zorb: (Bitches - SG)
zorb ([personal profile] zorb) wrote2007-10-20 11:27 am

Ficathon - SG-1 - Atalanta's Race

Title: Atalanta's Race
Rating: PG-13, sigh
Characters/Ships: Sam/Vala
Spoilers: Vague. Set somewhere S10ish or later.
Summary/Prompt: [livejournal.com profile] apocalypse_kree, prompt 111: "Sam/Vala. Space pirates, when the team starts to feel claustrophobic." Thanks, as always, to my fabulous anonybeta.



"Want to get out of here?" she says, and Sam nods while the guys laugh at the village leader's raunchy joke. They haven't had this kind of mission for a while - when they do manage a mission, it's to contact advanced allies or else Ori, Ori, and more Ori - and Sam has forgotten how it feels to be a second-class citizen. No one notices the two women slipping out of the tent, and the guards are sparse enough not to see them creep to the forest. She doesn't realize Vala's taken her hand until she tugs them both behind a tree.

"Vala, what-" and stops when the other woman puts a finger to Sam's lips. In the darkness under the canopy, Vala's twinkling eyes are the brightest lights. She's pleased with herself, hand tense and mouth pursed, so Sam waits. When Vala takes her hand away, Sam's head follows it just a smidge before she catches herself.

The hand returns as a fist, tightly closed. "Happy birthday," Vala whispers low. "Open your present."

It's a good thing it's dark so only Sam knows she's blushing. She smiles to cover it and unwraps Vala's fingers, one at a time, revealing the galactic equivalent of...well. Sam's head snaps up. "Is that...?"

Vala nods. "Ours. Now we can really go places together." Sam sees her smile grow wider and realizes with a start that it's in reaction to her own.

"Never stop surprising me, okay?" She imagines that Vala might respond with a smug sort of promise but doesn't give her the chance as she wraps her hand around Vala's head and pulls her up for a kiss.

The world ended and she should probably feel guilty, but for the moment, the key to a ship is pressed between them, and what's left of Earth doesn't matter.

*

It starts (doesn't it always?) with an innocent question. Ten days into lockdown, and intel from outside is still vague and hard to come by.

Sam is anxious. Vala is bored.

"So, what do you do for fun around here? I mean when you can get outside, of course."

Vala, clearly straight from being banished from Daniel's office, hops on a table in the lab and swings her legs. Sam doesn't mind; the table's empty and she's glad of the company.

"Normal stuff. Movies, sometimes a restaurant or bar. Honestly, we don't find much time out of work."

Vala's gentle laugh makes Sam look up from her computer, still frustratingly unable to make an outside connection. "No, darling. I meant, what do you do for fun?" The gleam in her eyes gives Sam a very different interpretation of her question.

She shakes her head. "Somehow, I don't think my brand of fun would meet your standards."

Vala jumps down and casually saunters past Sam. "It's a big universe. You might be surprised."

Being one of the guys was never such a bad thing until Vala arrived at the SGC.

*

Despite the ever-present sense of obligation to save the world, Sam really wouldn't have stayed at the SGC all those years - wouldn't have come back to it after her time in Nevada - if she didn't honestly enjoy the work. She'd been offered teaching positions, private sector research jobs, book deals, but nothing could compare to the career she loved.

In retrospect, staying on probably saved her life. Their best theory is a mass ecological disaster, but all they really have, twenty days afterwards, is the first message from NORAD with the executive order for total lockdown. They hadn't detected any ships or missile activity, which made an enemy or home-grown attack unlikely, unless someone had developed an unprecedented stealth technology. They risk one dial out to the Alpha Site to alert them to the situation, such as they know it; the usual parade of galactic leaders doesn't show up in a panic, the ship captains are either unable or unconcerned enough to return, and Atlantis checked in just before the word came down.

Landry gives in to Cameron's plea to try the surface after fifteen days; the mission ends as soon as they find out that all exits above level twelve are sealed shut, with overrides disabled.

So they wait.

*

"We need a vacation!" Vala declares at breakfast, and ten groans answer back. They've finally broken Landry down and opened the Stargate. Problem is, no one seems to know anything's wrong. They've asked the Tok'ra to send a reconnaissance mission to Earth, but in the meantime, Landry wants everyone to stay central.

Which means a lot of paper football in the mess hall.

"Well, we do," Vala insists to Sam. "I know exactly where to take you, too."

Sam looks around reflexively, but Cam's holding court teaching Teal'c to balance a spoon on his nose and has all the attention.

The SGC on lockdown is a strange place.

Vala tugs Sam's sleeve to get her attention. "They'll never notice we were gone," she whispers. She somehow figures out that Sam's agreed before she knows it herself, and her face brightens. "Let's go."

Thirty minutes and one ally check-in request later, Vala's stripping off her BDUs on a white sand beach. "I would've told you to pack a swimsuit, but I didn't think you exactly kept one on the base." Sam's not surprised that Vala's underwear is bright pink; she is surprised when Vala unhooks her bra and tosses it into the pile of clothes before flopping down. Sam turns away before Vala can tell her face is pink, too.

"Well? Come on, you'll burn up in those clothes. Don't tell me you've never been to a - what do they call them on Earth? Topless beaches? Honestly, on some planets I've seen, only the lower classes bear the shame of clothing."

Be a woman, she tells herself, and goes to sit on the sand. "Better sweating than sunburned," and how did that and keeping a determined gaze at the ocean suddenly become her two biggest concerns in the universe?

But Vala rustles into her pack and a tube of sunscreen lands in Sam's lap. Sam jumps and turns her head and there's Vala, smug smile above where Sam's eyes land first. "No more excuses. You never know when a native might happen by and be offended, after all."

Sam's pretty sure she's heard that speech before and vowed never to listen to it ever, ever again, which of course is why she unlaces her boots. Before she knows it, she's down to her underwear and wishing she'd worn something more interesting to work thirty days ago. She hesitates before removing her sports bra; she looks over at Vala, who's taken back the tube and is rubbing the last of a dollop on her breasts, the grease making them shine in the sunlight. A breeze wafts over them and Sam can see the goosebumps tighten on her nipples. Vala's eyes flick over to hers, and she winks. "Very unfortunate place for a sunburn."

Sam would stammer for a reply, but her mouth is dry, so she just nods and accepts the offered sunscreen. Vala settles back into the sand with her jacket as a pillow. She closes her eyes, and on her face, Sam sees peace.

*

Word comes back at last about the state of their own planet and confirms their worst fears. While they've spent a month and a half catching up on research or playing basketball, the world outside had ceased to go on. They were stunned; they mourned; they picked up and got back to work. After all, the end of the world outside doesn't mean the end of the fight against the Ori on behalf of the galaxy, and what better location for a base of operations than an ostensibly dead planet?

Bill Lee has to watch his back for a week after putting it that way.

Sam worries about Vala at first, but she turns out to take the news rather better than everyone else. It makes sense, once she thinks about it; Vala's complaints of boredom were always focused on getting outside to the world usually forbidden to her, without accompaniment. With no more reason for anyone to leave, the temptation is gone. She can go stir-crazy at the same rate as the rest of them. Sam can see the signs of it coming on and draws Vala away from the briefing room one morning just on the verge of a Daniel explosion. "Let's stay in my lab today," she suggests, and Vala trots along happily behind her.

She raises an eyebrow when Sam shuts the door behind them.

Sam shrugs. "I don't feel like dealing with other people."

*

Being a Lt. Colonel with a longer tenure at the SGC than anyone who outranks her has its perks. There are any number of excuses she can use for a two-person mission - simple recon, checking up on known allies, small project assistance - and God knows no one really questions her getting Vala out of their hair. She figures, now, that half the missions Daniel used to take with other teams came right after a gunfight or bureaucratic mess and understands him a little better for it. The close quarters since everything went blank make escape that much more necessary.

So it's easy to request a dial-up, and if it's always Vala who tags along, no one seems to notice, or they're too intimidated to ask. Sam barely restrains herself from running the last few steps through the gate, but she does hurry to the DHD once they're on the other side to dial another address, while Vala attempts a cartwheel on the long grass.

"Race you there!" she calls when the wormhole activates, sprinting off just as Vala lands on her seat. She could swear Vala's shriek of laughter came through the wormhole before the woman herself tumbles out and into Sam's arms.

Qetesh had hideouts within hideouts, and that's where they find the cargo ship. Sam gazes at it, speechless, while Vala hugs her around the waist. "Not the fastest ship on the market, but I've heard you're good at that sort of thing."

Sam looks carefully at her. "You didn't - I mean, it's all legitimate, right?"

Vala rolls her eyes. "Yes, Sam. All fair and square. Do I really strike you as the kind of girl who steals ships?"

"Vala, the first time I heard of you, you'd tried to steal my ship."

"Good point. I'll rephrase: Do you really think I have the time to steal a ship?"

Sam has to concede that one.

*

Even her lab closes in on her sometimes, and like pretty much everyone else, she's taken up corridor jogging. It's not much better than the monotony of a treadmill, but at least she can pick her own route. She makes a habit of changing it ever so slightly, every week, but there's bound to be crossover and it's not a huge surprise when Cameron falls into step with her. He doesn't greet her and she doesn't acknowledge him, alone together with the sounds of their measured breathing in the grey halls.

Cam's no exception to the growing haggard look they all sport, but she begins to wonder what he's putting in his coffee when she's starting to flag and he shows no sign of fatigue. She slows gradually as they approach a T-junction to let him peel off, but he stays with her and matches pace. Companionable silence is getting less so, so at the next turn, she drops to a walk and motions him ahead.

He doesn't take the invitation, at least not right away. He stops her with a hand on her shoulder; she's glad she's tired, as it prevents her from jumping. They don't touch - not anymore.

He squares up and looks her in the eye. "Be careful, okay?"

He turns and jogs off without a look back, leaving her alone with the chill in her spine.

*

"I think Cameron knows," she says in a rush once they're out of the crowd. She's holding their pack, keeping watch, while Vala shrugs out of her BDUs and slides leather over flawless skin.

"Is that so," Vala says absently. She checks herself over and, satisfied, switches places with Sam.

"I'm pretty sure," she replies. "Something he said..." Which is fading fast, unimportant in the current scheme. Vala shows no concern, casually scanning the alley's opening, and her nonchalance brings Sam a surprising comfort. The outfit takes her a little more time to navigate. "Someday, we'll remember to change before leaving the SGC."

"Someday, you'll get over your hangup about public nudity." She turns to her and winks, and Sam stops thinking about Cameron at all. Vala gives Sam a critical look up and down, stepping closer to adjust her bustier. It's thick for support, but the light pressure of her nimble fingers still makes Sam take a quick breath. "That's it, get them up there." Vala smiles. "Shall we?" She slips her hand into Sam's and leads them down a familiar route.

The casino they enter would never be seen - have been seen - in Las Vegas, but it suits the purpose. It's a good thing Vala's got a hold of her; Sam almost stumbles with the dissonance that hits her. Time was, she couldn't have walked in here, even in disguise, without being marked with suspicion and distrust. Now, they're still attracting attention, but of the kind that will suit their purpose.

Vala slides into a seat just vacated by a man with now-bulging pockets. "Can't let a chair with this success rate go to waste," she remarks to the table. If they notice she's still holding onto Sam, no one comments.

Sam tosses in the ante. She's feeling lucky tonight.

*

Life at the SGC - the bunker, some are starting to call it - would be a lot more interesting if it weren't such a well-oiled machine. Of course, if something ever did go wrong, she'd probably regret ever thinking that, but with the days blending together, a little excitement on the home front sounds like just the ticket. It's pretty astonishing, considering the at-home disasters they've weathered before, that the end of the world has meant the SGC works better than ever. She's jonesing for a broken pipe, a circuit failure - anything to differentiate one day from the next.

But every time she checks the computer, all systems report normal. They've got working power generators. Bill is hoarding his existing projects to make them last as long as possible. Siler carries his wrench with him, but she never sees him use it. And the damn dialing program goes just about as fast as it ever will, at this point.

Bored, bored, bored, and she can't find Vala anywhere. It's a choice between punching a concrete wall and punching a person, so she goes to find Daniel and understands Vala a little better.

He's in his lab, as usual. She wonders where he's been finding so much to work on, but then she remembers the non-critical projects he always bemoaned having to drop. She should be so lucky. "Hey, Daniel."

His head pops out of his book. "Hey!" He jumps up and lifts a pile of books and journals off one of the visitor stools, motioning her to take their place. "What brings you here?"

She shrugs - an answer he accepts, going back to his work - and swings her feet under the workbench. There's always something to see in Daniel's office, if not something new these days. A frieze on the wall she never really looked at before catches her eye. Greek, maybe. It feels Mediterranean. A leafy vine frames the scene of figures captured in mid-dance, their hair streaming behind them and limbs flung outward. The centerpiece is a goblet, carved with an even smaller version of the scene around it in a kind of infinite vision. The dancers show individual joy and sorrows. Two on the left have joined hands, and if she screws up her eyes, she can see them spinning together. There's two more matching steps, and on the right, two are -

Oh. She feels heat on her neck and turns to find Daniel scrutinizing her, deep lines creasing his brow. She smiles brightly at him. "Got anything I can read?"

*

The explosion behind her head rings in her ears and she can see Vala shouting something but can't hear it at all. "What?" she yells, and even her own voice is a dim echo. She doesn't dare raise her head above the stone wall they're crouched behind with the rate of fire.

It had started out so well. Their contact was an ugly, recalcitrant son of a bitch, but he had a line on a supply route and they couldn't pass on the opportunity. Once they finally got him to take their offer seriously, though, he'd been far more accommodating. Information was exchanged, a pickup time and place were set, and if the streets had felt too quiet when they made their way to meet it, Sam just chalked it up to nerves.

Nerves and, evidently, a long-anticipated proletariat rebellion. The shooting started when they stepped foot in the warehouse; before Sam could think twice, she'd grabbed Vala's sleeve and made a beeline for the brush out the back, pursued all too quickly by uniformed soldiers.

The ringing is fading and Vala's still trying to get her attention. "What?" she says again, keeping her head low.

"I said I don't think we chose the best time for a visit!"

"No shit," Sam agrees. "I hate it when we're the bait."

There's a roar behind them, and Sam looks over her shoulder to find the rebels charging over the crest of the hill. "We've got to go!"

"Can't argue with that," says Vala. They pop to their feet, staying low, and skitter along the wall towards the trees. A few errant shots come near, but the two sides are focused on each other now, and they get away cleanly.

"Come on, let's get to the gate before someone else does," says Sam once they can hear each other. Vala hesitates. "What?"

"I think they've moved out of the warehouse."

"So? Gate's the other direction."

"We can still get some of what we came for."

Sam gapes at her. "Are you kidding? Not only would it be suicide, but what are we supposed to do, leave an IOU?"

Vala raises an eyebrow. "I think he owes us, don't you?"

Some very familiar male voices are warring inside her head. She so does not have time for that. "Fine. If we're going to do this, let's do it quickly."

"Yes, because I'd planned on dawdling." Vala doesn't give her time to respond, taking off to circle around to where it all started.

She's right; the warehouse is abandoned, never a stronghold so much as a convenient setup location. "How do you know there's even anything stored here?" she whispers as Vala ducks inside.

"Because I saw what the brave and probably doomed citizens were fighting with. You don't just come up with that kind of quality. They had to be sure the soldiers would be here, even if we weren't. Hah!" she exclaims, lifting a crate's lid.

Sam, eyes and painfully small weapon on their six, goes to take a look. It's true, and there's much more than they could ever carry. She tells herself the natives will never even notice their lack as Vala stuffs weapons and ammunition into a pair of sacks from a shelf.

They're almost to the gate when shots ring out again. Five soldiers, behind them on a dead run. Sam swears and spurs herself faster, tossing Vala her sack as she reaches the DHD to dial. The soldiers are almost in range, and Vala's dropped both bags to take out her gun, when the wormhole opens. They dive through, rolling down the steps on the other side, and scurry behind the small protection of the DHD.

Sam's heart pounds in her ears, almost as loud as Vala's heavy breathing next to her. They scrunch together, smell of sweat and dirt mingling in the planet's heavy air.

The wormhole shuts down.

Vala bursts out laughing and Sam can't help herself, she joins in. She tries to get up but trips over Vala's knees and the two bulging sacks and lands back on the soft grass, bringing a laughing Vala down half on top of her. The grass tickles and Vala looks so funny from this angle that Sam starts, God help her, giggling again, right until Vala dips down to kiss her and the adrenaline rushing through her crashes to the shore in relief.

Vala lifts herself up slightly when it ebbs. "There," she says. "Wasn't that fun?"

Sam starts laughing again.

That was their first kiss.

*

She's not too surprised when Teal'c tracks her down in the mess. She hasn't seen him in a few days, and he, of all of SG-1, seems to be the most invested in keeping regular touch with all of them. Still, when he appears at her elbow, she starts a little before greeting him.

They're getting fresh fruits and vegetables from the off-Earth sites, but variety is limited and today's choices are unappealing. Sam stares at the unhappy selection of berries and an odd mango-ish thing, looking in vain for an plain old apple while Teal'c loads his tray with his usual massive pile. She finally settles on half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bowl of Jell-O.

Teal'c eyes her mostly empty tray critically when they sit down but does not comment as he digs in. She picks at the crust of her sandwich and wonders what's keeping him here. The resources of Earth aren't exactly much of a draw anymore. The Jaffa have told him more than once that he's welcome to join them; he never mentioned it, but she was in the back of the control room when he was talking to Bra'tac.

He looks up from the part of his meal that she hopes at least tastes like chicken. "Colonel Carter. You must eat."

"Sorry, Teal'c. I guess I just don't have much of an appetite today." Christ, even the Jell-O isn't inspiring much of an effort.

"Doctor Lam will be most displeased."

She huffs. "Come on, I'm hardly the only person to ever skip lunch."

Teal'c's frown deepens and his brow furrows. "You must keep up your strength."

"Teal'c, I'm fine. I'm just not hungry today."

"And when was the last full meal you consumed?"

What is he, her babysitter now?

She could tell him about moonlight dinners, alien delicacies, exotic meats and spices, but that's not his to know. She racks her brain to satisfy him. It's surprisingly hard - a fog seems to have slipped in between her conscious mind and her memories. "Um...probably yesterday, I don't know. I definitely remember the feast on our last mission. That was amazing, wasn't it?" Teal'c had been a particular fan of that one, and she hopes he'll latch onto that part.

"Colonel Carter, that was over six months ago."

"Was it? No way..." She doesn't feel like she has enough memories, elusive or otherwise, to fill in the time between them. She remembers debriefing, and the routine infirmary visit. Maybe; they're all pretty much the same, aren't they? "I guess the time's blending together more than I thought. I should really get a hobby, huh?" she tries to joke, but Teal'c doesn't even acknowledge it.

"If you do not eat, I will report to Doctor Lam, as required," he says.

She stares at him in astonishment. Her indignant retort is cut off as a lightheaded wave passes over her and she has to clutch the table to stay upright, helped by his stabilizing arm. "I'm fine," she responds to the eyebrow. "I guess I'm hungrier than I thought." She takes a deliberate bite of the sandwich and swallows.

Teal'c watches her eat the rest of the meal but doesn't follow her back to her quarters, where she hurries past the guard without acknowledgment, shuts off all the lights, and crawls under the rough blankets to wait for the nausea to pass over her and the stabbing migraine to fade.

*

"This would all be a lot easier if we had better transportation," Vala grumbles.

"I told you, if we can find one abandoned or save up enough to trade, then we'll get a ship."

Vala rolls her eyes. "I wonder exactly what the limit is where it stops being 'material liberation' with you and crosses into morally objectionable."

"Don't do that," Sam says with a sigh. The box of tools she's carrying is heavier by the minute, and they're only just through the gate at the target site.

Vala stops in her tracks, drops her own bag, and comes to press her face against Sam's. "I'm sorry," she says softly. "Let's just get through this one, all right?"

Sam can't put a name to why she can't lie to those eyes, and she really doesn't know just why she trusts so fully when she looks into them, but she's starting to get an inkling. "Okay."

Her smile is wide and bright as they continue down the slope to the town. The rich former First Prime they've come to rob is very rich indeed, and Sam finds after a while that she doesn't really care if he knows what they've lifted - after they're gone, of course. Fine morals were for a time before the world ended and they went from leaders of the galaxy to its saddest scraps. If they have to knock a few people out on the way, well, what does it really matter, anyway?

What matters now is this, here, in her own quarters, with Vala sneaking in late at night to talk and plan their next trip through the 'gate. They can't plan when they'll get a chance to go, and surely there'll be an off-world mission soon that will delay them more, but they can make plans in the quiet hours when the world is theirs to own.

Vala stirs and tickles her, and Sam doesn't think deeper thoughts anymore.

*

She wakes but has to close her eyes again, against the bright lights above her. The soft beeping noises and particular quality of fabric on her skin are familiar. Infirmary.

"Doctor Lam, I think she's awake." Vala. Of course she's here, holding Sam's hand. Sam turns her head, which hurts a lot to do, and looks up into her companion's face creased with worry.

"Hey," she whispers, hoping to erase some of those lines. "What's going on?"

Vala opens her mouth, but Doctor Lam bustles up on her other side just then and starts going through her vitals. She's talking to a nurse just out of Sam's range of vision, so Sam squeezes Vala's hand, with effort, to get her attention.

"I want to be the captain," she tells her quietly.

Instead of the affectionate indignation she'd expected, Vala looks confused. "Captain of what?"

She'd never figured Vala would be the one to shy away from talking about it with other people around, but if that's what she wants.... "We can talk about it later, when I get out of here. When we get out of here." Gives her a wink.

Now Vala's eyes widen. She turns. "I think something's wrong."

Sam can only just roll her head to follow Vala as she leans across the bed to speak to Carolyn. "She's talking very strangely. I'm not sure she knows where we are."

"We're in the infirmary at the SGC," Sam interrupts, forcing her head back and mustering all the voice she can, which isn't much. "But I don't know why."

Doctor Lam's sage nod frightens Sam more than a panicked reaction could have. "Third stage," she says to Vala. "I'd suspected it was coming after Teal'c's report."

"Vala?" Sam says, and when the other woman looks at her with tears in her eyes, her blood runs cold. "Tell me."

Vala's mouth opens, closes, then she shakes her head. "I should go find the boys. Doctor Lam can explain." She tries to let go of Sam's hand, but Sam only tightens her hold.

"Don't leave me."

Vala looks at Carolyn, who nods at someone out of eyesight. Sam realizes she can't see anything past the foot of her bed, and her peripheral vision looks fuzzy. "I can't - what's wrong with my eyes?"

"Faster than the others," Carolyn says to herself, then looks Sam in the eye. "You picked up a virus on P5C-419. You're not contagious; it seems to only affect people with a specific genetic marker."

"Naquadah?"

She shakes her head. "No, the Whalin brothers picked it up, too."

Sam dredges through the sludge of memory to find Jason and Russell Whalin, both of SG-7. "Are they all right?"

Vala's other hand comes up to cover her mouth; Carolyn takes a deep breath and continues more softly. "They died, Sam. Their initial symptoms progressed more rapidly than yours did, but they stayed in the third stage of the disease for two weeks before... You seemed to bounce back after the diagnosis, and we were cautiously optimistic. However," and she steels herself, "things turned steadily downward. You don't remember any of it?"

"I remember..." She remembers alien planets, outlandish costumes, treasure maps and chests of figurative gold. She remembers headaches, and fatigue, and hovering guards. "Other things." She looks at Vala. "So we were never..."

For what must be only the second time in her life, Vala's again at a loss. She shakes her head, but whatever she was going to say is lost as the rest of SG-1 arrives and crowds around them. Sam clings to Vala's hand, sparing only glances at her friends as she looks in the other woman's face to find what isn't there.

In the periphery, she hears Cameron ask for an update, and Doctor Lam say, "I think it must have taken a different form with her and she's actually been in the last stage for quite a while, mentally. Maybe the naquadah in her blood had something to do with it, I don't know. But I don't think there's much time."

Words pass, and her boys each bend down to say something and kiss her cheek, and by the time they're through, all Sam knows is that there was something very important she was supposed to remember, but it's just nagging at the edges of her mind. It must not matter much, because she's still got Vala's hand in hers, and Vala's smiling at her in a watery sort of way. It's late, she thinks; things are dark around the silhouettes of her friends.

"Vala," she whispers, her voice like an echo in the crowded room. Vala shifts to sit beside her on the bed and leans closer. "Tell me..."

"Tell you what, darling?"

The familiar name makes her smile. "Where we're going next time."

Somewhere to the side, there's a choked sort of noise. Vala and Sam pay it no attention. "Where we're going. Well. We'll go in...in the ship, of course."

"Our ship."

"Yes, our ship. And I suppose I'll let you be the captain. That's too much responsibility for me. We can go to a planet in what you'd call the Scorpian system. You wouldn't believe the palaces there. And they make this wine that tastes like raspberry-flavored chocolate..."

With Vala's soft voice washing over her, Sam lets her eyes drift shut.

*

Let's go, she'd said, and they were off on another adventure, soaring through the stars in a compact world of their own that Sam wants to call Gaia and Vala wants to call Deyana, which she says was the name of the porn industry queen on a planet she once lived on, but Sam has to argue with naming their ship the equivalent of the Hugh Hefner.

She thinks she'd be willing to give in, though, later, when they've come back to a landing, high on their success and not ready to go back to the cold bunkers of Earth. The ship is warm, the bed they share on it warmer, and here, settled between blankets from a world she's never seen, in a ship of her enemy's design and construction, with a woman who's been the only reason the past year has been at all bearable, she's home.