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

15. Bounty: Make Believe

She's still wearing that ridiculous get-up.

With much amusement, I have watched Vala's wardrobe morph into a hilarious country babe stereotype. Funnily enough, it's not a far cry from her usual leather get-up. Still smoldering sex appeal just with softer edges.

If it weren't for the fact she was equal parts conniving and endearing, Landry would have probably ordered she change into our standard jumpsuits a long time ago. Honestly, I think he is trying to enjoy the eye candy for as long as he can. You know, before it becomes absurdly inappropriate. I mean, it's already absurdly inappropriate, but part of me doesn't blame him. I've been enjoying it too, but enough is enough. Walter has bumped into me twice, gawking at her. The second time he was carrying coffee.

Hot coffee.

"I really don't see what the fuss is all about."

I sigh. "Of course you wouldn't."

"As long as I'm comfortable and happy, that's what should be most important," Vala says, shrugging at me. She's sitting on one of my lab tables, watching me scrub at the coffee that has splashed down my front. She swings her feet, giving me her "but I'm so cute and innocent" look.

I narrow my eyes. "Your tricks don't work on me. It's time to dress in regulation attire. Now."

I'm not sure why I even bother to give her orders. Vala is not US military, never will be. Out in the field, there's a 50/50 chance she'll follow orders. Here at the mountain? Forget about it.

Vala slides off the table, saunters up to me and takes the cloth out of my hand. "I think I know something that will work on you." I feel her hand slide up my arm, the first bit of contact between us that I have allowed in days. I shut my eyes, momentarily. When her fingers graze my chin, I shy away quickly, as if burned. As much as I want her to hold me, I haven't been able to allow myself to enjoy it.

"I really don't understand you," Vala huffs, the hurt she feels palpable. "You've been distant and cold ever since Daniel returned. In fact, both of you have. He was off doing some bookish thing in a museum, you were off doing whatever it is you do."

"I was at a conference and you know that. Also, did I mention I was busy trying not to die?" I say, with my own little brand of sarcasm.

"I was forced to deal with Mitchell! Mitchell!"

"You begged him to go!" I point out, exasperated. "You wanted to be his date."

"Because there was no one else, don't you see?" Vala nearly cries. "You left me, literally, with no choice. Since he wasn't smart enough to escape the base as soon as we got home, I tracked him down and pleaded for his company."

I sigh heavily. She makes a point. Daniel and I had barely set foot on Earth before we whisked ourselves away to occupy our hearts and minds with almost meaningless human matters. Little did Vala know I was going to give her more great news. Timidly, I say, "Speaking of escaping, you should know I'll be in Washington for a few days. Visiting a friend."

"Well, that's just grand!" Vala replies haughtily, arms waving about wildly. She goes to storm off, saying, "Have a great time."

"Vala, wait," I plead, reaching to grab her arm. Clasping at her flannel shirt, I say again, "Wait, please?"

She's pouting a little, but like a defiant child she folds her arms and faces me. "Go on, Samantha."

She doesn't understand, I muse to myself. She's never met Jack, doesn't know what I felt for him. He'll be in my heart, I know this. Will that be okay with her?

She's seen the tension between Daniel and I. Neither of us will admit that she is causing the tension, including Vala. Will she even acknowledge that she knows how much we both care about her? I don't like uncertainty and yet I'm drawn to the most undefined relationship I have ever been in. A relationship that seems to effect all my other relationships greatly. Vala doesn't grasp that. I don't know if I can help her to.

"Sam?" I hear her say softly, curious as to why I have been so quiet. Her arms begin to relax and that's when I reach out for her hand.

Her hand slips into mine, warm to the touch. I gently squeeze my fingers around hers, pull her up to me and into a hug. There's little resistance as she melts into me. I did miss this. I hope she can feel how much I missed hugging her, keeping her near me. I whisper, "I'm sorry I've been cold."

"And distant," she adds quietly.

I roll my eyes. "I'm sorry for that too."

"And for being a bitch."

"Hey!" I say, eyes going wide. I release her immediately, take a step back. Damn, have I really been that bad?

"Did I use the term wrong?" Vala queries.

"No," I say, then shake my head in frustration. "I mean, yes. . .you did. Wait. Vala, I just think that term is a bit harsh, don't you?"

"Perhaps, but I just need you to understand how much pain you have caused me," Vala nearly whimpers her explanation. "What I feel is unlike anything I have ever had the privilege to feel before. And it's you making me feel this way, Sam. Now I must ask you, is this all in my head? Am I just crazy?"

"No," is my immediate answer. A murmur would probably be the most appropriate description. No, she's not crazy. She can't be, not if I feel the same crazy. It's only crazy if the person in question thinks they are alone in their convictions, but she's not. I'm not.

I step toward her once more. "Vala, this is such a new thing for me. And you are so . . ."

"Beautiful?" she fills in for me with a big toothy smile.

"Manipulative," I correct her with a grin of my own.

"Well, I guess I am that too."

"I'm sorry I mistook your advances as some sort of game. I was so caught up in my head, I forgot that you were probably just as confused as me. I should've considered that maybe we were both on the same page, we just didn't know how to clue each other in."

"Apology accepted," Vala says chirpily. "Are we dating again?"

"Not so fast, little lady," I say, holding up a hand. "Did it ever occur to you that when I found out you were with Mitchell and pretending to be his girlfriend, no less, that it may have upset me?"

Vala frowns. "No, perhaps not. I guess this is starting to make the whole situation with Daniel a bit clearer as well."

"Yeah," I sigh. "Daniel and I talked about you. Not just you. I mean, we talked about you and me, together. Daniel is saying he doesn't care . . ."

"But you suspect otherwise," Vala concludes. With a very comically thoughtful expression, she adds, "I presume it doesn't help much that I dry hump him on a daily basis in the briefing room either."

"No, it doesn't," I agree.

"Alright," Vala says resolutely. "I'll do my best to keep my hands on you and only you."

I smile, despite myself. "And I will try to be more forgiving."

Vala smiles back. With sure intentions, she grabs the collar of my uniform and pulls me into a searing kiss. It's hot, full of passion and over far faster than I want it to be. She keeps her lips dangerously close to mine and says huskily, "Just don't want you to forget what you're coming back home to, darling."

She gently pushes me away, shoots me a wink as she exits my lab. I feel the goofy grin spreading across my face before I can stop it.