, Daniel, Vala, and two of the SGC's newest recruits set out for the ancient ruins. It was good experience for the fresh-faced lieutenants, General Landry had told them, and an excellent opportunity for them to become acquainted with working with civilian scientists.
Vala had to admit, she was intrigued about observing Daniel in his natural environment. She'd even studied up on archaeology, though her friend had vehemently insisted Indiana Jones was not indicative of his profession. That was too bad, really, as she had thoroughly enjoyed watching those movies. She'd even purchased a bullwhip and fedora from an online costume store to give Daniel on a special occasion... the anniversary of their meeting aboard the Prometheus, perhaps.
The military personnel on base had warned her that she'd be bored to tears, though, that watching an archaeologist dig in the dirt was only slightly more entertaining than watching paint dry. Vala saw no purpose in the latter activity, but as long as the former involved Daniel, she didn't mind archaeologist-watching. No one had ever intrigued her like the mystery-that-was Daniel Jackson, and she was truly excited about getting the opportunity to see a side of him she'd never before seen.
There were other parts of him she wanted to see, too, but maybe that could come later... or sooner. She wasn't picky.
A week after Daniel successfully argued his justification for setting up a dig on an inconsequential planet, his small team was set to go through the Stargate, accompanied by two of the curiously-named "FRED" motorized vehicles, laden with enough supplies to last the small group a full three weeks. After receiving a last good-natured jibe from Cameron and a warm benediction from General Landry, the expedition walked through the Stargate.
The first day was spared from being completely yawn-inducing only by the sheer novelty of it. Usually when Vala set foot on a new planet, it was because she was either running from someone, looking for something to steal, or trying to thwart the Ori. This was quite likely the first time since she was a little girl that she could honestly say she was excited about setting foot on a new world. The climate was absolutely perfect, too: temperate, sunny, and full of beautiful trees and plants.
Once the newness wore off, though, Vala could understand the SGC's general opinion of "babysitting" archaeologists. While she and the two lieutenants set up camp on a spot Daniel had carefully chosen, their leader spent the afternoon gawking at the ruins and taking methodical pictures, video, and measurements. He reluctantly broke for lunch, but went straight back to work as soon as he finished eating. By nightfall and the evening meal, he was itching to contact the SGC to request an aerial survey, but reluctantly admitted they weren't likely to spare him a UAV for the job.
The next morning, Daniel woke the whole camp with fresh coffee and breakfast, then disappeared immediately afterward. After she finished helping with the dishes, Vala found him sprawled on his belly in his tent, eyeing his notes and the photographs he'd produced with his portable printer. Using a number of small tools, he carefully drew a map of the site. To Vala's untrained eye, it was as good if not better than an aerial photograph would have been able to produce.
Mid-afternoon found him on his knees in the first of the "buildings" he'd marked on his map, carefully measuring again and using wooden stakes and rope to lay out a grid of the area. He then returned to his notepad and journal, recording everything he'd just done. In Vala's opinion, it seemed a little silly to be obsessing over every detail, but then she'd always known Daniel to be nothing if not meticulous.
On the third day, with the lieutenants getting visibly restless and Vala not far behind them, she decided to fulfill her promises for the mission and watch Daniel work. It was on that morning, exactly two months after the Ori were defeated, that Vala realized the man she trusted above all others was a complete stranger. She'd never really known him at all.
Squatting in the dirt with the knees of his long legs practically up around his ears, Daniel had transformed. Gone was the powerful, driven warrior who'd faced down Goa'uld, Replicators, Ancients, and Ori. In his place was a calm, serene man who liked nothing more than to take his time and uncover the secrets of the past for the sheer joy of discovery.
He hadn't even noticed her approach, as he was completely absorbed in the tools of his trade. Slender fingers that had so competently wielded dangerous weapons and powerful mind-energies were now gracefully wrapped around trowels and brushes. Despite his awkward position and the sweat pasting his t-shirt to his back, he looked to be completely relaxed.
He looked to be at peace.
Vala had no idea how long she stood there, drinking in the sight of Daniel the Archaeologist. Without the weight of the universe on his shoulders, without the darkness of thousands of dead innocents in his eyes, he looked years younger--and though she'd never thought it possible--even more handsome than before. In that moment, she also knew that she wasn't good enough to deserve this gentle, graceful creature, and that realization brought unexpected tears to her eyes.
Just as she was wiping the traitorous moisture away, Daniel straightened up to collect his tape recorder and noticed his audience for the first time. "Hey, Vala," he smiled warmly. There was no hint of his usual frustration, no sign of anger, disappointment, boredom, or any other of the myriad emotions she'd come to associate with his treatment of people, especially her.
"Do you mind if I help?" she blurted before she knew what she was doing.
Surprise clouded his features briefly. "If you want to," he offered, tentatively.
"Show me what to do," she asked, and he visibly brightened as he began to explain.
On the fourth day, they ventured into the ruins together, Daniel handing her her own notepad to record observations and laying the suede-wrapped bundle of tools within easy reach of them both. It was back-breaking, exhausting work, and by mid-afternoon, she gratefully accepted one of his spare bandannas to keep the sweat out of her eyes. She kept at it far longer than she would ever have guessed, as every time she got frustrated and looked away from her assigned grid-square, her eyes inevitably landed on Daniel. Within minutes, she was back to work, brushing, digging, and sifting.
By day five, even that wasn't enough, but just as she was about to throw up her hands and call it quits, her brush uncovered an unnaturally smooth surface. Excitedly, Vala called out to Daniel, who gave her finding a quick inspection before handing over the digital camera. Though it taxed her patience to methodically photograph and record the finding, she managed to rein in her enthusiasm long enough to accomplish those tasks. Daniel joined her in the square, and within a few hours, the entire urn was revealed.
Dull brown peppered with black discolorations, it wasn't the most attractive piece of pottery, and it even had a wide crack from its spout to the swell of its body. Despite its flaws, it was the second most wonderful thing she had ever seen. The first was the sparkle in Daniel's eyes when they lifted it out of the ground in which the urn had lain for untold centuries: that and that alone made the pot far more valuable to Vala than all the riches of Qetesh, the vault at Avalon, or the Gold MasterCard she'd maxed out on one wild weekend of shopping with Sam.
Before she had time to reflect on her actions, she had placed the pot in a foam-lined crate and wrapped her arms around Daniel's neck. Pressing a kiss to his cheek, she laughed giddily, and he happily lifted her feet off the ground and swung her about, joining in her mirth. As this was the first time she'd ever heard him truly laugh, Vala carefully stored this memory into her heart, saving it to take out on a rainy day and look back on a time when only the sun had shone.
By the end of the week, the duo had found only a handful of pottery shards and beads, and their young military escort was frustrated to the point of mutiny. Unperturbed, Daniel sent them back to the SGC, and a few hours later, a sergeant and a captain stepped through to take up guard and camp duties.
They continued onward, rotating soldiers every few days, until the supplies dwindled. Daniel pled his case, winning their dig another week's worth of supplies, but this time the SGC was able to spare only a single sergeant to tend to their meals and watch the Stargate. By the end of that week, Daniel and Vala had finished the first building--amassing two more broken pots and a bundle of petrified sticks that may have once been a child's doll. When the archaeologist asked for more supplies this time, General Landry reluctantly declined.
In an instant, the man who stood toe-to-toe with Goa'uld, Replicators, Ancients, and Ori was back, and Vala was momentarily taken aback by the sudden change. She'd gotten so used to this kinder, gentler Daniel that she'd somehow forgotten that he could be forceful and demanding when the situation called for it. As much as she'd considered herself to be an individual capable of adapting to any situation, the contrasting personalities he displayed left her in complete awe of his versatility. In the end, he got his supplies--sans military escort--and it wasn't until later that evening that she remembered to ask how he'd accomplished such a thing when the IOA was telling them to pull the plug on the excavation.
"I told them to take the cost of the supplies out of my paycheck," he grinned shyly, words much slower now than his old habit of rapid-fire speech. "I think I might have threatened to resign, too."
Unable to contain herself, Vala laughed, and Daniel soon joined her.
The weeks rolled by in their archaeological haven, and Vala took to wearing her hair in a loose knot beneath her borrowed bandanna, even as Daniel's hair grew ragged beneath his. The military-issue solar shower was sufficient for maintaining hygiene, but Vala began to crave a real tub bath before long. She kept her wants to herself, though, laboring alongside Daniel to retrieve as much of this lost civilization as they could before the IOA discovered a crisis of enough magnitude to warrant dragging the SGC's top negotiator from his much-deserved break.
Surprisingly, the universe kept its distance, and the SGC kept them supplied with whatever they needed. More was recovered from the dig site, including a number of sealed jars Daniel hoped contained scrolls that might one day tell him more about the people who'd lived on this planet. As crates were filled with artifacts, they were carefully packaged and sent through to the SGC, but Vala jealously held onto the first urn, the one she had discovered at the beginning of their expedition.
She and Daniel now worked seamlessly together, and their skills complimented one another perfectly. The nimble fingers that had once been the subject of his frustration for their ability to sneak into pockets and other places they didn't belong were now praised for their steadiness, and much-appreciated for the fact that they could do more-delicate work than his larger hands could accomplish. Vala felt a peace she had never before known, and took delight in any moment which could reignite the sparkle in Daniel's eyes.
The beginning of their third month on the planet was marked by two straight days of rain and steadily declining temperatures. Unable to dig in the nasty weather, they eventually congregated in a single tent and talked for hours about anything that struck their fancy. When conversation dried up but the world outside stayed stubbornly wet, Vala dug into her luggage for her long-forgotten deck of cards. They sat and played every game they could remember until they were too tired to stay upright anymore.
Vala woke the next morning, glowing with the realization she had a softly-snoring Daniel curled against her side. For once, she had no puerile thoughts about their proximity, contenting herself with basking in the affection and warmth of her dearest friend. Wishing the moment to last forever, she added it to her steadily-growing collection of thoughts for a rainy day.
Daniel stirred soon after, giving her a smile upon waking that left her toes tingling. Excusing himself for his morning ablutions, he threw back the tent flap, then stared. Joining him at the door, Vala looked out at the thin layer of snow that blanketed the ground, surprised by the sudden onset of winter. When Daniel returned to the tent minutes later, his shoulders were slumped and some of the brightness gone from his eyes.
"With winter here, we're not going to be able to get much done," he sighed, looking out at the snowy vista. "We might as well pack up and head back to the SGC."
Impulsively, Vala wrapped her fingers around his wrist and pulled him back into the relative warmth of the tent. Touching his jaw gently so that he turned to meet her eyes, she cupped his cheek with the palm of her hand. "We can always come back in the spring."
As much as I would LOVE to see Daniel and Vala continue their Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn act in a third Stargate series, I dread it, too, as it would mean throwing Daniel right back into conflict. After eleven years of torment, the man deserves a happy ending!
Edit: Thanks to Thraesja for pointing out where this was registering super-high marks on the Smarm-o-meter!