The first time Sam met Vala, she was prepared to hate the woman. No, not hate. That's a little harsh. Hate was reserved for the more sinister types. System lords, space pirates, and budget-cutting congressional blow-hards. Dislike, then. She was prepared to really dislike Vala.

After all, the woman had stolen her spaceship. Ok, not her own personal spaceship, but the Prometheus was in large part her design and had her blood, sweat, and tears all over it. And Vala Mal Doran had waltzed aboard, beaten the snot out of Daniel, overridden Sam's security protocols, and made off with her ship. Sam swore to herself that if she ever met up with that woman, she'd…well, it wouldn't be pleasant. She wasn't the vengeful type, after all. She just wasn't too happy about having to defend her designs for the security protocols she had assured the engineering committee were unbreakable.

By the time they did finally meet, Sam had several months of correspondence with both Daniel and Cameron to color her opinion. Daniel complained endlessly about the harassment, the innuendo, the thieving and manipulation, the complete lack of respect for the history and culture of the people of P27-919… The list went on. Cameron complained about her battle tactics almost getting them all killed and how her bravado was getting them into more trouble than she was worth. Teal'c said only that 'Vala Mal Doran is…interesting.'

When Vala's ship was destroyed by the super gate, Sam felt like dirt. Here she'd been feeling put out that this thief had not only stolen her ship, but also her place on SG-1. And then she had figured out a solution to the super gate problem faster than Sam had been able to…

By the time the Marks reports that there were no life signs aboard the ship just before it was destroyed, Sam has already chastised herself six ways from Sunday for making assumptions about the woman before evaluating the data for herself.

***

"You don't have many women friends, do you?"

Sam looks up from her work, momentarily confused. "Excuse me?"

"You know, women. Ladies. Female of the species." Vala had been flitting around her lab for the last half hour. Sam's not sure if the woman was bored or if she'd come here with something specific in mind.

"You're around all these men all day, and not that that's the most difficult sacrifice to make by any stretch of the imagination, but who do you go to when you want to talk nail polish? And don't feed me some line about being not being girlie, because I've seen your bare feet in the showers." Vala slides a knowing look towards Sam's booted feet.

Sam's about to fire off a smart-ass remark about the color of kettles and pots but stops because she realizes two things. One, Vala isn't trying to get her fired up the way she likes to with Daniel and Mitchell, and two, she'd pretty much hit the nail right on the head.

In fact, Sam couldn't remember the last time she'd been 'out with the girls'. Not since that's last time with Janet at least. That she hadn't even noticed the fact was even scarier. The thing was though, she never really did discuss nail polish with Janet. Sam would like to think their conversations had been a little more profound than that, but she had to admit that a lot of the talk had usually centered around Cassie and work.

But Vala has a point. When the topic of conversation was how many foot pounds of torque you could coax out of that slant-six sitting in the driveway, you usually weren't speaking to another woman about it.

Remembering her vow to get to know Vala better, Sam makes a decision. She shuts down her laptop, drains the last of her coffee, and asks "What's on your agenda for today?"

Vala looks at her brightly. "Aside from romancing the hound? Nothing."

Sam chokes.

Vala is all wide eyes and innocence. "What? Isn't that the polite way to refer to-"

Sam holds up her hand. "I get it. Your afternoon's free. Go get your jacket and meet me at the elevators." So Vala can't resist trying to get a rise out of her after all.

***

It's something she hasn't done in a long time. The weather is warm and the street in front of them is clear. The car that pulls up next to them at the light is a '69 Mustang, candy-apple red, mint condition. The driver is one of those clean cut college boys with an excess of money and testosterone. His buddy in the passenger seat could be his clone. They both have their heads turned in their direction and Sam's pretty sure it's not her Volvo they're drooling over. Vala barely needs to goad her into doing it. Her sideways glance at the Mustang and crooked grin is enough.

When the light turns green, Sam slips the gearshift into second, pins the accelerator and pops the clutch. She knows exactly where the sweet spot is in this gearbox and they peel through the intersection with the chirp of the tires and matching looks of surprise on the faces of the Mustang twins.

"Samantha, I had no idea you had this streak in you. I was under the impression from your newscasts that street racing was illegal in this county." Vala's voice is full of admiration. "You are not the straight-laced colonel everyone has led me to believe."

"I'm afraid to ask who 'everyone' is."

"Oh, you know..." She waves her hand and her voice trails off, some of the enthusiasm gone.

Sam raises an eyebrow and glances across to the passenger seat. "Tell."

"Well, no one, really. It's all just rumour and speculation." Vala is trying to circle her way out the corner she just backed into. "I think it was one of the airmen, you know, the cute one who is usually stationed outside the general's office? Mind you, they're all fairly good looking what with the uniforms and the side-arms and such."

"Vala," she warns. "You brought it up, now spill." Sam can't help but be curious about what Vala has heard. Not that she's hasn't ever been the subject of speculation before, but still...most the rumours she's heard surround the exploits of SG-1, not her personally.

Vala twists a strand of her hair around her index finger. "Oh don't worry about it. It's just rumours. People just like to talk, especially if it involves sex. Nobody believes most of that stuff anyhow. At least I don't, if that counts for anything." If she was trying for reassuring, she was firing wide of the target.

Sam can feel her ears burning. "That bad?"

Vala trails her arm out the open window, playing with the wind as it rushes past the car. "Samantha, do you think people really believe that you slept your way to where you are today? Or that you're so lonely that you spend all your time on base now that a certain general is out of town so you don't have to face an empty house? After all, you're playing hooky in the middle of the day right now." She flashes Sam an encouraging smile.

Oh god. Sam contemplates running the next red light so they get hit by a truck just to put and end to this afternoon's excursion. People actually thought that about her? She slides lower behind the wheel and puts a hand over her eyes.

"I didn't need to hear that. That's the kind of stuff that ruins careers if it gets repeated to the wrong people." Maybe spending the afternoon getting to know Vala hadn't been the best idea after all.

Vala seems to realize the impact of her words. "I once heard a rumour spread by one of my father's business partners, a jewel trader friend of his, regarding certain favours of a sexual nature that I had provided in trade for a mere trinket. I was twelve at the time." She's staring straight ahead at the traffic light. She gives a little shrug and glances over at Sam. "It doesn't matter what people tell others about you. Only you know if it's true or not. If they don't want to take the time to find out for themselves, well, that's their loss."

The light turns green and Sam's chance at a collision with a semi-trailer is gone. The air between them is thick. Sam thinks she should say something but she's not sure what. It was always so much easier with the guys. A quick joke or a smart-ass remark and you could consider the subject changed with no hard feelings.

"For what it's worth," Vala breaks the awkward silence. "I didn't like you much either when we first met."

Sam shoots a glance at her, surprised by the admission. It wasn't that she expected everyone to like her. It was that Vala was being so frank about it.

"I had no idea." It's all she can think of to say. She didn't realize that she was that easy to read.

Vala shrugs. "You had it so easy with them. You already had Daniel's respect and Cameron's adoration when you waltzed back in from where ever it was that you were in your legendary size nines to supposedly save the day."

Sam wants to be defensive and point out to Vala that is was her team in the first place, but realization strikes: they'd both been jealous of the same thing. Lose the armour of glitter and the barrettes and Vala really was no different than herself. They were both trying to fit in somewhere that mattered. And now Vala was the one offering the proverbial olive branch. She downshifts as the light ahead of them turns red.

"We really started off on the wrong foot," Sam admits.

Vala snorts. "It's not exactly as if we had much of a start in the first place, what with the blowing up the super-gate and the Ori kidnapping me, and all that. I don't believe we exchanged more than ten words the entire mission."

"So..." Sam is watching for the green light. There aren't any semi-trailers at this intersection either but maybe she might not need one after all. "Maybe we can start this off right this time around?"

Vala sits up straight and adjusts the seatbelt across her chest. "It depends." She slides Sam a look that screams trouble. "What do you have in mind?"

"Well…we still have a couple of hours before we have to get back. I'm open to suggestions."

Vala grins. "We should celebrate our new friendship by doing something daring. Let's circle back and find that Mustang. See if those boys are up for a real road race."

Sam is sorely tempted. Vala just might understand about that slant-six after all. She flips on the right turn signal and waits for the light.

"So, what happened to the jewel trader?"

"I vowed I'd remember his face. The next time I saw him, Quetesh robbed him of his family jewels. If you know what I mean." Vala flips her pigtails back and gives her a wink.