Chapter Nine

With a firm tug Cameron pulled off the large white cloth that covered his Dad's latest project.

Letting out a low whistle Cameron went over to the car that was now on display in the barn, his hand stroking its front left side, feeling the smooth cool surface of metal underneath his touch. "Nice," he said as he crouched down facing the front of it, his gaze traveling down the length of the car.

"She's a beauty, all right. I've been working on her for the past few weeks. Guy down in Scranton sold it to me. It'll take a while longer yet but she'll be worth it when she's finished." Frank watched his son knowing he'd appreciate the work that was involved as well as the love and care that would go into restoring the car to her original glory.

Cameron stood up taking a step backward to admire it further. From the sidelines Vala leaned sideways towards him, her voice dropping down a notch as she spoke, "What's so special about an automobile?"

Cameron gave her a stare. "It's a Ford Mustang," he stated as if that explained everything then turned his attention back to the car, taking in the details. "66 maybe a 65."

"64." Frank shared a look with his son that conveyed that they both knew the significance of this fact.

Still confused Vala looked between the two men, sensing that this piece of information was somehow important. "64?"

"It's the first year it was made," answered Cameron.

"Oh, so it's old!" The tone of Vala's voice changed to one of interest, her mind instantly formulating plans. "That means it valuable, right?"

Knowing full well what Vala was thinking, Cameron turned to her, crossing his arms as he gave her a serious look, his voice low as he spoke. "Don't even think about it."

"What?" asked Vala innocently, trying to pretend she didn't know what he was getting at.

Cameron gave her another stare in reply, not buying the innocent act for a minute.

Finally relenting, Vala gave him a self deprecating smile as she shrugged her shoulders. "Can't blame a girl for trying."

Uncrossing his arms Cameron returned her look giving a half smile of his own. "Yeah, right," he said, his voice containing a mixture of humor and skepticism.

Turning back to the car Cameron watched as his Dad leaned his crutches against the side of the car and maneuvered himself into the driver's seat, turning the ignition on. The loud grumbling of the engine kicked into gear with an undercurrent of another sound within.

"Is it meant to make that noise?" Vala asked dubiously. Her knowledge of Earth mechanics was limited but even she knew that something didn't sound quite right.

Cameron glared at her in annoyance.

"Sorry," Vala said, though the expression on her face was less than contrite as she tried to hold back a smile. Bringing her hand up near her mouth she made a zipping motion across it. "Won't say another word."

*S***S*

Leaning back in the deck chair Daniel closed his eyes enjoying the feel of the warm sun on his face. The book he had been reading lay forgotten in his lap as he basked in this simple pleasure. He had never been much of one for vacations. It wasn't that he never took time off, it was just that with no family and few friends he had never really had much reason to do so. In the past whenever he had time off he generally spent it doing research, pouring through books, trawling his way through database's and websites. The idea of having several days off work, weeks even, seemed… unnatural somehow and was not something that he had done willingly and yet here he was having some time off with barely a glimpse of a computer or research material in sight.

At the sound of rustling paper he opened his eyes.

Having joined him in the sunshine, Vala was now stretched out on a large and colorful beach towel clad in a bikini. As bikini's went it was fairly modest, though to his eyes it still seemed to reveal an inordinate amount skin. Skin that was already beginning to turn to a nice shade of golden brown as she laid exposed to the sun. In her current position he had a clear view of her, laying as she was on her stomach, propped up on her elbows totally absorbed in some trashy romance novel she was reading, at least going by the glimpse of the cover that he had seen earlier, a pair of large black sunglasses perched high on the top of her head.

He wanted to deny, if only to himself, that he found her attractive but he knew that to do so would be a lie. His attraction for her though was part of the problem. The more he got to know her the more she confused him and confusion in his life was the last thing he needed. Still his eyes lingered on her for just a moment longer taking in the slim long legs, the pert behind which was covered in purple Lycra, the dip and curve of her back and the dangling ties of her bikini top that draped over it.

Pulling his thoughts away from Vala, he squashed the remnant of attraction back where it belonged. Even thinking of Vala in that way was so idiotic that it was almost laughable. Him and Vala? Never in a million, millions years would that ever happen. He lifted his book back up, gripping it tighter than he needed. As he did so the edges of a letter fell out from within its pages and all thoughts of Vala vanished as he picked the letter up.

Though he knew its contents by heart he found himself easing the paper out from its envelope and reading through it once again. Sarahs' offer had been a tempting one, even more so with this second letter that laid everything out in such a simple and direct manner. It was one of the things he had always admired about her, how she approached everything in life in a no-nonsense way. Everything to her was black and white, yes or no; there had never been any room for ambiguity. Once she had loved him and he had not and that had been the end of it. That the two of them had managed to salvage a friendship after everything that had happened in between said a lot for the affection and regard that they had for each other.

The offer was a tempting one and had come at a time in his life when he felt he needed a change and yet something held him back from making that final commitment. Ironically Sarah would have said that things hadn't changed much and Daniel would have agreed with her; commitment wasn't something that he took lightly.

"Reading anything interesting?"

Startled out of his thoughts Daniel glanced up at Vala who was now standing nearby, a glass of lemonade in each of her hands, her head titled a little to one side as she looked at him with curiosity.

With nimble fingers Daniel hastily folded the letter up and slid it back into its envelope. "Nothing important. Just a letter from an old friend."

"That's nice," said Vala leaning down to hand Daniel one of the glasses she was holding, giving him a provocative view of the swell of her breasts securely encased in the purple bikini top she was wearing as well as the taut expanse of her already golden brown stomach.

As the glass passed from her hand to his, their fingers brushed lightly against each other, whether by accident or on purpose Daniel wasn't completely certain, though with Vala he was willing to bet it was on purpose. Ignoring the contact and the tantalizing view that was on display, knowing that she was just doing that flirty, sexual thing she did so well, he did his best to keep his eyes on the glass and took a long slow sip, enjoying the cool and refreshing sensation of the drink as it went down his throat. "Thanks, that's just what I needed."

Normally Vala would have come back with some witty and saucy retort but her heart wasn't in it and the touch of Daniel's fingers, brief though it had been, only reminded her of all that she had lost and what she was losing. Feeling an ache of pain flutter in her chest, she flashed him a small wistful smile before she turned around and headed back to her beach towel, trying not to the let the emotions that pulled at heart break through the control she was holding on to. Somehow with Daniel it was always so much harder to pretend but she knew that if she just held on a little longer they could move pass this and everything would be alright.

Settling herself back down, with her back to him, Vala was unaware that Daniel had detected the hint of sadness behind her smile and was once more watching her, his brow furrowing slightly as his gaze became even more contemplative than before. "Vala, is everything alright?"

Vala twisted around, the paragraph that she had already read through twice forgotten as she gave Daniel a smile. "Of course Darling. Why wouldn't it be?"

"No reason exactly. But there's been a lot of changes lately, what with Sam gone and Teal'c on extended leave. And Mitchell and I haven't been around much either. We've both been pretty busy, him with training new recruits, me doing research. And... things between us haven't been..." he said, pausing as he saw the slightly blank and confused expression on Vala's face. "What I trying to say, rather badly it seem, is that just because there's been some changes doesn't mean that things between us have changed."

"Daniel, I appreciate the sentiment but I never thought that things between us had changed. As far as I'm concerned we're friends and co-workers, aren't we?"

Daniel had a vague but unsettling doubt that she wasn't telling him the complete truth, which in itself wasn't anything new, but there was nothing concrete that he could pin point that said there was anything wrong. Yes they had been fighting more in recent months but perhaps that had been more his fault than hers. Deciding that perhaps he should just trust her this time and accept her answer as the truth he smiled back, the faint tinge of doubt fading under the weight of his own concerns about his life. "Yes. Yes we are."

Relieved that Daniel hadn't decided to push things further like he usually did Vala smiled and gave a small emphatic nod. "Good."

As she turned back to her book, flipping over on to her back with her sunglasses pulled down over her eyes, Daniel spoke up again as another thought occurred to him. "How about we go out for dinner. The three of us, I mean," he said, quickly adding the last part in case she thought his invitation was something more than dinner between friends.

"Sorry guys, you're gonna have to count me out. I've got a date tonight with Amy," said Cameron, hearing the invitation just as he had arrived on the scene. Stretching himself out along the grass as he propped himself up on one elbow. "Why don't the two of you go instead?"

"I guess we could do that," said Daniel, cautiously.

Focusing on her book Vala gave a dismissive wave of her hand in their general direction. "Yes, Yes. Now that we've got that all sorted can I get on with my book. I'm just getting to the good part, the one where the hero vampire takes the half naked woman he has rescued from a gang of werewolves back to his house and pulls her to close to his chest so that she looks deep into his azure eyes while her body quivers at his very touch..."

"Enough, please. I think we get the picture and thanks to you a very vivid and disturbing picture," said Daniel opening up his own book, casting Vala one more glance. "You do know that stuff will rot your brain."

Laying on his back with his arms crossed underneath his head as a slightly uncomfortable cushion, Cameron closed his eyes against the sun and gave a happy smile, pleased that the tension that had been around these past couple of months had eased off and that his idea for this break away was looking like it had been just what was needed to put things right between the three of them.

*S***S*