Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Notes: Ya'll probably hate me for the inconsistent posting. This chapter also saw many rewrites and I'm still unsure about it. Hope you enjoy it. I also hope RL gives me more time to devote to this. I've been working on the next few parts simultaneously, trying to stay ahead this time and not get too far behind. Thanks for those who have dropped reviews and comments. Much love to all of you.

Summary: For when she's this vulnerable and this open, I see her for who she really is and I sympathize. I sympathize and hate myself for liking her as much as I do. [Sam/Vala friendship; eventual Sam/Vala; spoilers for all of season 10]

Tumble and Fall

by e-dog

12. Line In The Sand: Movie Night

"Home, sweet, home!"

Cameron pushes the front door open with his toe, his arms juggling food and rented movies and my briefcase containing somewhat important lab materials and my laptop. I beseeched heavily that I wouldn't need any help getting home, but of course my protests were met with 'tsk, tsk' and 'nonsense'. How silly to think I could drive home every night like I do all the time.

Ultimately, my team used the excuse of 'movie night' to invade the premises.

Vala skips in after Cam (carrying nothing, I might add) and embarrassingly enough, Teal'c carries me into my own house. If I had been using the cane offered me by Dr. Lam, I wouldn't be presently cradled in Teal'c's arms, but I am stubborn. I left the cane in the elevator on purpose.

I'm gently dropped to my couch, the Ori staff weapon wound to my gut only mildly stingy. Cameron disappears into my kitchen.

Vala plops down next to me, smiling widely. "So, if I'm to remember correctly from my last visit, you don't have much fun stuff here, do you?"

Cameron's head reappears from the kitchen and he repeats curiously, "Her last visit?"

I plaster on that stupid grin I wear when bashful, then change subjects. "What movie are we watching tonight?"

Teal'c smiles now. "A film entitled Old School."

From the kitchen, Cameron says loudly, "It's Big Guy's favorite!!"

"Indeed," Teal'c says, bowing slightly to emphasize his enthusiasm. He then excuses himself to help Cameron with snack preparations.

"Here, let me get your coat, Sam," Vala says, sliding the garment down my arms before I can object. She tosses my coat to another chair, in which I watch her do so with mild amusement, and then she fluffs one of my couch pillows. This too is entertaining. She punches it a few times, scrunches up her nose in deep concentration. Satisfied that the pillow is fluffy enough, she places that behind my head and then curls up next to me. "There? Comfortable?"

"Uh, yeah, thanks," I say, my grin both bemused and bewildered. With the way she's practically lying on my arm, I want to ask if she's comfortable as well.

Cameron returns to the family room with a big bowl of popcorn. Teal'c is on his heels with several cans of soda, four of which Teal'c will drain in less than 60 seconds.

Cameron views the set up on the couch and complains, "Hey now. What if I wanted to sit next to Carter?"

"Too bad. Sam is mine tonight," Vala announces, her possessive tone not going unnoticed by anyone. She rests her head on my shoulder, a blatant signal to the boys that she plans on keeping me close for at least the duration of the film.

I glance at Cameron with a look of desperation, but all he does is smile and shrug. He's leaving me to squirm and suffer all on my own.

Well, maybe I shouldn't say I'm suffering too much. I'd like to think Vala and I have grown quite close in the last couple of weeks and I do enjoy having someone around to cuddle with.

I will squirm, however. I will squirm and scowl (a little) and I will make a fuss, because Cameron is quite convinced that Vala and I are on the brink of upgrading our friendship to something less platonic.

I wish I could say he was wrong.

The movie starts. As interesting as the movie is, I find myself transfixed by the company I keep and I'm grateful to have these people in my life. I settle in, my body relaxes and Vala slowly drifts to sleep at my side.

I open my eyes, find myself alone. After a few minutes of disoriented pondering, Cameron returns and smiles at me, seeing I'm awake.

"Hey, Sleepyhead."

I chuckle lightly. "Hey, Cam."

"Well, Teal'c found a quiet place to meditate in the garage and Vala is out cold in the guest bed," Cameron reports. He sits down next to me, careful to sink into the couch slowly so as not to jostle me too much.

"I'm not a piece of china, Cam. I won't break," I tell him, smiling gently.

"I know, I'm sorry," Cameron says, patting my leg. "I'm just happy to see you sitting here. In one piece. Alive."

"I'm okay," I say with soft urgency. I really wish he would stop worrying. I know he won't, though.

Cameron nods. There's something else on his mind, he's wrestling with whatever it is. He rubs an index finger over his lips and tells me quietly, "I want you to be happy, Sam."

I force out a chuckle. "Where did that come from?"

"Look, I'm not going to pretend to understand what's going on anymore, but I wanted you to know that," Cameron says, smiling a little now. "I want you to be happy."

"Cam." I push his name between my lips wearily.

He looks at me with an intense gaze. "Sam." He leans forward some, closer to me as he whispers, "Don't pretend you hate the attention."

My eyes connect with his. "I was hoping it wasn't too obvious."

"You never were good at hiding your feelings from me," Cameron notes gently. "Besides, Vala has made clear what she wants out of all this."

I breathe in deeply, get up on wobbly feet. I need a moment alone. Cameron stands with me, a helpful hand already on my arm, but I politely decline his assistance. "Cam, I can walk to bathroom unaided. I promise."

"Are you escaping?" he asks knowingly.

"I have to pee," I tell him urgently.

He actually takes the hint this time, maybe recognizes he went too far. He wordlessly falls back to the couch, but eyes me suspiciously as I hobble away.

I push on the bathroom door, leaving it open just a crack. The water goes on and I watch the stream of clear liquid swirl around the drain, then disappear.

While I was lying there in our protected alternate dimensional bubble, I was so damn thirsty. I didn't tell Cam this at the time, but I was.

The Ori were marching around us, I know this, even though I couldn't really see them from my position. Cameron was tinkering with the device, asking me for help. I was lying there, doing my best to stay together, but succumbing to a myriad of thirsts. Thirst for water. For life. For luxuries not afforded for someone like me. I was going to die, never having the chance to . . .


I spin around just in time to see Vala shut the door completely. I didn't hear her slip inside, didn't think she'd have the hutzpa to storm into my personal bathroom. Then again, I do keep learning this lesson the hard way. Vala knows no boundaries. I go for the door while scolding, "Vala, you shouldn't be. . ."

"Oh, Sam, Sam," she whispers, gently forcing me back until I bump the vanity. She looks around briefly, taking in my rather drab decor, then says, "It seems we keep meeting in places like this."

I roll my eyes. "Only because you. . ."

"Shh," Vala says, her finger on my lips. "Cameron is a gentleman, but he's curious after all. Keep your voice down."

Hmm. She does have a point. Bathroom acoustics are finicky like that.

"I have questions," Vala states to me.

"I guess I have answers," I reply. "But do we have to talk in my bathroom?"

"Where else do you suggest?" Vala retorts. "Besides, I've got you here, now. You'll find some way out of this if I let you leave."

Resigned to the fact that I'm not going anywhere until Vala says her peace, I move past her to sit on the edge of my tub. She smiles widely, teeth and all. She lowers the toilet seat cover and sets herself down on that. The way we are sitting, her one knee knocks into mine, and my already tiny bathroom definitely feels smaller.

After a long pause of us doing nothing but knocking knees, I begin, "So. What did you. . .?"

"Courtship on your planet. Explain it to me," Vala cuts in. "Daniel has briefly gone over some details, but I can never be sure he's ever telling me the truth. Sometimes, I think he tells me whatever will keep me quiet longest."

I like that Vala speaks of Daniel like he's still here. She's hopeful and sometimes, hope is contagious.

Vala continues on, "I know you must think of me as some superficial being, my concerns centered around my own self-love, but I have curiosities."

I raise an eyebrow, my amusement quite evident.

Vala's eyes narrow at my smirk. "It's just, no one ever takes me seriously when I ask legitimate questions."

I consider her words even as she playfully knocks her knee against mine. Vala has the fascinated expression of a child in kindergarten. Eyes slightly wider than normal, a tenseness in the shoulders. Their rapt attention could be consumed by crayons and a coloring book, but that's really all it takes to entertain a child. Something new, something fresh.

In this case, however, I know the concept of courtship is not something Vala needs any help with. I pat her knee, offer up a soft smile. "Okay, look. If you want to. . ."

Vala interrupts me again. "And don't lie to me. I really want to know! For knowledge on your social customs and other related matters."

"Okay, fine. I'm not trying to avoid the subject. Let me finish," I say, doing what I can not to laugh. She's as determined as ever. Vala wisely keeps her mouth shut this time. I continue, "Okay. What I was going to say is, if you want to ask me out on a date, all you have to do is ask."

"Date?" Vala says, repeating the word as if testing how it sounds from her lips.

"Our ritual for courtship," I explain. "We like to participate in several outings, put ourselves in situations that aren't quite as intimate as say, this bathroom and spend time together outside our normal environments. It's a way to learn more about the other person without forcing one another into some sort of obligation."

"Leaves room for escape? A clean break?" Vala says.

"Well, not always clean, but yeah. It's easier to come to a mutual agreement this way," I say.

"And all I have to do is ask?" Vala inquires curiously. I can tell she doesn't trust my words. Like this whole 'dating' concept is too simple.

"Just ask me," I tell her. "Granted, asking someone on a date isn't always easy. Many people suffer from anxiety or nerves. Gathering the courage to show interest in someone can be. . ."

"You and me and one of these date things," Vala blurts. She nudges my knee again, with more emphasis. "Let's begin this courtship ritual of yours. Learn more about one another."

". . .but why would you be nervous?" I say with a smile. Now I have anxiety of mine own, but it is of my own doing. I entertained her questions, gave her an opening. I do have one trick left up my sleeve, though.

I rise from the edge of the tub, slowly. She rises with me, a comforting hand on the small of my back. Our eyes lock. Desire meshes and curls around me. I wonder how awful would it be to go on a date.

"So," Vala says softly. "Is that a yes?"

I laugh nervously, feeling silly that I got so caught up in my thoughts, in her gaze. With about as much awkward as I can muster, I place a quick kiss on her forehead. "Yeah, sure. We can go on a date."

Vala quirks an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Really," I say. I move toward the door, then pretend to double over in pain. Vala instantly grabs my arm and I almost grin devilishly. "Well, that is until Carolyn gives me a clean bill of health. I'm really not supposed to be walking around unaided, you know. We'll probably have to postpone this date for a while."

Vala narrows her eyes. She hates me now. I know it.

"How long is a while?"

I shrug. "Oh, until I get better, I suppose."

"Oh, Samantha. You are a tease. Here, let me help you." Her sarcasm rings out loud and clear.

I wrap an arm around her shoulders, she puts an arm around my waist. She opens the door and walks me to my bedroom. Once there, I prop myself up in the doorway, unhook my arm from around her. She gives me that determined look two-fold and warns me, "Don't think of me as impatient. I'll wait."

"I know," I say.

"You will hold to your word. You agreed to go on one of these date things with me," Vala pushes.

I chuckle and say again, "I know."