AN: For Acer-sigma, because with out your advise and insight I wouldn't have written half of what I have :o)

This is set some place early on in season 10.

Thanks as always to Annedith for doing the Beta work on this.

***

Vala cautiously knocked on the door to Sam's lab. For the past week the astrophysicist had been in a foul mood and Vala was determined to find out why. She had been warned off by both Daniel and Teal'c, and even Cameron had suggested that she leave Sam alone to work through whatever was bothering her. Apparently this was something Sam did about once a year and Vala should just leave her to it. Vala simply ignored her teammates' advice and knocked again, harder.

She didn't leave Daniel alone to wallow in his misery and she wasn't about to let Sam.

When she knocked for a third time and received no reply she sighed deeply. She had hoped that Sam would let her in on her own but as that seemed unlikely she reached into her pocket for her electronic key card. Vala swiped the card and waited for the indicator to turn green before gingerly popping her head round the side of the door to look inside. Instead of seeing an irate Sam working at her desk all Vala could see was darkness; all the lights and equipment in the lab were turned off and silent. Vala was about to turn and leave when she heard the tiniest noise of someone trying very hard to be quiet.

Vala took another step into the room and allowed her eyes to adjust to the darkness before she closed the door behind her. In the now totally dark room Vala closed her eyes, the half shapes she could make out where more of a hindrance than a help. She would have to rely on her hearing to find her quarry. She stood totally still for a few moments before she heard the noise of breathing again and cautiously made her way around the lab towards it. After some careful shuffling Vala found herself at Sam's side and sat down beside her.

They sat together in silence and Vala promised herself she would wait as long as it took for Sam to speak in her own time. However Vala being Vala, her patience was soon exhausted and she had to fill the silence between them.

"Samantha, why are you sitting here in the dark?" Vala felt Sam shrug in response and heard her pulled her legs closer into her chest, "Trying to hide yourself? Or maybe lose yourself?"

Sam laughed but it was harsh and laced with bitterness, "There's a difference?"

"Don't do that, Samantha, don't let the bitterness get you." Vala told her softly.

"Why shouldn't I? You do it, Daniel does it." Sam shot back, all she wanted was to be left alone, not listening to Vala.

"Because one day you'll end up like me, and like Daniel, you'll end up smiling more at the bitter and disappointing things than you will at the good things." In the dark Vala reached out and placed her hand over Sam's, "And you're too good for that Samantha."

"Why are you here?" The words where still harsh but she didn't move her hand away from Vala's, "Why can't you just leave me alone, like the guys always do?"

"I'm here because I'm your friend, and I wont leave you alone like they do because I think they're idiots for letting you try to deal with whatever this on your own." As she spoke Vala gave Sam's hand a reassuring squeeze.

Sam rested her head on Vala's shoulder and silently cursed and thanked the woman sitting next to her. For over a decade she had been shutting the guys out when it came to this issue and now Vala wasn't letting her run from it any more. But maybe that was a good thing, after all if there was anyone who would understand it would be Vala.

"It's safe in the dark." Sam whispered, her voice sounding tiny and lost.

"Safe from what?" Vala asked gently.

"Safe from the memories," Sam's voice cracked as she spoke, "It's not fair, they're not mine…" She trailed off as she tears overtook her.

The wheels in Vala's head spun furiously as she worked out what Sam was talking about and she felt her heart break as she realised what was causing her friend this pain. "You're right Samantha," Vala comforted her "They're not your memories and you shouldn't have to carry them." She paused and had to hold back her own tears, "We shouldn't have to carry them."

As Sam let her tears flow Vala wondered if she had ever allowed herself this release before, if Sam had ever fully dealt with her time as a host, however brief it might have been. Vala knew all too well the burden of carrying the memories of another in your head, not just those of the symbiote but memories of previous hosts as well. She knew how hard it was to dream of people you loved but had never met, to see the faces of people who were killed by your hand or at your order.

Vala knew the rough details of Sam's experience as a host but it wasn't a subject they had ever talked about. It was only now occurring to her that maybe this was something Sam needed to talk about with someone who could understand. There was no way she could have talked to her teammates about it; none of them had ever been forcefully taken as a host and Vala knew that unless you've experienced that horror, there is no way to understand it. She couldn't blame Sam for not dealing with it, Vala hadn't exactly dealt with it in the best manner.

After a while Sam's sobs trailed off as she gathered her emotions back under control.

"Sorry…", she mumbled, her voice still thick with tears.

"Never apologise for this Samantha, never apologise for something you needed to do."

There was a sniffle and a shuffle as Sam sat herself back up, then heaved a large sigh, "I shouldn't do this, you were a host a lot longer than I was and you never seem to break down."

"I think I did all my breaking down along time ago, and believe me if all that happens when you do is that you spend a few days in a dark room then you're doing pretty well."

"What…" Sam paused, unsure if she should ask her next question or if she would get a response, Vala wasn't exactly known for sharing information about her past, "What did you do? When it all got too much?"

Vala hesitated for a moment before deciding that in this time and place honesty was the best policy, "A good bottle of rum never did me any harm if no other option presented itself." She let out a mirthless laugh of the exact kind she had warned Sam not to, "I would get into fights, or find a warm bed to tumble in, anything that made me feel alive, feel in control."

"Did it help?"

"For a while, maybe, but looking back now I think not really. It made me forget for awhile if that's what you mean but I don't think it ever helped." Vala admitted, "Does that help?"

"I don't know, after it happened no one wanted to talk about it again unless it was something that could help us. This lab was the one place I could escape to, the one place I felt safe."

"And the darkness?" Vala gently prompted.

"You already know why…" Sam whispered.

"Because when they're in your head there's always a dark place where they can't find you." She explained, "And after a while the light becomes the thing you're most afraid of."

As she listened to Vala speak Sam felt a weight lift off her shoulders that she had almost forgotten she carried. It was good to know that finally someone else knew what she was going through.

"We all wander alone in the dark Samantha" Vala continued, "the trick is to find others in it," She laced her fingers through Sam's and gave her hand another squeeze. "because the only way we can find way out of it is together."

Once again they lapsed back into companionable silence, both knowing that saying the words and leaving the room were totally different things. They sat for what could have been hours, the simple act doing more to bond them together than anything else ever could.

The comfortable silence was eventually broken by a loud rumble from Vala's stomach, the noise causing both women to erupt in fits of giggles. Still holding hands they managed to stand and began to stumble their way round the room to the door.

As they left the room and headed to the mess Sam paused and switched the lights back on in her lab. Vala was right, she had wandered too long in the dark but now she had a hand to hold as she stepped into the light.