Disclaimer: I do not own 'Stargate: SG-1' or any of the characters associated with it.

Rating: PG/K+

Author's Note: This story was written for the 'Women of the Gates' Sam/Vala friendship ficathon.

Prompt: Beach Head: When Carter first came back from Area 51 -how did Sam and Vala get to know each other, was there tension, rivalry, Carter feeling "out of the loop", replaced. What were their first impressions of each other, how did they gradually start working on a friendship?

First Impressions

Vala wasn't entirely sure what she had been expecting.

SG-1 weren't exactly intergalactic celebrities, but they had acquired a measure of fame as a result of their fights against the Goa'uld and those of the other Tauri teams and the efforts by the System Lords to quash such stories only had only succeeded in increasing interest in those who dared defy the "gods".

As she knew, and had far more reason to know than most, that the Goa'uld were not gods and that they were the ones depending on humans rather than the reverse, she had never been overly interested in stories about the team who pitted themselves against them, except when they happened to affect her personal business affairs.

Based on Colonel Mitchell's determination to convince her to return to the team, and the references to her that Daniel, Teal'c and Dr Lee had made, Samantha Carter must have been a demigoddess at the very least. Nobody could possibly be all they claimed she was and when Vala saw her, she saw a human. Maybe not an ordinary human – the word 'ordinary' didn't really seem to apply to any of the members of the team – but she definitely didn't see a miracle worker.

There was something different about her, though, something Vala couldn't quite put her finger on…

Colonel Carter's tone was calm as she explained the modifications to the plan, smiling slightly at Colonel Mitchell's quip about a nuke-free career. "We've been developing something at Area 51 that General O'Neill believes will be our best chance to stop them right here, right now."

"But you don't agree." Vala would never have called herself the world's most empathic person but she was observant – which was part of the reason she was still alive and enjoying a modestly successful career in her chosen field – and she could read the doubt in Colonel Carter's eyes. What she found strange was that nobody else called her on it.

The other woman's expression was serious as she turned to look at Vala. "I agree we have to try. I just don't think it'll be enough."

"It's what we've got." Landry cut in firmly. "Questions?"

Vala had plenty, but Daniel seemed less than inclined to let her ask them.

It was when Colonel Carter turned to listen to Landry and Teal'c's exchange that the saw it. That was when she knew.

Only about half an inch or so of the scar showed above the black material of her collar; thin and pink and faintly raised it didn't look like anything especially extraordinary and could conceivably have had any number of causes.

Vala still knew exactly how Carter had got it.

Although she had spent a great deal of time contributing ideas for its design and construction, the Prometheus had never been Sam's favourite place in the galaxy, although given the days she had spent stranded alone in it a year and a half ago, that was far from surprising.

The mess hall, like the rest of the ship, had clearly been designed to be functional rather than inviting. Gray tables were welded to the floor, laid out in neat rows with four chairs around each.

Accepting a plate of something that vaguely resembled vegetable stew from the airman on mess duty, returning his greeting and smiling her thanks when he took a plastic cup of blue jello from one of the refrigeration units, she sat down at one of the tables and began to eat, her mind half on her food and half on the pad of notes in front of her, reviewing her calculations once more, although she knew that they weren't going to change.

The Mark IX was far and away the most powerful nuclear weapon Area 51 had produced, but whether or not it was going to be powerful enough, she couldn't say. Based on what she had heard of the Ori and the supergate, it mightn't be.

She smiled slightly at the memory of Cam's earnest invitation for her to return to SG-1, and her own nostalgia for the adventures of offworld travel after she had first been assigned to Area 51.

'Be careful what you wish for.'

She was jolted out of her musings by the arrival of the newest face around the SGC, who sat down opposite her, poking warily at her stew with a fork, as though she suspected that there was a living creature lurking beneath the gravy.

Vala glanced up at Sam, a faintly disgusted expression on her face. "We had a saying on my world; 'starving warriors never win battles'."

"An army marches on its stomach." At the other woman's quizzical look, Sam elaborated, "That's what we say on Earth."

"Right – so if this is how your people feed their soldiers, how exactly did you manage to take out the System Lords?" She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "This is worse than the stuff at the SGC!" She abandoned the stew as a lost cause, picking up her cup of jello and peeling back the film covering before trying a heaped spoonful, snatching up a napkin and promptly spitting it out.

Sam smothered a laugh before rising to request a second cup of blue jello from the airman, handing it to Vala with a smile. "Maybe you'll like blue better."

Although initially sceptical, Vala had the dessert finished in two minutes flat. "So are you back for good?" She asked, scraping the last traces of jello out of the cup. "There's a betting pool going on when you'll decide to rejoin SG-1." The unspoken 'not if' hung in the air between them.

"I don't know." Sam answered honestly. Jack had said that General Landry only needed her back temporarily for this mission, but if the Ori were half as powerful and as dangerous as they seemed, she knew that she wouldn't be able to just leave Cam and the others to deal with it by themselves and that she could find herself sticking around a lot longer than she had planned.

She wasn't sure how she felt about that.

"The boys will be happy if you stick around." Vala observed, the faint note of wistfulness in her tone grabbing Sam's attention. She shrugged casually. "It's been a while since I last worked with a partner – I'm used to standing on my own two feet."

Sam could imagine it; she knew from Daniel that Vala had been a host for years before being freed by the Tok'ra. After an experience like that, she'd have had problems trusting others too – and she could very easily have found herself in that position, if Jolinar had been a Goa'uld and not a Tok'ra, or if Fleming's antibiotic had failed to kill the second symbiote…

After Jolinar had died, leaving Sam with hundreds of years worth of memories, from the symbiote and from her hosts, she'd felt as though she was going mad. Those same memories told her that most people who had been taken over by a Goa'uld never recovered from their experience, even after the parasite had been extracted. That the woman sitting opposite her had survived so long a period as a host was a testament to her strength.

"How long?" Vala asked quietly, seemingly reading her thoughts. She briefly touched the back of her neck to illustrate. "Your scar."

"Just a few minutes that time." Sam answered unthinkingly.

"That time?"

"It's a long story."

"We're going to be stuck on this ship for at least a few more hours." Vala pointed out.

It wasn't something Sam had talked about much, at least outside of the few mandatory sessions she had been obliged to attend with Dr McKenzie but she surprised herself by not being entirely opposed to the idea of talking.

"Colonel Carter to the bridge. Colonel Carter to the bridge." Colonel Pendergast's voice filtered through the comm. system. "Excuse me." Sam rose, picking up her tray to bus it.

Vala stood too, straightening her scarf. "I'm going to go find Daniel – I think he's in hiding, can't imagine why." She regarded Sam silently for a moment before speaking. "Maybe we can continue this when we're done here." She suggested. "If you want to."

Sam was caught off guard by her own answer. "I'd like that."