Urg, I had this done earlier yesterday, but you might have noticed that ffn was glitching and nobody could log in. *sigh* Anyway, here ya go, finally! Really sorry; I had to figure out exactly how I wanted to do happens in the plot here. I couldn't decide, lol. So I hope you enjoy it; let me know what ya think! (If you're still here. :P)
NOTE/QUESTION: I'm thinking about another installment in my Time After Time series, the one in the future with Daniel and Vala and their family...I had a couple stories focusing more on their daughter Janet, and now I've got ideas for one with their son Charlie--maybe another one for Adrian, too, while of course still about our favorite SG-1 characters as well! Just like the others in the series. Anyone interested?
Vala wasn't sure how long she was out before she woke again, but she knew that the world was a blur for a while. She felt the pain, a little, in the back of her mind, but mostly she only saw the black. She only remembered a few things, like the cold rush of the rushed trip through the chappa'ai, being laid on her bed in their room on Marinet…or at least she thought it was Marinet…
After that she only heard the voices, fading in and out with time and consciousness, and she wasn't sure whether they were real.
Her daddy's frantic voice, Stay with me, Vala…getting help, stay with me!
She heard a soft male voice she didn't recognize. Sir, I don't know if you realize…this child…been shot…might not make it…sorry…
Sweetheart, I'm so sorry…so sorry baby…she heard her daddy crying, but she couldn't tell from where.
Alena's voice, Jacek, what have you done! The small voices of Alena's children beside her, murmuring softly, maybe praying. Jacek eventually making them leave.
It seemed like a long time before she could open her eyes. When she finally pried them open and started blinking, she only saw the dull wooden ceiling above her bed on Marinet. We didn't go home…Her heart sank. If her being injured hadn't prompted Jacek to take them back home, what would?
She heard him then, turning over in his own bed. It wasn't until she started to turn her head to see that she really noticed the sling her left arms was in, and the bandaged wrapped around her back and left shoulder. It hurt to move anything of her upper body on that side.
"Ow, ow, ow," she hissed, and then called louder. "Daddy!"
Jacek almost jumped, and tumbled out of the bed in a fit or wakefulness. "Wha-!"
She would have laughed if she wasn't sure that would hurt.
"Vala!" her father was at her side immediately, gripping her hand on her good arm tightly. "Hi, sweetheart. I'm glad you're awake. How do you feel?"
"Bad." But that was all she would admit to.
Jacek sighed. "Right. I know. I'm sorry, sweetheart. I'm sorry about this whole thing—"
"It wasn't your fault. You didn't shoot me," she retorted.
"No, but you're a little girl; you shouldn't have been shot at in the first place!"
She scowled. "I'm not that little anymore."
He swallowed and blinked heard a few times. "Vala, you…you've been s-shot, and you want to argue about whether you're still a child?"
"Well I'm not."
He groaned. "Please, not now. Just…just not now." He got up quickly and went to the table. "Alena left some food for you…for when you woke up. It's not warm anymore, but it's better than anything I could make." He paused for a moment. "Oh! Wait, right, you shouldn't get up. Uhm, just a minute, I…" He wavered in the middle of the floor for a moment before coming back to her.
"Do you think you can sit up?"
She nodded. "It's just my shoulder, dad."
"And your arm."
Jacek sighed and carefully slipped an arm under her shoulders to support her back while she pushed up with her good arm. It still hurt enough, but she supposed that was really as good as it was going to get right now. She still couldn't keep from letting out a little cry.
"I'm sorry!" Jacek said quickly.
She shook her head a little. "It's okay…I'm fine." He pulled one of the pillows up behind her and leaned her back against the headboard.
"There…Is that all right?" She nodded wordlessly, and he went to get the food. He came back with a bowl of some kind of stew. It wasn't warm so she couldn't smell it, but she knew that if Alena made it then it was good. Jacek, though, didn't seem to know what to do with the food.
"Just give it to me," she said finally. She waved the hand of her broken arm a little to show that she could still hold the bowl with it, and he apologized again and set the bowl in her lap for her. He moved about the room restlessly while she ate.
"Did you even get it?" Vala asked after a while.
Her father stopped in his tracks where he'd been pacing. "What?"
"Whatever you were trying to do," she said evenly. "Did you get it done?"
"I, uhm…no," he said distractedly. She could tell he was trying to figure out from that how much she knew, and she wondered when he would realize—or admit he did if he had already—that she knew what he was.
She couldn't blame him for it, exactly. She supposed it was simply what he knew how to do, and they did have to stay alive. She didn't even blame him for the accident.
She wasn't really sure how to feel about any of this, beyond that.
"Oh," was her only reply.
Jacek stayed home with her for nearly a week, and it was the most uncomfortable week of her life as far as Vala could remember. He went out to bring back food and small amusements—games he bought that they could play while she sat in her bed because he wouldn't let her out of it except to use the bathroom. It was the most protective she had ever known him to be.
It was uncomfortable because they didn't know what to say to each other. Vala could tell that he felt guilty, but she was too uneasy to tell him that it wasn't his fault, and even through all of that somehow she could sense that he really wanted to be somewhere else.
Ever since she could remember, no matter how little time they spent together or what he did, she had always felt some kind of connection with her father…But now, for the first time, she felt the small comforting connection wavering.
For the first time in her life she was realizing how large the gap between her and Jacek really might be.
By the time the week was over she could walk just fine, without much pain in her shoulder, and the older man, the doctor—the previously unrecognized voice she had heard in the haze—had come over twice more to check on her. The first time he had been surprised she had made it, but now he seemed glad at her progress in recovery.
"This girl is a fighter," the kindly old man had said before he left the last time. "The arm will finish healing nicely; though whether she'll regain full range of motion in the shoulder is in question. Either way, I'm sure she'll be just fine."
Now it was the day after that and Jacek was herding her carefully through the streets toward Alena's place. She assumed it was because she couldn't go out with him until she was completely healed.
"What do you have to do now?" she grumbled passively.
"Just a few things," Jacek said quickly. "Then…"
She blinked up at him when he trailed off uncertainly. "Then what?"
He slowed to a stop in the alley outside of Alena's back door and turned to face her. "Then I think we'll go home."
Immediately Vala couldn't enough air for the joy filling her chest. "Home? Really?"
Her father nodded. "You've been out here long enough," he said, fingering the strap on the sling she wore.
Vala chose to ignore that. "What about money though?" she asked quietly.
"Well…I suppose I can find jobs that don't take me away for so long at a time, and I can find someone else to watch you at home."
Vala grinned and excitedly wrapped her good arm around his waist. "Thank you, Daddy!"
Jacek left her at Alena's all day, and two more after that. The fourth morning he looked a little nervous about something, but she was too excited to do more than brush it off because he had promised that when he returned to pick her up that afternoon they would be heading home. They packed everything before they left for him to drop her off at Alena's, and Vala all but skipped through the streets.
She would have skipped if she hadn't known it would hurt her shoulder.
All day she waited restlessly, unable to focus on the games Alena's children wanted her to play with them. Her oldest was a boy about Evan's age, which only served to make her more anxious to get home. No, home no longer meant Mother…but it meant the house she had grown up in, her own room, and Evan.
It meant Evan.
Vala was surprised by how hard that thought hit her, and by how fiercely she believed it. It seemed as if the boy had come to mean even more to her while she was gone than when she had been able to see him every day.
By the time the knock came that afternoon she was down in the kitchen pacing by the door and had refused to leave the spot in more than an hour. She flung the door open the moment she heard it. "Daddy!" She hugged him immediately with her good arm.
Jacek smiled tiredly, "Hey, sweetheart. Let's go."
Vala called for Alena, who gave the girl's father a suspicious look before sending Vala on with him.
"And you're welcome any time, dear," she repeated.
"Thank you!" Vala followed her Daddy away from Alena's excitedly. "Where's our stuff, daddy? Do we have to go back to the room and get it? Then we're going home, right?" she asked, bouncing up and down.
"Yes, we're going home then, but we do have to go back to the room first." Jacek slowed to a stop just inside the entrance of one of the wider alleyways and took her hand to pull her back to him, as she had been skipping ahead. "Just a minute, sweetheart."
"What is it?
Jacek came down on one knee, at eye level with her, and held a hand on her uninjured shoulder. The other he hugged around her waist, making sure she was looking at him. "All right…do you remember that you wanted me to find someone to watch you so that you could stay at home?"
Vala nodded eagerly. "Right."
"Well, see, that's what I've been doing. I've been looking for someone to take care of you."
He nodded. "The village at home is so small, we know most everyone. I already knew there wasn't anyone there who could do the job."
"Oh…okay. So did you find anyone?"
Jacek smiled a little, but it didn't reach his eyes, and that was the first warning that she might not like what was coming. "In fact, I did. I found a nice lady. She recently lost her job, because things are getting a little rough around here, I suppose. Anyway, she's going to come back and…stay with us. And watch you when I'm gone."
Vala's eyebrows shot up. "Stay with us? Like live with us? Like…a governess?" She had heard of rich families who had someone live with them just to take care of the kids. There were no families rich enough in their village, or anywhere on their planet really, but there were stories from the chappa'ai, and she had seen children here on Marinet with such hired women.
"Uhm, sort of."
"But how can we afford that?"
Jacek winced. "Well, there's more too it than that. She's not exactly a governess."
"Then what is she?" Vala demanded.
"Now Vala, I know how you might feel, but I wanted to make sure you would always be taken care of, because you know Daddy loves you and wouldn't want anything to happen to you. So I did this for you, understand?"
She blinked. "What, Daddy? What did you do?" Suddenly there was a knot in her stomach, and she was sure she didn't want to know the answer.
"Well…I married her."
Vala jerked back immediately, but it wasn't enough to break his hold on her. "You what! B-but you can't be married to anyone else! What about Mother!"
Jacek grimaced uneasily. "People are perfectly free to remarry if something happens to their husband or wife, Vala. I'm sorry; I know you might not like this, but it was the only way—"
"No it wasn't!" She struggled against him, shock coursing through her veins. Daddy had gotten married? To another woman besides Mother?
Jacek fought back, trying to keep her where she was. "Vala, listen to me! It's not as bad as it sounds; she won't try to be your mother, I promise. No one can replace your mother."
"Then why did you get married!"
"So you would be safe!"
"Let me go!"
He didn't. "Calm down, sweetheart. It'll be fine."
"Let me GO!" Vala jerked one more time, as hard as she could, ignoring the flash of pain in her injured arm. It worked, and she was free of her father's grip. She backed up against the opposite alley wall, glaring at him.
Jacek, to his credit, didn't come to grab her against. He stood up where he was and pleaded with her. "Vala, please. I just want you to be able to stay home where you want to be, but in a way that still lets me provide for you. Don't you want to go home?"
"Yes!" she snapped. "But—but not with her, whoever she is. I don't have to have another mother! I can stay with Evan. He and his father said so."
"Sweetheart, you're only twelve. That would be a long time for them to take care of you until you're old enough to take care of yourself. I can't impose on them like that."
"I'm not twelve," she said indignantly. "I'm thirteen."
Jacek raised an eyebrow. "Not until next month."
Vala scowled. "It's not next month. It's tomorrow! So I might as well be thirteen."
He looked a bit sheepish at having mixed up the date, but he continued to argue anyway. "Whether you're twelve or thirteen doesn't make much difference. You can't live at the temple."
"Yes I can!" she cried. "I don't want another mother!"
"Sweetie…she won't be another mother. Like I said, she can't replace your mother. She's already told that that she doesn't want to. No one could," he repeated.
"But…b-but…" She thought as hard as she could, but could come up with no other valid excuses. She only knew was against the whole idea. "But…" She trailed off, defeated for the moment.
Jacek came to her then, took her hand again, and led her on down the alleyway toward their room. She went despondently.
"So she's waiting in the room then?" she asked dully, after another moment.
"You've got it. Come on, Vala. I promise everything will be just fine. You'll see."
What? Oh, yes, of course it was Adria's namesake—that witch of a stepmother of mine. Be patient, you'll hear all about her wonderful parenting skills soon enough. I certainly didn't name the Ori progeny after her without reason. But on with the story…
There was a women waiting for them back in the room, all right, but she was much prettier than Vala had imagined. The woman was thin and of average height, and it was hard to see her face until she stopped pacing, what with the virtual glare from the head of thick, bright blonde hair that hovered around what the girl thought would have been a perfect face but for the scowl it wore.
The women stopped wearing a trail in the floor and suddenly smiled brightly, the moment she saw Vala's father.
"Jacek! Oh, there you are!" She glided to his side and draped herself over his arm. "I was so worried! You took to long. I thought all you had to do was pick up the girl from Alena's."
"Exactly," Jacek agreed, turning on the charm. Vala could help but notice it was the same smile he used to swindle his customers. "It just took a little longer than I thought, that's all. We're fine. Come, let's get going."
The women glanced down at Vala and smiled tightly, almost grimacing at the girl before turning an only slightly truer smile back to her new husband. "Of course. I can't wait to see your beautiful home."
"You'll just love it!" Jacek told her grandly. "I know we do."
Vala rolled her eyes as he overdid it.
"Anyway, Adria, this is Vala. Vala, this is Adria."
Adria almost grimaced at her again. "So pleased to me you." But she didn't hold out a hand; she kept her two-armed grip on Jacek's arm, and sarcasm practically screamed from her tone even if Jacek didn't seem to notice it.
Vala suddenly felt sick. What had Daddy gotten them into?
The trip home was miserable and mostly silent, though because of the chappa'ai at least it really only lasted a few moment—getting to the ring, going through, and walking down through town and then out to their cottage. But she didn't see Evan on the way to the house. She hoped she could get to him soon.
Still, no matter how bad it seemed now, seeing the house soothed her in a way she couldn't begin to describe. This house meant Mother, and Mother would always be here in some way.
The only one who had really spoken the whole way was Adria, who chattered awkwardly and enthusiastically about something or another. Jacek answered her sometimes, but the charm didn't really stay on for long, and Vala began to realize that there was a weariness about him that she had never seen before.
But she wasn't about to worry or ask him about it; she was too angry with him.
"Here it is!" Jacek proclaimed, motioning to the cottage with a grand sweeping motion as it came into view.
Adria just stared. "I thought you said you had a house."
The anger grew, now directed more at the woman. "We do, and we're proud of it," she retorted immediately.
The woman, however, said nothing; just glared at the cottage as if it were offensive while Jacek all put pulled her toward it and tried to calm her silent anger.
"Now, Adria, everything will be fine, I promise. A few more jobs, and I'll have enough to dress it up some more. It really is a nice house, and it is bigger than your apartment back on Marinet—"
"Yes, Jacek, I can see that," she snapped. She studied the cottage with narrowed eyes for another minute, while Vala studied her in annoyance with crossed arms. "I suppose it will do for now," Adria huffed finally.
"There, see? That wasn't so hard."
"We will see," Adria growled.
Vala sighed inwardly; this whole situation was looking worse by the moment. She hated that woman, and she was sure that would never change.
She stalked to her room the moment Jacek opened the front door, carrying her only bag and her embroidered purse over her shoulder. She dropped them on the floor beside her bed and crawled up under her own covers; it was already late, she was tired, and she wanted nothing more than to fall asleep in her own bed and forget that Adria existed.
Vala woke the next morning to shouting from the front room, but she wasn't surprised that Daddy was fighting with the wretched women. What was he thinking? How would this make anything better even if he did come home more often?
She dressed quietly, and pulled out her wooden box from under her bed to get her favorite set of ribbons to tie around her pigtails, the blue ones. Maybe they would give her some comfort; they had been her mother's favorite. Doran had always loved her pigtails, and she had always said that even though Vala's eyes had faded mostly to gray that the blue ribbons brought out what was left of the blue they had been when she was a baby.
What surprised her was when the incoherent yelling stopped. Curiously, she crept out from her room and down the hall to the main room.
Adria sat at the table there, sated and admiring a small handful of coins and golden chains from the chest Jacek had left in the bank back on Marinet.
And the front door was closing on her father.
Vala bolted out the door after him, hoping he was only going to town even while something told her that wasn't it at all. "Dad! Daddy, where are you going!" The sinking feeling in her gut tightened when she saw him halfway down the path to the dirt road, his heavy bag over his shoulder.
Jacek turned around and smiled. "Vala! I didn't know you were awake, sweetheart; I didn't want to bother you."
"Where are you going?" she repeated, frozen just outside the door as it closed behind her.
"Oh…honey, I've got to go back to work. You know that."
"But…we just got home. Can't you stay for a few days?" She'd told herself she'd wouldn't really talk to him, much less beg anything of him, until he apologized for marrying another woman…but the desperate request slipped out before she could stop herself.
"I can't, sweetheart." He came back up the path and set his bag down. "Hugs for Daddy?"
Again Vala acted without thinking, throwing her arms around him immediately and squeezing as tight as she could manage. "No, you can't go! You can't leave me with that woman!"
"Vala, I told you she won't try to replace your mother, but she is your stepmother now. So listen to her, all right? But I'm sure it'll be fine. She just has to get used to this just like you do."
"But she's mean."
"No, she's just adjusting. Please try to be nice. I know you."
She buried her face in his chest. "But…" She realized that her chest was aching, and coughed out a dry sob into Jacek's shirt. "Please," she said weakly. First Mother left, now Daddy again…and he was leaving her with a women she didn't know! How could everything be going so wrong?
Jacek kissed her forehead and let go. "You'll be fine," he repeated. "Daddy loves you, but he's got to go now, all right?"
"But, but…" she whispered. She was sure he couldn't hear her, but the lump in her throat now wouldn't let her get any louder.
Her father slung his bag up again and started down the path. "I'll be back soon; I promise!"
But that didn't matter; he was still leaving…and suddenly she had a feeling he wouldn't be back as soon as he said.
Vala was frozen until Jacek was almost over the hill out of sight, but before she could call to him one of her blue ribbons slipped loose in the breeze and fluttered away after his fading form.
She lurched forward after the ribbon, but in seconds it had disappeared along with her father.
Vala stumbled to a stop by the road, at the end of the path from the cottage. "No."
The ribbon was gone, Jacek was gone, and even though she had just reminded him yesterday he hadn't remembered what today what.
"Happy Birthday, Vala," she muttered tearfully.
It was already even worse than the last one.