Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match

A/N: So, yeah, I still haven't finished the big blowup ala "Unending" story. Sorry. In this one, Daniel gets a nudge (okay, more like a kick in the pants) from an outside party. Strangely, this started out as a straightforward, Vala-is-dating-someone-else jealousy story (it was actually my first attempt to write that), but it turned into something else entirely. It went off into all kinds of crazy directions I never intended. Uncooperative muses strike again. :) There is still a wee bit of jealousy present, but it's really more protectiveness, it's not really the "main event" and it certainly is not the catalyst that pushes Daniel and Vala together. Anyway, this one is really meant to be simply a fun, lighthearted romp, so don't take it too seriously, 'kay? :)

Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate SG-1, and I make no profit.

Vala could not believe how much she missed Samantha.

She was madly in love with Daniel (not that he seemed to notice or care), Mitchell was like a brother to her, and she wasn't quite sure how to describe the bond she shared with Teal'c; she just knew it was there. But in spite of the fact that she still had those three as her "boys", she missed Sam with an intensity that bordered on desperation. Sam had been her best friend, her girl friend. Before Sam, Vala had never even had a female friend. What was the point? Now, though, she knew what she'd been missing all those years.

And oh, how she missed it.

She had tried to gt to know Dr. Lam a little bit better, but things hadn't quite gone as she hoped. Sam had always been amused by Vala's antics; Carolyn seemed put off by them. There were a few female military types on the base, but it was hard to get to know them when most of Vala's time was spent either working with Daniel or Dr. Lee in their labs or off-world with SG-1.

That was why she found herself sitting alone in the commissary at this ungodly hour, sulking into a cup of coffee that was cold, bitter, and downright nasty. She was bored, and she was lonely.

Suddenly someone slid into the seat across from her. "I have just come from the most boring date in the known universe. I swear, this guy could put a sleeping pill manufacturer out of business in five minutes flat. Dating is supposed to be fun, not a drag. Clearly he did not get the memo."

Vala looked up in surprise. She hadn't expected anyone to join her; it was closing in on 1 am after all. But she took an instant liking to the curly-haired brunette sitting before her. Maybe this was the answer to her problems.

"Boring dates are the worst," she commiserated. "Dating really isn't supposed to be a chore."

"Exactly!" the other woman agreed. She leaned forward. "Listen, I'm Jennifer Presley. Captain Jennifer Presley if you want to be all formal and military about it, but I really don't right now. I wasn't expecting to find anyone in here, just wanted to grab a quick snack before turning in because dinner was awful. And no way in hell was I going to let that loser take me home. But since you're here, why don't we head back out? It's Friday night—okay, technically it's Saturday morning. We can hit a bar, get drunk, sing some karaoke, and maybe find a couple not boring guys while we're at it. What do you say?"

Vala's eyes lit up, but almost immediately after her face fell. "I want to more than anything. I'm Vala Mal Doran, by the way. But I'm not from Earth originally, and I'm not allowed off-base unless someone is with me to chaperone or something stupid like that."

Jennifer shrugged. "Well, I'm someone, aren't I? I mean, it doesn't have to be someone specifically from your chain of command, does it?" She grinned. "I'll claim full responsibility for any trouble we get into."

Vala laughed in delight. "Well, I guess there's only one way to find out. Let's go see if they'll let you sign me out."

Although Vala had only ever been signed out by Daniel, Samantha, or Mitchell, there didn't seem to be any mandate that it had to be one of them. The security guard didn't even blink when Jennifer signed her out. Once past the checkpoint, the two girls began giggling uncontrollably as they headed to Jennifer's car.

And so a tradition was born. Every weekend that the two women had free found them signing out to go off-base together. Sometimes they hit a bar or a nightclub; sometimes they ordered take-out and watched movies at Jennifer's apartment. Vala learned that, like Samantha, Jennifer took her military career very seriously. When she was on-duty, Captain Presley was professional through and through, and she worked twice as hard as any man to prove herself. She was smart and tough. On her down time, however, Jen was as mischievous and carefree as Vala. She possessed a wicked sense of humor. Jen worked at the base and wasn't on any off-world teams. Vala found herself wishing she could recruit her friend to SG-1. They had been a five-man team before Sam left; why couldn't they be one again?

Vala decided to see how the five of them gelled, so the next Friday, Jen joined them all at the rib place Mitchell was fond of. Squeezed into a booth with Jen on one side and Daniel on the other, Vala was happier than she could remember being in a long time. She and Jen laughed and joked throughout dinner, sharing some of their more outlandish bar-hopping tales, and to Vala's delight Cam and Teal'c played along, telling Jen about some of their humorous off-world adventures.

For much of the evening, Daniel remained quiet, a slight frown marring his features. But finally the spirit of the evening (or maybe it was the beer) loosened him up, and he joined in the fun. No one wanted to leave when the meal was over, so when Jen suggested they move on to her favorite bar, not even Daniel protested.

Mitchell and Teal'c headed over to play darts, while Jen and Vala dragged Daniel over to the pool tables. Because they were regulars here, they knew several of the other pool players. It wasn't long before a mini-tournament was going.

Bobby was an excellent pool player and had given Vala and Jen quite a few tips over the weeks they had been coming here. His teaching style had always been very hands-on, and tonight was no exception. He stood behind Vala, wrapping his arms around her to help her set up her shot. Jen chuckled to herself as she watched Daniel's eyes darken and his hand tighten on his cue stick. Good thing Kyle wasn't there; if Daniel was upset over Bobby's relatively innocent touching, Kyle's blatant groping would drive him insane.

Naturally Bobby won their little tournament, and he declared a dance with Vala to be his prize. Jen took the opportunity to drag Daniel to the dance floor as well, ignoring his protests. Truthfully, she would have preferred to be dancing with Teal'c; she found his muscular form extremely attractive. She might go ask him to dance to the next song, if she could con Daniel into dancing with Vala. Right now though, she needed to stick close to her friend. Their unspoken rule for these weekends out was to make sure they looked out for each other. Jen figured Bobby for basically a good guy, but really how could one ever be sure? Things had almost gotten out of hand one night a few weeks back with some friends of Kyle's, and Jen wasn't taking any chances. Especially not with all of Vala's "keepers" breathing down her neck.

Daniel was outright scowling as they started dancing, but Jen ignored him. She was going to enjoy herself, even as she kept an eye on Vala and Bobby. She loved dancing, and a cranky archaeologist wasn't going to spoil it for her. Besides, Jen had a pretty good idea why the good doctor might be crabby, and that news would thrill Vala to no end.

Bobby danced with Vala for two more songs, then Jen convinced Daniel to take over. Bobby headed back to the pool table while Jen went to go nab Teal'c. She was unsuccessful there (Teal'c was enjoying winning at darts too much), but she managed to coerce Cameron to the dance floor.

Then Kyle and a bunch of his rowdy friends showed up.

Funny how much more fun the bar was when Kyle and his crew weren't there.

Jen and Vala exchanged looks, which didn't go unnoticed by their dance partners. Daniel stiffened slightly, and Cameron frowned, his eyes growing concerned. Without leaving Cam's arms Jen leaned toward Daniel to whisper, "Try not to let them see Vala. Kyle's all right, but some of his buddies are a bit rough. And since Kyle's got a thing for her, they all like to muscle in."

Daniel's jaw clenched. "If you don't think it's safe for her, we should leave."

"Don't be silly," Vala scoffed. "I'm not going to be run off just because Kyle's idiot friends lack manners. Jen and I have always handled them just fine before."

Jen shook her head, feeling slightly disloyal but obligated to speak up. "No, we've always handled Kyle just fine. His friends are another matter, and you know it."

The anger in her friend's eyes wasn't something Jen would forget any time soon. She swallowed. "Look, I'm sorry. But those guys make me nervous. Kyle's a jerk, but he's manageable. He tries to cop a feel, we shut him down, and he's on his merry way. His pals aren't like that. I'd rather not have to deal with them."

Daniel's arms tightened around Vala and his eyes narrowed. "Just what kind of run-ins have you had with these guys?"

Jen glanced at Vala, who was shaking her head furiously. The message was clear: don't you dare tell them! Then she shifted her gaze to the boys and knew from their expressions that she wasn't going to get away with not answering. Sending Vala a silent apology, she said, "The last time they were here, they didn't stop at just trying to grope; they tried to remove Vala's pants. It got ugly. She and I fought them, and the owner called the police. We had witnesses, so we weren't charged with anything, and we didn't press any charges either. The owner told the guys he didn't want them back, and ever since then it's just been Kyle, who's grabby but harmless. This is the first time he's brought the gang back here." Her eyes darted around the room. "I don't see the owner though; I don't know who's in charge tonight."

Cameron made a decision. "All right, we'll stick close by. Hopefully that will keep the jerks at bay. If not, 'Murray' oughtta be able to intimidate them well enough."

"Why don't we just leave?" Daniel grumbled.

Cameron rolled his eyes. "Because we have every right to be here and technically they don't, considering they've been kicked out once already? Besides, we were all having a perfectly good time before these losers showed up, and I don't like being bullied. Frankly, I don't like anyone being bullied, and if they try something with anyone here tonight I wouldn't mind giving them a quick lesson in manners."

Jen eyed him appreciatively. "I think I like you, Colonel." Vala finally smiled, and Jen knew she'd been forgiven. "See, I told you you would," the former pirate said smugly.

The song ended, and suddenly Kyle appeared. "Hey, Vala, wanna dance?" Daniel opened his mouth to decline on her behalf, but Vala was off in Kyle's arms before he could get the words out. He scowled. Chuckling, Jen reassured him, "He's really harmless, Daniel, I promise. It's just his friends we have to watch out for."

Daniel kept his gaze fastened on the couple. "Yeah, well, his friends better not get anywhere near her, and he'd just better keep his hands to himself." He didn't notice Cameron's knowing smirk at his words, or Jen's amused expression.

Thankfully, Kyle and his buddies all chose to behave themselves. After a few more dances and another pool tournament, the team-plus-Jen decided to leave. Since they had all had more than a few drinks they opted to have Teal'c drive them to Jen's nearby apartment rather than heading back to base.

Jen and Vala slept in Jen's bedroom, and Mitchell called rank to claim the guest bedroom. That left Teal'c and Daniel sleeping in the living room. Teal'c settled on an air mattress on the floor while Daniel took the couch.

Hours later, Daniel awoke to the pleasant aroma of coffee. Sniffing appreciatively, he followed his nose into the kitchen. Vala was leaning against the counter, already sipping a mug of the fragrant brew. "Morning, darling. Sleep well?"

"Mm," Daniel mumbled in reply. Chuckling Vala handed him a mug. Daniel poured himself a generous serving and took a big swallow. He looked up gratefully. "Thanks, this is perfect."

Vala smiled. "Well, one of the first things I learned on Earth was how to make a Daniel-approved cup of coffee. And I've stayed here so many weekends that I know Jen's coffeemaker inside and out."

That statement brought a scowl to Daniel's face. "Yeah, about that..."

Vala rolled her eyes. "Now, darling, don't be a party pooper. Jen and I have a good time together."

"I don't doubt that," Daniel countered. "However, if she's going to sign off on the responsibility of looking after you, she needs to do a better job of it!"

"Please," Vala scoffed. "I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. But even so, Jen and I look out for each other when we go out. Didn't you realize that when she dragged you off to dance? She was keeping an eye me dancing with Bobby. And that was Bobby! We like him! We trust him! Doesn't that give you some sort of idea of what she'd be like with someone we didn't know or like or trust?

"We've been going out together for months now, Daniel," Vala continued. "We've never come back hurt. We've never gotten into any trouble, except that one time with Kyle's friends and that wasn't our fault. General Landry has never gotten any complaints. We're perfectly safe."

Daniel's jaw clenched. "I don't like to think of you two out there on your own every week."

"Sam and I went out on our own all the time! What's the difference?"

"Sam took you shopping and for coffee and pedicures! Not to bars and nightclubs!"

"Oh, please!" Vala snorted. "Sam and I hit a bar or two in our day. She even sang karaoke with me once!"

"Well, that was different! It was Sam!" Daniel shot back, not entirely sure how it could possibly matter.

It was Vala's turn to scowl. "So it's Jen you have a problem with? Daniel, you don't even know her!"

"I know enough!" Daniel exploded. "I know she takes you out and lets you get pawed by jerks like Kyle! And I know she takes you back to a bar where his friends tried to do more than that!"

"Kyle isn't an issue! He stops when I tell him to! And Jen helped me fight off his friends!"

"That doesn't mean you should keep going back! Just because you were able to fight them off once doesn't mean you always will!"

"If it bothers you so much, Dr. Jackson," came Jen's voice from the doorway, "why don't you join us next time? We'll make it a group again. And hey, I'll take you to the Ace of Clubs instead. Fabulous place—and Kyle and his gang of losers don't hang out there." She smirked. "Although I'll miss Bobby and his pool lessons, how about you, Vala?"

"Oh, absolutely." Vala gave an answering smirk of her own. "I'm going to be crushed when Bobby realizes that I'm not as bad at pool as he thinks I am."

Jen laughed heartily. "Yeah, can't say that I blame you for that! Bobby's adorable. But maybe Rich will be at the Ace of Clubs. You know he's always good for a free drink or four. Once he found out how much you like those passion fruit martinis..." She winked.

Daniel felt something twist in his gut. It shouldn't feel like betrayal; he knew it shouldn't. But still...he was the one who had introduced Vala to passion fruit martinis. Well, he'd tried to anyway. She hadn't actually been able to try the drink on that aborted not-a-date. But the fact remained that Vala knew of the existence of that particular cocktail because of him. So wasn't it somehow disloyal for her to let another man buy it for her? Didn't it count as cheating somehow?

Or maybe that was just his hangover talking.

"All right, then, Friday at the Ace of Clubs," Vala said, placing her mug in the sink. "Jen, darling, I made the coffee, and now I'm gonna go shower. If you'll be a dear and whip up some of those scrumptious waffles of yours?"

"You bet," Jen confirmed, moving into the kitchen. She glanced at Daniel. "Wanna help, Dr. Jackson?"

The two worked in silence for a few moments, then Daniel asked, "So this is what you do every weekend? Go out to bars and clubs to get drunk and be hit on by other drunks?"

Jen rolled her eyes. "Actually, no. Truth be told, most weekends we end up just staying here, watching movies, eating junk food, and talking. Or sometimes we do that shopping thing you seem to be so fond of. She's lonely, Daniel. She misses Colonel Carter. And unlike you, unlike all of us, she's stuck on that stupid base unless someone signs her out. Which is beyond ridiculous, by the way. She's a grown woman and perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She would be taking care of herself if she lived anywhere else. And she's supposedly a valued member of the SGC's flagship team, yet she's confined to base like some kind of prisoner. I know you end up staying on base more often than not, but Daniel, you have the choice. She doesn't, and it isn't fair, and you know it isn't right." Jen could hear her voice rising, but she didn't back down.

"So, yeah, I make sure to sign her out and take her somewhere every weekend we're both available, even if it's just to bring her here. I'm not gonna let her stay locked up underground! And if we happen to like drinking and flirting at a bar or club some weekends, well, what's the big deal? We aren't hurting anyone. Hell, we've never even let anyone take us home! It's all perfectly safe, and it's fun. She deserves it. We both do."

Daniel felt like he had been punched. Jen was right. He'd never thought about it—never allowed himself to think about it—but he knew the captain was absolutely right. Vala had proven herself many times over, and they were keeping her locked up at Cheyenne Mountain like none of it had meant anything.

"You're right," Daniel said quietly. He saw Mitchell and Teal'c standing in the doorway. They had heard Jen's rant, and both looked as guilty as Daniel felt. The policy dictating that Vala had to have an escort off-base had gone into effect during her first visit, when no one could trust her any further than they could throw her. Later, when she returned from the Ori galaxy and was made a probationary member of the team, there was talk of allowing her off-base on her own, but then the fiasco with the Trust spooked everyone too badly. Having someone with her for safety reasons seemed wise.

That had been ages ago now though. Now the only reason Vala still needed someone to sign her out of the mountain was because it hadn't occurred to her teammates to request a change. Which made them pretty lousy teammates and even worse friends.

Mitchell's eyes met Daniel's. "I'll talk to Landry on Monday," he said quietly. "If he goes for it, we'll go out somewhere nice to celebrate before hitting this Ace of Clubs on Friday." He looked at Jen. "Thanks for the kick in the pants, Captain. This should have been taken care of a long time ago. Vala isn't a prisoner, and my mama would kick my ass from here to next week if she knew I was letting her be treated as one."

"You're lucky that Vala and I haven't kicked all your asses," Jen retorted, but she was smiling now.

The mood shifted, and the four prepared breakfast in companionable silence. Still, as he helped Jen plate the last batch of waffles, Daniel couldn't resist asking softly, "So you've never let anyone take you home?"

Jen glanced at him, hearing the hopeful tone he tried to mask. "Nope, never. It's all just good, harmless fun." She hesitated, then confessed, "Vala came close one night, but she ended up deciding not to."

Daniel closed his eyes briefly. "I guess I should thank you then, for talking her out of it?"

Jen snorted. "Hell, no. Are you kidding me? I told her to go for it, that life is short. That dude was hot, he was totally into her, and he seemed decent enough." She shrugged. "But in the end, she said she just couldn't do it."

Daniel stared at her. "You told her to go for it? How could you do that?" He sounded shrill, even to his own ears.

"What's she supposed to do, Daniel? Sit around and wait for you to get your head out of your ass? I think she's done that long enough! It's like that song: if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with. So, yeah, I absolutely told her to go for it. And I will do so again if the opportunity comes up!"

"You can't do that!" Daniel exploded. "You have no right to encourage her in that sort of thing!"

"I have every right, Daniel Jackson! You're the one who doesn't have the right to say that she can't!" Jen shot back, just as angry. "You don't want her for herself; you're just being dog in the manger! Well, I think that's crap, and you better believe I'm gonna encourage her to move on!"

"Okay, kiddos, time out," Mitchell intervened. He frowned at the two of them. "Geez, you two are loud. Clearly neither of you is as hung over as I am, or you wouldn't be shouting so much. Anyway, to my way of thinking, Jackson, the lady here has a point; Princess is a free agent and capable of making her own decisions. If we do get her approved to go off-base, she's going to be calling even more of her own shots. You're gonna have to give her the freedom to do that. And if there's some reason you don't want her to be on the market, you'd better step up to the plate and give her a reason why." He turned to Jen. "As for you, I would appreciate it if you weren't so blasé about our girl going home with strangers. I mean, I'm sure we've probably all done the random hook-up thing a time or two, but that doesn't make it smart or safe...especially for her. She said you two looked out for each other, so I'm not going to say anything more about it. Just be careful, huh?"

"Sure," Jen nodded. "We are, really. Promise."

Vala entered the kitchen then. She had heard yelling, although she couldn't make out the words, and she could definitely pick up on the leftover tension. She cocked her head questioningly at Jen, who just shook her own head in response. She turned to look at Daniel. He met her gaze, something indiscernible in his eyes. "Later," he mouthed.

The tension eased after that, and they ate breakfast. The boys agreed with Vala's assessment that Jen made some of the best waffles on the planet. They also agreed that Vala made one mean pot of coffee, and that the combination of the two was the perfect hangover cure. After food and showers, everyone was in much better spirits. They played a few rounds of cards, then the men got ready to head back to base.

"You coming with us, Princess, or staying here?" Cameron asked Vala.

"Jen's on duty tomorrow, so I'll just go ahead and go back now I guess," Vala said. She and Jen headed to Jen's bedroom to gather her stuff. Snatches of murmured conversation drifted back to the living room, followed by Vala's light laughter. "I can't believe you told him that!"

Vala emerged from the bedroom with her overnight bag and her giraffe. "Okay, I'm ready. See you later, Jen." The guys echoed her good-bye and thanked the captain for putting them up for the night. The team headed out to Cameron's car. No longer inebriated, Cam got his keys from Teal'c and slid behind the wheel.

When they arrived at the SGC, Teal'c immediately headed inside. Cameron didn't bother to get out of his car; he was planning to go to his off-base apartment. Daniel touched Vala's shoulder. "Hey, want to go get some coffee or lunch or something? I'd like to talk to you."

"Okay, sure." Vala followed him to his car.

They sat in a cafe, sandwiches and drinks in front of them. They ate in silence for several minutes before Daniel got up the nerve to broach the subject he wanted to address. "Vala...I had a talk with Jennifer about your...weekend excursions."

"Yeah, she mentioned that when we went to get my stuff," Vala nodded, taking a bite of her club sandwich.

He took a deep breath. "She said...she said she had urged you to go home with a guy one night."

Vala laughed outright at that. "She was just messing with you, darling. Jen would never in a million years have let me leave with a stranger from a bar...not unless she went too." She rolled her eyes. "When she started signing me out on a regular basis, General Landry called her in to make sure she understood the 'responsibility' involved when taking me off-base. It pissed her off that everyone seemed to think I needed some sort of caretaker, but she always took it seriously." Vala smirked. "She did suggest I find a hidden corner or something to have sex with the guy, but she was mostly joking and she never would have let me leave with him."

Relief washed over him that Vala wasn't ever in any danger. If he were honest with himself, he was also relieved that Vala hadn't followed Jen's advice, joking or not. "Okay, then. She also told me that she thought if you couldn't be with the one you love, you should love the one you're with. She said she didn't think you should wait around for me. Can you tell me what she meant by that?"

Vala's smile faded completely, and she visibly blanched. "She...she said that?"

Daniel nodded. "Yes. What does it mean?"

"It means she isn't as good at keeping confidences as I thought," Vala muttered. "Sam would never...shit, I can't believe she said that!"

It was all needed to hear. Daniel leaned forward. "Vala, Jennifer said she thought I was being a 'dog in the manger.'" At her confused look, he elaborated, "She thinks that even though I don't want to be with you myself, I don't want to let you be with anyone else either. It implies a certain spitefulness. But she's wrong."

"Of course she is," Vala agreed. "I know you would never be spiteful, darling."

"Well, thank you, but that's not what I meant," Daniel said. "Jen could see that I didn't like Bobby or Kyle or all those other guys at the bar flirting with you and touching you. She also saw my reaction when she said you had almost gone home with someone. She knew I was jealous and that I didn't want you to be with any of those other men. But...she was wrong in saying that I don't want to be with you myself. I do, Vala. I've wanted that for a long time. I just didn't think it was what you wanted." He held up a hand to stop her when she would have spoken. "I know you've always been willing to sleep with me; you've made no secret of that. But I don't do casual. I want more. I didn't think you did until Jen let that slip though. Have you confided in her?"

Looking more vulnerable that he'd ever seen her, Vala gave a shaky nod. "Yes. Jen and Sam are my only girl friends, and I've told them both how I feel about you. Sam always said to hang in there, that you'd come around eventually. Jen's more impatient, and she says waiting for something that might never happen is silly. Plus she doesn't know you and love you like Sam does; she doesn't feel a particular loyalty to you. That's why she suggested I should enjoy the moment with that guy. But I...couldn't. He wasn't you."

Daniel's face lit with a smile. "I wanted to kill her earlier, but now I think Jennifer Presley might just be my new favorite person. I would have been grumpy and unbearable all week if she hadn't mentioned love and you waiting around for me. She was irate on your behalf, and I'm sure she didn't mean to spill your secret, but I'm glad she did. I want to be with you, Vala. I want a real relationship and everything that entails."

Vala tried unsuccessfully to blink back tears. "Well, I guess I'll have to forgive her for revealing my secrets then." She smiled mischievously, even as the tears spilled. "Does this mean we're dating now? Is this lunch our first date? Do I get to tell people about us?"

He chuckled and reached for her hand. "Yes, you can call this a date, and you can tell anyone you want to about us—especially random guys hitting on you in bars! I guess whether or not it's our first one is still open for debate—I never did manage to convince anyone that our dinner at Il Fiore Bianco wasn't a date. I don't think I even convinced myself."

She giggled delightedly.

To Daniel's surprise, however, Vala didn't seem inclined to spread news of their new relationship all over the base. They went out a couple of times, although that wasn't necessarily anything new or unusual, so no one commented. (And no one was around for the good night kisses they shared at her door.) He held her hand walking through the halls and casually slung an arm around her in the commissary, but again nobody seemed to be paying attention or else just didn't care. On a quick recon mission later in the week, they argued as hotly as ever and Cameron simply rolled his eyes as always.

So Friday night rolled around, and Daniel and Vala headed out to dinner with Cam, Teal'c, and Jen. Cam had informed Vala earlier that day that General Landry had approved her for off-base privileges, and she was thrilled. Jen had already promised to teach her to drive so that she could borrow a base vehicle when she wanted to head out on her own.

Feeling much more relaxed than he had the previous week, Daniel sat with one arm resting on the back of Vala's seat. He pondered why no one seemed to notice the change in his relationship with the former space pirate. Had they been skirting so close to the edge of dating for so long that it made only a negligible difference when they finally took the plunge?

Vala and Jen were laughing at something Cam had said, and Teal'c was smiling. Daniel wondered briefly what he'd missed but decided he didn't really care. Shifting his arm slightly, he gave Vala's shoulder a quick squeeze and was rewarded with a bright, happy smile.

"Hey, now you two, none of that," Cam chided. "This is a group outing, so no making goo-goo eyes at each other."

"Goo-goo eyes?" Vala questioned.

"Yes, like this." Jen batted her lashes then exaggerated looking longingly at Vala. Vala giggled. "I couldn't possibly look at Daniel like that and keep a straight face, so no worries, Cameron."

"Good," Cam said. "'Cause I'm not spending the evening watching you two be all lovey-dovey. You do that on your own time."

"Well, gee, I'd planned on making out in the corner and giving you a real show; you're ruining all my fun." Vala rolled her eyes at her team leader.

"Not really any good corners for that here," Jen said. "Save it for the Ace of Clubs. Plenty of corners there to choose from. Nice, dark, cozy corners." She winked at them.

"Sounds promising," Daniel responded with a smirk. And that finally got the others' attention. Cam's head swiveled comically to stare at him. "Did you and Princess switch bodies or something?" the colonel asked. "'Cause that sounds more like something she would say."

Daniel pulled Vala closer to his side. "Nope."

Vala rested her head against his shoulder and grinned innocently at their CO. Cameron stared at them for a moment then rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Okay, whatever. I quit tryin' to figure you two out a long time ago. Much better for my mental health that way."

"Yeah, your mental health needs all the help it can get," Daniel deadpanned. Cameron scowled at him. Vala grinned.

Once at the Ace of Clubs, Rich took one look at Daniel's arm wrapped around Vala and promptly offered to buy Jen a drink instead. Shooting Vala an amused look, Jen accepted and followed him over to the bar. Cameron asked a blonde to dance. Teal'c headed toward the games area.

No one noticed when Daniel and Vala sneaked off to find one of those dark, cozy corners.