Author's Note: Haha! I finally updated! I hope it's sufficient. Also, took a suggestion to change the rating. Thanks Breezy. I'm not sure why I had it sitting at K+, but I did start this eons ago and the tone has probably changed since then.

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

16. Bad Guys: Welcome Home

I know something is amiss before I lay a hand on the doorknob leading to my quarters.

I stand in the doorway somewhere between amused and terrified, watching light dance off the walls, the source being the various candles lit around my bunk space. Washington was a total bore and being back on base is always a comfort to me, but I usually don't come home to much of anything other than a few hearty slaps on the back from Mitchell, an imperceptible nod from Teal'c and a warm smile from Daniel. Lit candles in my quarters? That's just weird.

As with most trips, I find myself making a pit stop at the mountain before actually returning to my very empty house. There are debriefings and paperwork and other tedious things that have to be tended to and by the time I get through with all that, I'm too tired to actually return home. Crashing on base is usually what I decide to do.

So upon approaching my doorway, it finally occurred to me that I had not seen or heard Vala in the entire three hours and twenty seven minutes that I had been back on base. And that was troubling. Seriously. She has this Sam Radar and knows where I am before I even realize where I am.

This is why I knew something was up before I opened my door. I'm almost certain she's the reason my quarters are semi-dark, swathed in candlelight and smelling of frankincense.

"Well don't just stand there," I hear her say. My eyes dart to my cot. She's laid out on her back, eyes closed and thankfully fully dressed in our standard BDUs. Any terrifying thoughts of this being some welcome home seduction evaporate quickly before another terrifying thought swoops in and proclaims that this is just a ruse. Just because Vala Mal Doran isn't wearing leather doesn't mean she won't get wild.

"Uh," I say, being ever so eloquent.

"Isn't it relaxing?" Vala muses aloud, her eyes fluttering open finally and gazing at me. My feet propel me forward, answering some unspoken call and in the next few seconds, I'm lying down next to her. I take in a deep breath. I hear her sigh. "See? Relaxing."

It is relaxing. Yet still troubling.

"Okay, what do you want?" I say knowingly, turning my head to meet her eyes. She looks at me as if I'm crazy to ask such a thing. So I roll my eyes. "As relaxing as this all is, this isn't you. So, what do you want? Why are there candles lit all over my room? And most importantly, why are you in here?"

Vala pouts. "I thought you might be happy to see me."

I sit up a little, use my elbows for leverage. On any other day, I might let that pout get to me. I know I promised her I would be less cold, more open. However, I now know enough about this con artist to know when she's about to play me. With a raised eyebrow, I push, "And?"

"And I have a small favor," Vala finally concedes. At my groan, she insists, "It's nothing unsavory! I promise!"

"Okay, okay," I say with a smile. I can't help smiling around her, it seems. Even if the prospect of Vala pulling a stunt is unsettling, predictably, I also find it comforting.

"I know your world has museums."

I crook an eyebrow upward. "Yes, we do."

"Last mission has inspired me," she shrugs. "Let's go to one. I want to see what your world values."

I laugh lightly. It was only a week ago she was whining because Daniel left her alone on base to study in a museum, but I decide to keep that comment to myself. Instead, I jest, "No, you want to test our security systems."

She grins wickedly. "Maybe." Then she deftly rolls her body on top of mine, her hands beside my head and her hair falling like a curtain around me. "Or maybe I know you would enjoy such a bookish thing and we could go to one together. Another date, perhaps?"

It's odd to think that Vala would know what I would enjoy. Or maybe it's nice to know that she thinks about what I like versus what she would like me to do for her. On the other hand, I have to admit, I like where we are right now. I'm nervous as hell.

"Vala?"

"Hmm?" she purrs.

I swallow hard. "Um, can I sit up?"

Her expression falls some. "You really are the most difficult being I have ever tried to seduce."

"Oh, trust me. It's working," I laugh, as she allows me to sit up. She still straddles my legs as she leans back on her palms now. Her chest rises and falls with an even rhythm and she really is sex personified. The next thing I say I know will be a mood killer. "I saw Jack."

Vala groans now, before swinging her leg over and off me. She's standing next to my cot, hands on her hips and sporting a glare that could melt polar ice caps. "Really, Sam?"

"Wait, hear me out," I plead. I swing my legs over the side of the bed now to face her. "I'm telling you this because I need you to know. I want you to know that we're friends."

"You and Jack?" she asks for clarification.

I nod with a softer smile. "Yes. Just friends. I saw him in person because it didn't feel right saying something like that over the phone." It takes her a moment, but the realization of what I'm trying to convey dawns on her. Her lips are slowly morphing from an injurious frown to a pleased grin. I stand to my feet and stamp down my nerves enough to pull her into my arms. "I don't do this very well, Vala. If you can be patient a little while longer . . ."

"Darling, please. You talk too much."

She quickly captures my mouth in a kiss. She's right. Clearly, I could be doing things other than talking.

When the kiss ends, our foreheads meet and I grin so wide, it almost hurts. Vala waggles her eyebrows. "Welcome home, Sam."

"Hmm, thank you," I say, before planting a light kiss on her lips. "And you don't have to seduce me, Vala."

"You like me," Vala states confidently.

Yes, I do. I really, really do. Just like she said I would all along.