Daniel frowned to himself as Sam went on to explain that she and Jack had other plans and couldn't make it to the dinner he'd planned. He'd been hoping since the idea had first come to him that he could bring the team back together for one night: Jack, Sam, Teal'c, Cam and Vala.
He juggled the phone in one hand while pushing his glasses up his nose. "Are you sure you can't come?" he asked, hoping he didn't come across as whiny. "I don't mind if you can only stay for half an hour…"
He fell silent.
"Oh. Well, okay," he said after a moment. "No, that's fine. I'll…it'll be fine." A pause. "Yeah. Bye, Sam."
He clicked the phone off and let it fall the short way to his desk, clattering loudly and pushing a few odd pens and pencils to the floor. "I guess it'll just be Teal'c, Mitchell and Vala, then," he muttered to himself.
He pulled himself up and deciding to make sure the others would be able to make it, made his way to the cafeteria, where Cam had been headed the last time he'd saw him.
As predicted, the Colonel was slumped casually at his usual table, spoon poised above a bowl of jello and a case file propped open in his other hand. He appeared to be deep in thought, yet the moment Daniel arrived at his side, the case fell to the tabletop and Cam sighed restlessly, steel eyes looking up to catch Daniel's blue ones.
"You know, this day just won't end!" Cam told him loudly. "You'd think we were caught in some time dilation field or something the way it's going."
Daniel shrugged. "It's not that bad."
Cam rolled his eyes. "Maybe not for you," he went on, "but I have plans. I'm going up to the Mountains with my girl. We've been planning this for weeks."
Rock bottom. Daniel's heart plummeted to there and beyond. "You have plans?" he repeated. "I guess you're not coming to dinner, then."
"Dinner?" Cam asked. "Sure. When is it?"
Narrowing his eyes, Daniel fixed Cam with a don't-go-there stare. "You don't remember, do you? We made plans. You said you could come."
"Oh!" Cam said, straightening up. "Oh. I'm sorry, Jackson. I just…it's the holidays, man! I…I'm sorry." He shrugged and fell back into his chair. "I'd change my plans, but I've already paid for the flight and there's a no refund policy."
Daniel sighed and waved his hands in front of him. "No, don't worry. It's fine. Have a good time."
Without another word, he walked off, a combination of annoyance and desperation tugging at his soul. Without Sam and Jack and Mitchell, it would just be Teal'c and Vala. While that was okay, it wasn't what he'd planned. He had wanted them all there, together for Christmas.
Halfway down the hall, he saw Teal'c moving towards the gate room. It took him all of five seconds to realise the Jaffa was dressed in his robes and had his staff weapon in hand.
"Wait, Teal'c! What's going on?" Daniel called out, instinctively picking up pace and almost running towards his friend. "You're not leaving, are you?" He paled. If Teal'c was going away too, that left him with Vala. There would be nothing standing between them and no one to play off if things became difficult.
His eyes darted cautiously over the Jaffa. "Indeed, Daniel Jackson. I have received new from Bra'tac of a possible uprising. I must go."
"But what about – " Daniel protested weakly.
Teal'c waved him off. "We will have dinner another time," he said firmly, leaving no room for disagreement.
Daniel nodded and fell back. He watched as the Jaffa rounded the corner, blue flashing against the walls. There was a slurping sound off in the distance and then the blue tinge disappeared as quickly and as finally as Teal'c had.
Sparing a last glance down the now empty hall, he groaned. This was not what he had planned!
Later that afternoon when he'd arrived at his apartment, it hit Daniel fully that he would be spending the night, alone, with Vala Mal Doran. While being alone with her was nothing new, they spent most of that time working in his lab or offworld fighting the Ori. They were never alone to simply relax and have fun.
Even the one time they'd had dinner together; they'd been surrounded by people, strangers.
This would be a lot different.
To personalise the dinner for his teammates and friends, Daniel had arranged for them to eat in at his apartment. He'd planned a home cooked meal and so, the ingredients he'd needed were laid out in his refrigerator.
If he chose to take Vala out to a public place rather than face the awkwardness of it being just the two of them, the food he'd bought would go to waste. He hated when that happened, though and really, it would be near impossible to find a restaurant open that hadn't been booked out at this time of the year.
Deciding to stick with his original plan, Daniel set about getting everything ready.
It was an hour and a half later that he heard knocking at his door. Sweeping back damp tangles of hair with one hand, he gave his apartment a quick glance over to make sure everything was set.
Satisfied, he nodded. It was time.
He walked over to the door and reaching out, grasped the doorknob. He paused tentatively and then slowly turned the knob and pulled it open. His heart immediately stopped and his throat tightened.
Vala. In a black dress. At his apartment.
He stood back and waved her inside, unable to find any words to fit how he was feeling. He was surprisingly glad when Vala covered the silence with a quip about his clothing choice: a black tux he'd found in the back of his closet. Usually he'd have backhanded her with a sarcastic comment or two.
He barely even remembered to close the door behind her.
"So," Vala drawled, surveying his room with keen eyes. "This is where you live when you're not at the SGC."
Daniel nodded, eyes darting nervously around his home. "Yeah," he managed to get out.
He watched as Vala picked up object after object, inspecting each in turn and then replacing them. It was only after several minutes of this that she turned to him.
"It's nice," she said simply, offering him a mischievous grin. "Very nice. Is that the bedroom?"
Before Daniel had a chance to react, she was rushing forwards to his room, eyes wide with excitement. By the time he'd thought to follow her, she had bounded onto the bed and lay back, head resting on her arms.
"Vala," he said firmly. "Are you hungry yet?" He nodded towards the kitchen. "I'll get dinner ready, if you are."
Moving her head slightly to look at him, she shrugged. "Sure, I'm hungry." She continued to stare at him. "Well?"
Daniel blinked. "What?"
"Are you going to get us dinner, darling?" she asked innocently. "I'll wait here."
Sighing loudly, Daniel turned and left his bedroom.
He couldn't have been gladder that he'd thought to hide the magazines Mitchell had left lying around his place the last time he'd dropped by.
After another ten minutes or so spent clanging pots and pans in the kitchen and dishing out portions of ravioli for himself and Vala, Daniel was done. He set the plates on the table, lit the candle he'd placed in the centre and stood back. Perfect.
He made his way to his bedroom to find his guest. "Vala?" he called hesitantly as he entered. "Dinner's ready."
She smiled lazily at him and gestured at the bed. "Why don't we have it here, Daniel?" she suggested. "It'd be much more comfortable than at the table."
Daniel sighed. He should have been prepared for this. Hell, he should have locked his bedroom door – although Vala would probably have been able to find a way into it anyhow. "Sure," he agreed reluctantly, "but we'll have to be careful. I want to be able to sleep in there tonight."
As he turned to retrieve their food, he was certain that Vala smirked.
When he returned, plates in hand and the candle on the table blown out, Vala was sitting up, waiting expectantly. "Took you long enough," she said lightly, taking her meal. "I thought I'd starve before you got back."
Daniel rolled his eyes, kicked off his shoes and sat down on the bed next to her. "Sure you did," he retorted. He speared two chunks of pasta with his fork and pushed it around his plate thoughtfully.
Beside him, Vala took a mouthful of her own pasta and then waved her hand at the TV. "Where's the remote?"
Wordlessly, he opened the middle drawer of his dresser and passed it over.
Vala immediately flipped the TV on and a flash of colours whizzed by as she decided which channel to watch. She settled on a black and white movie.
"'It's A Wonderful Life'," Daniel muttered to himself between mouthfuls.
"It's a what?"
He turned to see Vala looking inquisitively at him, hair falling across her face. He fought the urge to lean in and tuck the loose strands behind her ears and instead repeated himself. "'It's A Wonderful Life.' It's the movie title," he explained. "I saw this back when I was in college."
A smile made it's way onto Vala's face unlike any he'd seen before and he couldn't help but grin back. "I used to stay up late and watch old movies sometimes. It's fascinating to see how much things have changed in the past few decades."
Vala nodded. "It is."
They turned back to the movie and watched silently as they finished off the rest of their meals. Once done, Daniel set their plates down on the bedside table. "Do you want to keep watching?" he murmured softly.
Nodding, Vala shifted into a more comfortable position, curled up into his side. "Lights," she said simply.
He couldn't have been happier that he'd had a second light switch put in behind his bed. He didn't have to move and disturb Vala to turn out the lights. He reached behind him, and with a click, darkness surrounded them.
The next morning, Daniel awoke to the soft brushing of something against his nose. He instinctively reached up a hand to scratch it and found that he couldn't move. Something was blocking his way. With his other hand, he felt around for his glasses and slipped them on.
He blinked a few times.
Dark, cascades of… What was that? Hair? He scrunched up his nose.
Warm flesh pushed up against him. A leg?
A soft, pleasurable groan.
He sat up quickly and stared at her.
"Yes, darling?" Vala replied sleepily. "What time is it? Did I fall asleep?"
Daniel raised an eyebrow and shook his head. "Vala, it's morning. We must've fallen asleep after the movie."
"Oh. Can we sleep in?"
Despite the feeling that this was wrong and he shouldn't be doing this, Daniel couldn't help himself. He felt warmer than he had in a long time and oddly comfortable with the situation and this was Vala…
He had dreamed of something like this happening more times than he cared to admit, even to himself. The last thing he was about to do was let the chance to live his fantasy fade away.
He settled back into the bed and automatically slid his arm around her waist, pulling her to him. "Merry Christmas," he whispered.