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Previous Entry Remix fic posting! Jul. 28th, 2008 @ 11:09 am Next Entry
Title: Without Fear of Wind or Vertigo (the Joker’s Wild remix)
Author: _minxy_
Remix of: Jester’s Silence by holdouttrout in the gateverse_remix
Spoilers for: SG-1 series finale "Unending"
Pairing/warnings: None. Teal'c and Vala friendship.
Word count: ~6,800
Beta thanks: go to rydra_wong.
Author’s note: The title is from Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler.

i say this because i feel you down here with me,
this thing i have for you, it is as noble
as being wronged from birth, is as fierce
as a fight for something impossible
that i know you understand.
wait. i will. it is like sleeping,
how it keeps you still
and fills your head with pictures.

(from “Dive” by Michelle Tea)


***

Vala came to Teal’c at the center of a spiral: a walk through through different doors, up different ladders and crawl spaces, through different corridors than she would take than if her target were Sam, in the beating true heart of the ship, or Daniel in its low wide belly.

Cameron was her adventure target, a moving prey Vala had spent hours tracking through roundabout, curling movements in the ship. Sometimes they’d find Daniel in the library, or Sam in Engineering, neither of which was a surprise. Vala would mix it up by sometimes allowing herself to be seen and sometimes not.

Sometimes she’d be on roller skates.

Teal’c, though, chose for his day-space a single room, with no prior purpose. His meditation room balanced not forward at the nose of the ship (where they will never go again, for ever or ever) but starboard, away from the missile suspended in space, as if to balance out the source of their isolation with his sheer bulk in the opposite direction.

Vala tried to discern if he were like a unwilling pet pulling at a tether, but he seemed too calm. For a while, Vala avoided the room as though there were some unwelcome calming drug in the air, but eventually Cameron’s pacing at the orange tinted windows became more disturbing. If Vala were to have a chance to move around the ship, she’d have to rotate her marks. Find Cameron then Sam then Daniel then around to Teal’c.

Around and around and around.

The Tau’ri have a notion of circles in hell, Daniel told her about it once, and it had made very little sense; hell was not motion and geometry. Her circles and movements give her a focus, a simulated grounding sense where none is possible, where tangentially flying off the circumference might be genuinely preferable to a cold, pale, dry withering away.

Vala’s days are filled with getting nowhere, played back to her in the faces of her teammates as variations on a theme. Teal’c alone seeks stillness, treats it like it’s a holy thing; that at least is interesting, if disconcerting. Then again, Vala is aware that Teal’c’s own particular hell involved perhaps too much action.

The first time she had sat the meditative pose with Teal’c, back in the SGC on a world that moved and spun (even if it kept her underground) she had grown so bored that she began clenching and unclenching her lowest sex muscles. It was an attempt to drive herself quietly to orgasm without touch or movement (or talking). It was a technique Qetesh-the-supposed-sex-goddess had never mastered without resorting to manipulating nerves and blood flow; Vala wouldn’t have believed it possible but for the cheating. Wouldn’t have tried it if Qetesh had not failed.

She is just bored enough on the ship supended out of time, just desperate enough, to try again. Besides, Cameron had growled rather dangerously at her the last time she’d tracked him through the halls and interrupted his pacing at windows (he only discovered her because the rollerskates make such a distinctive noise on the third level with its inlay through the floor panels.) And so, Vala stands at Teal’c’s door, in a break from her usual routine.

He sits, ankles crossed, in a position of such posture that Vala is impressed with his flexibility. It shows off his shoulders to fine effect, and Vala appreciates it enough to walk quietly and try not to disturb her view. She cannot quite bring herself to sit down beside him, though she’s sure he heard the woosh of the door.

On another day, in another lifetime, the sound would be magnified one hundred fold and the woosh would be harbinger of movement, of travel; a doorway to other planets and universes and potential. The ship's tinny sound just mocks her now and announces her presence.

She drifts towards the windows, smaller than you’d find on a Goa’uld ship, and looks out at the stars and the black. The orange light at her back moves and shifts as not much else does in her line of vision; the glow from the candles rather than the energy pulse. The quality of the light is not different enough to matter much. “I’m bored,” she says to the stars. They don’t answer back; they are on the wrong side of the time bubble, like everything is.

“There are many possible activities on the ship,” Teal’c says, and Vala, without turning, knows he has not yet opened his eyes. It is an old refrain, from an old man lecturing a little girl and telling her the way the world is. She wonders sometimes if he ever remembers that they are of an age.

Perhaps she is also nearing a flash point, like Colonel Mitchell. “I’ve done them all,” she says with finality. She does not want platitudes.

“That is unlikely,” Teal’c replies, and now she turns to look at him. He hasn’t moved.

“Fine,” she says, revising her mental script of how this conversation usually goes; the view in front of her hasn’t changed, the view behind is old light traveling farther than she ever will again. She leaves her back turned to the stars. “I’m still bored.” It is a challenge and an attack.

Teal’c opens his eyes and is already looking at exactly where she’s standing, eyes so dark she cannot see the pupil contract. She watches his jaw clench, though, and she wonders if he ever let Apophis see such a tell; Qetesh had dismissed trusted servants for less. It is a long moment before he offers to allow her to join him in meditation, but she is already claustrophobic under that gaze, in the small room full of candles that give no smoke (the ship’s ventilation system whisks away any in evidence.) She can predict every suggestion, has heard every invitation. He shifts his eyes to the window.

She steps in front of it. “Don’t you ever get tired of looking at the same nothing day after day?” she asks. In the question is a plea and a bargain, though she’s buried them as far as she can beneath attitude and swagger. She’d learned that trick from a player of players, and sometimes Vala wonders if everything she ever leveraged into something valuable out of her time with Qetesh isn’t completely useless now. As she herself is completely useless. She has only a ineffective bag of tricks now, and no great desperate goal of survival to drive her; she only seeks something different.

“Indeed,” Teal’c says, looking calmly at her midsection. Vala is struck by the conviction that he has so thoroughly memorized the star pattern dotting her back that it is of little consequence that she is blocking the view.

Teal’c sits nearly backlit by orange candlelight that reminds her of energy pulses; what light wraps around him is absorbed into the gold brown of his skin, the black of his shirt, the curls of his hair. In the grey of the ship, Vala yearns for blues or greens or reds. She wonders if she can do any better than convincing Sam to wear something other than a uniform; wonders if the best Daniel can do is put on green BDUs for the day. It is not enough for her to wear a feather boa any longer; she cannot see her own appearance without adopting the more vain aspects of her former tenant. And Vala knows her shipmates do not notice whether her pigtails have ribbons or not. Pink or not.

Vala does not wear gold.

But clothes are a fleeting entertainment anyway. With the timescales she’s facing in this particular torture scheme, she needs a longer-term fun. A brighter color, that she can see; one that will have lasting effects. She is desperate.

Then she realizes the significance of Daniel’s eye color. And Sam’s, and Colonel Mitchell’s, but they couldn’t take a well-meant and desperately needed joke if it were giftwrapped in the finest Goa’uld lamé. “I’m going to do something interesting,” she tells Teal’c, to speak the thought, to un-trap the idea, but he has closed his eyes again and is ignoring her. She sighs a few times and then leaves, telling the grey walls of the ship her master plan as she walks.

***

It’s hardly a challenge to break into Daniel’s rooms; Vala has done it more times than she can count, and Daniel never improves the security in the slightest, just sounds the broken record (or not) of setting limits and deposits her back outside. No matter what she’s wearing (or not wearing), and it’s very ungentleman-like.

And repetitive, but Vala wasn’t put off by repeated rejection, no; she was just waiting for the right reason to break in. Again. Without actually breaking anything (because then she would really be refused entry, and to lose access to even a small part of an already small ship is not worth the risk). And with the hopes of actual success this time.

It’s not hard to move around Daniel without waking him up, even, but she’d secretly been switching out his coffee for decaf all day when he was in the library, so she’s pretty sure he’s taken something for the headache to knock himself out. Because really, otherwise he’s just let his skills get too rusty. Didn’t he used to be on a first contact team? Never could have survived so long sleeping like this.

Oh, right. Well, never mind about Daniel’s survival instincts.

Anyway, it goes off without a hitch, or any unfortunate chemical odor (a gift of the Asgard that’s actually useful) and Daniel’s hair is so fair that stripping the color first was just perfunctory. The blue turns out rather nicely bright.

Colonel Mitchell agrees, and Vala can see, through her completely transparent attempts not to laugh, that Sam is also highly entertained.

She declares that a majority of the persons on the ship are entertained, and therefore Daniel’s pissiness is justified.

It’s just icing on the cake when Teal’c expresses his appreciation for her entirely marvelous work, but Vala truly hadn’t expected it. It’s nice to actually have something fun to talk about and laugh over. Even if, technically, they are laughing at Daniel; he could be a better sport about it, really.

Vala trips about the hallways that day, stalking Daniel in a good-natured manner (he even obliges by moving from the library every now and then to give her somewhere else to go) and letting the sound of Cameron and Sam laughing drive away the ghosts. It’s her only excuse for why she slept so well that night.

***

Except maybe she didn’t sleep all that heavily, because she wouldn’t put it past Daniel to skip the joy of actually performing a prank and get it done in the most efficient manner possible. And teasing that is mainly designed for revenge without giving the person on the other side even a chance to catch you in the act is bordering on mean.

For all that Vala has sought inclusion, there is a part of her that will always wonder whether they truly wanted her or simply settled for the fact that she was there. It’s the story of a million one night stands, and it is possibly the explanation for her bright green hair, also the work of an unsatisfying night. She can’t even convince herself that Daniel snuck into her bedroom, and that just stings.

Plus, it’s not pink, and green clashes so blatantly with her hair ribbons.

Still, she plays her role and shrieks as loudly as she can manage, largely for the benefit of Daniel’s room down the hall. She sits directly across from Daniel at the dining table in challenge, and then deliberately ignores him as punishment. But he’s looking at her, they all are, so she can’t miss how his face is changed by a smile, if that kind of smirk might be called a smile, and his eyebrows keep jumping upwards (a little less each time, as he gets used to the sight) whenever he looks back at her and sees green the color of fresh spring.

So at least he’s looking. That’s something.

Cameron calls her baby and tells her very seriously that he loves her new look (but then Cameron always had been well-trained). Sam stops cold in the doorway to the mess and abandons three sentences in a row after the first word. Teal’c speaks seriously of complementary colors and asserts that Vala can wear pink most effectively with her hair, if she chooses the proper shade.

She is glancing around the table and finds Teal’c doing the same; she lets him catch her eye and sees him bow his head, ever so slightly.

It’s greater respect than she ever saw directed at Qetesh. As ever, though, she’s not entirely sure it’s warranted.

***

Vala categorizes the reflections she sees of herself in shiny surfaces as “unattractive,” “not bad,” and “glimpses where the hair isn’t visible.” It’s like a bruise she can’t help pressing a finger to, a reminder of transgression, like being sore after sex.

It’s a pleasant pain, and Vala has often deliberately walked after a tryst, just to feel her body ache and ask forgiveness for answering to another’s command. Qetesh never allowed it, aching; wanted only the heat of arousal, not the weakness of knowing one had gone to the brink of tolerance. Vala lived a long time with her body’s endorphins turns up high and pain receptors dulled. She likes the arousal and always has. She has never turned away from sex because it is her offering of forgiveness to her body, but Vala requires now that her body respond with soreness and ache. Forgiveness and then a quest for forgiveness, in that order.

Vala doesn’t think Teal’c cycles through forgiveness the same way. Pity, really. And she knows too much of him now to seduce him into servicing her when it would only be cause for self-recrimination on his part. Unless he would offer it as a gift she couldn’t repay, and that would be equally discomforting.

It’s possible, on reflection, that Vala doesn’t know very much of Teal’c at all.

She finds herself sitting on a table in meditation pose, as Teal’c sits across from her on the floor. He is bending, sitting gracefully with his legs folding up easily under him when she says, “You know, sensor logs show Daniel worked all through the night again.”

Teal’c doesn’t react, drat him, just stares calmly back at her. Vala can barely keep from grinning, staring back, so she rolls her eyes, sighs and resigns herself to a few moments of thoughts bouncing around her head in silence. Then, she intends to open her eyes again and watch Teal’c for guilty tells. Then, at least, she can move her eyes, prove she could speak aloud if she chose, jump and move and swish if she wanted to.

She settles for controlling her breathing.

Vala has always enjoyed the company of people, many people, as many as possible, as joyful as possible. It’s one of the reasons she enjoys Earth so much, the times she’s been out and ‘people watching’ as Colonel Mitchell says. Vala thinks Colonel Mitchell was, perhaps, the best mark for taking her out in public. Daniel always wants to go somewhere private (and not for the fun reasons) and Sam generally wants to do something specific. Teal’c is obviously aboard the same ship she is, though Vala suspects that people watch Teal’c as often as he watches them.

On Neithat, a planet with a lovely sense of comfortable home decorating, Vala had had a consort that she had loved. She had stripped herself naked for him, for the first time since Qetesh and the Tok’ra; she had taken off the voice box and tried to tell him who she really was.

Well, she’d told him that gods sometimes give up their immortality to live as mortals when they are truly in love with their paramours, which amounts to the same thing.

It’s a good thing she spoke in code, though, because he gasped and flailed and later drank the extract of a plant that killed him, not particularly quickly. Clearly more concerned with losing the protection of a deity than her. Acting, currying favor. She doesn’t blame him anymore, for not seeing her.

Teal’c thinks her hair color perfectly complements pink hair ribbons.

She opens her eyes to find him looking at her again. She thinks he may have spoken her name, the way he shifts his posture slightly back as she reacts. He closes his eyes and she does the same, but she cannot keep them closed. Experimentally, she flexes the muscles of her sex, but her mind is far away from arousal.

Vala stands; the room looks oddly luminious.

Teal’c turns almost imperceptibly to follow her as she fumbles her way quietly to the door, so she says, “You know, Sam was really quite surprised when she saw me this morning, don’t you think?”

She swears his mouth twitches into a smile as he opens his eyes. Secretly, Vala loves that Sam cannot conceal anything.

***

It’s not that it takes her a long time to decide on the color. It’s not that the Asgard ship doesn’t have an instant solution when she brings up the question of how to first strip color from and then add color to hair of such texture.

Really, she’s just choosing her moment. It is the first direct attack, and worthy of an entrance, not a poor coda to a rainbow of colors already present around the meal table. And a good joke needs a good set-up: in this case, a false sense of security.

And Teal’c’s skin shines particularly well on the day he arrives for breakfast with pink hair. Vala wouldn’t have put it past him to have oiled his skin particularly for the occasion. She tries to whistle at him, a auditory signal that Daniel says is perfectly suited to her style, but she is grinning too broadly to purse her lips properly.

She needs to work on her whistling.

This time, she is sure Teal’c smiles at her, a definite lift at his eyes that makes them the teensiest bit crescent moon shaped. The smile offsets Daniel’s griping about the same song and dance getting old.

Vala picks up a section of her green hair by the tip and flips it back over her shoulder; it is as good a gauntlet as any.

***

She figures that she has a few days at least before she can expect any excitement in her new little intrigue, but her pacing leaves her dull and Daniel seems unreasonably irritable about dark roots in his blue hair.

Vala had suggested that he simply ask the ship to dye all his hair the same blue color, and he’d thrown her out of the library.

She is back at Teal’c’s door before she even visits with Sam or Colonel Mitchell.

God knows why.

“I don’t know why we are doing this,” she complains when her sit-bones turn numb and interrupt her attempts at hands-free orgasm. She stands and councils the stars. They barely bother to blink at her anymore.

“For those of our age and experience, Vala Mal Doran,” Teal’c says, probably without opening his eyes or twitching the hands held outstretched on his knees, “It is well to remember that memories are dangerous.”

She leans her forehead on the cool alloy of the ship. It is mildly uncomfortable, but in a dull way. It will drive her mad sooner or later. “I don’t know how you have embraced sleeping as you have,” she says, finally.

“In sleep, memories find you,” Teal’c says, and Vala cannot tell whether she imagines the sharpness in his tone, “It is only by familiarity and visitation that we strip them of their danger.”

“I prefer to reshape them forcibly into a story worth the reliving,” Vala says carefully, a thousand splendid nightmares clouding her view. “It sometimes takes a great deal of effort.” To make a memory fictional enough to be worth the telling, to bear the reliving of it.

She catches the reflection of movement out of the corner of her eye, and decides it is the shine of Teal’c’s pink hair bowing gravely. She almost smiles at the smear of color in the glass. “Perhaps you are here because your subconscious wishes you to tell it a lively story,” Teal’c says when she turns around.

Vala remembers that bit from her tortuous psychological exam at the SGC. She eyes Teal’c warily as she leans back against the table she’d been sitting on.

“I’ve heard all my own stories,” she says, and his eyes are closed, but the edge is gone from her voice. “Rather takes the excitement out of it. Perhaps my subconscious is asking you to tell me a story, Muscles?”

Vala has decided that every twitch in his face means Teal’c is smiling.

***

Every force in the universe has been at work at some time or another, to quench Vala’s soul. The villagers who transferred their disapproval of her father to her, who disapproved of her appearance and later, her figure. “Beautiful child,” they would mutter darkly as she passed (one woman, Vala remembers, had particularly horrid teeth and bad posture.) When she was a teenager, Vala deliberately dressed in form fitting clothes just to taunt the bad teeth women. She learned to tailor the rough fabric, and then finer stuff when she discovered that the bad-teethed men reacted differently. She came to enjoy the sewing. “A figure that the God will envy,” they said then. And they were right.

But neither Vala, nor Vala’s figure, brought Qetesh down on her. It was an accident of the universe, when they evaded angry villagers and failed to notice that they’d crossed the path of a Ha’tak.

An accident. That her father left her there. That she survived because of the curve of her hip.

These are not stories she knows how to make exiting; no spin makes them relivable enough to seek out. And yet, Vala hesitates to visit anyone else’s horrors; if you haven’t the intel, you can’t build defenses enough to withstand whatever surprises come. There are risks and there are risks.

And you do grow accustomed to your own horrors after a while; Teal’c is right about that.

She wakes up one morning to find something a bit off. The panels in the walls are shifted by half a meter, the lights aren’t programed to the right brightness. Vala finds her floating shelf in the washroom is sitting on the floor of the shower and the lever set to cold, rather than the lovely perfectly warm angle she’d carefully placed.

In her other room. Which is on the level right above where she woke up, she discovers after peeking out at the number on the outside of her door (mildly concerned that she was losing her mind.) She makes sure she’s wearing matching lingiere and saunters down the hall to where Colonel Mitchell’s room ought to be, but there is nothing inside until Vala walks in.

She’s not sure she’s been in that room before, not that it’s remarkable in any particular way. She hasn’t spent a great deal of time in Colonel Mitchell’s room, and has barely even tried for good quality time, mostly because the Colonel is the one person on the ship who can make a space feel even smaller. Most people are a distraction, a diversion if you’re lucky.

Vala is used to her own horrors.

Vala walks back out of the empty crew quarters and stands with her hands on her hips. Staring at the dull green reflection in the wall for a moment, she grins.

They are all sitting at breakfast when she saunters in and announces that she needs the biggest, most brawny men available to help her move her things one floor up. She looks at Teal’c pointedly as she says it, because the victim should never have to lift a finger and he should be made aware, but he is using his extra-impassive face and gives away nothing. Colonel Mitchell and Sam and Daniel pepper her with questions, so she walks around the table as she clears up the details, just to give the performance and extra edge that her partner clearly isn’t going to provide.

They are impressed, and not just with her rendition of events. Vala is beginning to realize the next prank is going to have to be fairly spectacular to top this one when Sam suggests a slightly less labor intensive fix to the address problem.

And Vala doesn’t actually want to be far away from the other’s rooms, even if she would rather be underneath an Earth mountain only they are allowed to leave regularly.

An added bonus to asking the ship to move all the furniture back is looking for signatures on the programming from the night before, and Vala realizes this just as Sam mentions that the programming itself would have been non- negligible. It takes Sam less than a line of code to realize the fix-it program is already in place, and her head whips up to look at Vala with a thoughtful expression before she initiates it.

Vala asks about the signature and Sam denies the stars exist. Well. It’s not that Vala doesn’t know who moved her things, but Colonel Mitchell is beginning to look a little too interested as Sam sneaks a glance at Teal’c.

And Vala is all for diversion, but she’s not sure she wants people leapfrogging her things to a different room every time she goes to sleep. Sam must catch her expression, because she’s locking out the program as soon as Vala’s things are put to rights and telling the crestfallen Mitchell that if he wants to pull a prank, he’ll have to break the password.

Colonel Mitchell says it’d be easier to steal the Statue of Liberty, and while Vala will have to look up the particulars of the reference, she’s pretty sure she knows her next move.

Public, and dirty. It’s the best way. Too much subtlety is bad for the complexion.

***

There is something about her that's still a little inhuman, even with so much time away from Qetesh (seconds, minutes, days, years, blessed be the blasted Tok’ra.) The clothes and the paint are a smoke screen to cover her difference, the alienness that has a deeper meaning than Sam or Daniel or Cameron think it does. Vala thinks Teal’c understands the value of a mask, of retaining that remnant of defense even when you let so many other instincts sleep.

There is something to the idea of owning the experiences that make up a whole person, though, and if part of that experience is inhuman, well then. Besides, Teal’c has a deft hand with kohl, even if Vala doesn’t care for gold shimmer on her skin.

She sits with Teal’c and she meditates on strategy until her backside is numb all the way down to her toes. Once she begins, it takes Vala only one evening to dye the robes for the statue. She does the dying by hand, since the fun of theft is so diminished in the face of Jaffa instincts (even sleeping Jaffa instincts.) Sam loves Jello, so Vala makes a day out of subtly getting directions from Sam on how to make it. Which she does once and then asks the ship (nicely) to do the rest for her.

Liberty, as Sam and Cameron and possibly even Daniel conceive of it, is a most bizarre abstract concept of arbitrary lines in the free dirt, statues built on islands surrounded by oceans that (as far as Vala could tell) Tau’ri had some taboo about claiming, and the excuse for a great deal of violence on the whole. Even in their conception, though, Liberty shaped in iron and copper on an island meant to symbolize ‘almost there’, was built by aliens and for aliens and for her. Vala plays a little bit with the design as she plots with the Asgard ship to sculpt the woman who represents so much, but stops short of giving her pigtails or ribbons for her hair.

She masks Lady Jello Liberty with Jaffa robes; it seemed both satisfying and fitting.

When they all come in (breakfast, also becoming the meal of surprises, much to Daniel’s ‘I am not awake before coffee’ chagrin) Vala thinks she will watch Teal’c for his reaction, but it is Sam whose unbridled glee distracts her. Colonel Mitchell is clapping and doubling over with slightly frenzied laughter, but Sam is pressing a hand to her mouth to badly hide her smiles and walking around to fully appreciate the effort.

Vala appreciates the appreciation, and with her best innocent face, presents Sam with a spoon. She has one for everybody, of course, but it’s fun to convince Sam to dive haphazardly into the middle of the figure where the blue jello is, rather than responsibly (if there is such a notion) eating the torch or the crown or something so it wouldn’t collapse. It’s clear Colonel Mitchell is waiting happily for the inevitable fall, and Teal’c and Daniel are mystifyingly sharing a strange glance across the statue’s tablet. Vala is quite satisfied on the whole, until Daniel starts flinging bits of jello, and then she feels that the only recourse is to smear an orange handful of crown into his hair.

It’s a good day.

***

Vala has come to believe that she’s in exile, but she’s happy enough to be exiled with her team. There is still hope, of course, but she’s pretty sure it isn’t meant for her.

She’s surprised when the quiet times she spends sitting with Teal’c and looking at the stars stop tasting so frantic. Maybe the thrill of victory is good for her, or maybe she’s just realized that she’ll have to ride that happiness for a long time.

She’s still considering whether to build something else out of jello. Or maybe out of those silly practice staff weapons Colonel Mitchell and Teal’c use in their play-wars. It is a break from the kinds of thoughts that leave her memory sore, though she’s stopped fearing the ache of it, and the quiet times let her thoughts become more visual. Sometimes, she has to open her eyes and remind herself of where she is, and with whom, but sometimes she lets the images become a childhood impression of holding her father’s hand as they walk. The first dress she made as a free woman out of the Tok’ra leather and homespun. The effect of her voice, under her command, used for the first time trading her way back to her home.

As it happens, the woman she wanted to trade with had barely given her a second glance, but the normalcy of that in itself was remarkable at the time. So was realizing that she was forgettable; an unfortunate dismissal that Vala never failed to turn into opportunity.

She misses playing prank games with Teal’c, but he seems to have declared the game over and conceded. Not that the Jello Liberty Lady wasn’t a triumph of ingenuity, but Vala is a little sad that they reached the end of Teal’c’s imagination so quickly. Or maybe he was just humoring her and paying attention only as long as it was necessary.

Which is probably not fair, considering that he smiles at her whenever she joins him in the star room (every reaction of Teal’c’s regarding Vala is a smile, even non-reactions; Vala is sure of this and will proclaim it to anyone who asks, though no one does).

Once, he even left her to blow out all the candles, when she sat longer than he did. Vala is careful to leave first after that; the spilled wax is difficult to clean up, and she doesn’t want the responsibility (though she has some nice images of melted wax to contemplate too).

He asked her, when she started visiting more regularly, if she had found a way to revisit her own stories in an acceptable way. Vala had answered that she turned the memories upside down, and that made them bearable. Then she had opened her eyes and answered again that maybe she was just that pleased with the Jello Liberty sculpture.

Teal’c had most definitely smiled at that. And looked a little smug, even.

Vala should have been more suspicious.

***

The morning Vala wakes up and knows there’s something wrong, she realizes how dramatically she’s underestimated Jaffa patience.

This time, it’s not a subtle shift in the seams of the wall. It’s not her shower being set to the wrong temperature.

It’s the doors, upside-down. It’s the carpet on the ceiling and the feet of the bedframe sinking into the soft acoustic foam she’d sound-proofed (needlessly, it turns out) her bedroom with.

Vala is stunned speechless for at least five minutes. She crawls to the end of the bed just to get a look at the bathroom, but it makes her dizzy.

When she sits back, she starts laughing. Then she comms the mess, hesitant to leave her bed and therefore standing on the corner on rumpled blankets reaching for the speaker switch. The team ought to be at breakfast, and one of them, at least, ought to be waiting for her to call. She’s been studying, though, she is deliberately cryptic when she calls, and she doesn’t have to school her features much when they appear upside down in her doorway. She keeps expecting Sam’s hair to fall up from her head.

It’s nice the way they all help haul her up to the door. It’s fun to land on top of Cameron and Daniel; she’ll be able to use that material for a long time. Vala grins up at Teal’c as he helps her stand right-side up in the corridor (although, if someone switches the gravity in your room in space, is it really upside-down?) though he is impassive as always. Vala is disappointed for a moment until she hears Colonel Mitchell and Daniel and Sam bickering good naturedly in the door about how it was done and who did it.

“You can fix it for me, though, right Samantha? I’d hate to have to trouble you boys to tumble me out of my room every morning.” Vala bats her eyes at Daniel and Colonel Mitchell and Daniel, amazingly, looks like he might laugh.

“Sure,” Sam says, smiling at Colonel Mitchell’s mockingly long face, “I think, anyway. It may take a few days.”

Vala winks at her and links their arms together, “I have the utmost faith in you, Samantha,” she says, and the surprise with which Sam greets that statement makes Vala think that the years are getting to all of them.

“She’s bunking with you until this is over,” Colonel Mitchell says, facing Teal’c but directing his words to Samantha.

“Kinky,” Daniel says, still smiling. Vala grins at all of them and adjusts the ruffles of her robe.

She’ll have time to interrogate Teal’c later. It won’t come to much, but it will be fun, and she’ll get most of the details of how it was done from Samantha anyway. Plus, she can use the meditation time now to scheme her next move.

She’s thinking it’ll have to be big. Maybe fireworks. It will take some planning.

She has plenty of time.

***
End.
***
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From:holdouttrout
Date:July 28th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
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*flails*

It's so beautiful! Gah! I don't even know where to begin.

Oh, Vala. This is exactly the way I picture her--flighty, and deeply sad, and a little afraid to look into herself. There is absolutely nothing more perfect than why she sits down to "meditate" in the first place, and then her mental process as she shifts her focus from Daniel to Cam to Daniel to Teal'c--it's so exactly what was in my head, and yet it goes just that extra bit further.

Parts I particularly liked, with and without commentary:

Vala categorizes the reflections she sees of herself in shiny surfaces as “unattractive,” “not bad,” and “glimpses where the hair isn’t visible.” --Ouch. And totally perfect.

Vala asks about the signature and Sam denies the stars exist. --What a wonderful phrase! I love how it gives me both Sam and Vala here, just as if I could hear and see them.

Vala is a little sad that they reached the end of Teal’c’s imagination so quickly. Or maybe he was just humoring her and paying attention only as long as it was necessary. --Oh, Vala. You have much to learn.

...and many more.

I love love love the quiet sense of being not-quite nowhere, and the meandering paths each person takes to the ship, and the edge you give to Cam's wandering/pacing.

*flails some more*
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From:_minxy_
Date:July 28th, 2008 08:41 pm (UTC)
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YAY! I'm so excited you like it. I gave myself a most kick-ass author to remix, but then I was so worried when the story was so cool to begin with.

And it was *really* hard not to tell you. *g*

Cam's wandering and pacing seemed extra interesting to me, particularly because it's so cruel to confine him, just as it is Vala, but they don't draw strength from each other. I wanted Vala to be nearly as afraid of really looking at Cameron as she was of soul-searching. I'm so glad it came across as a little brutal.

You gave me such a neat neat neat framework of prank-wars between such unlikely friends. Thank you so much for the story and permission to play in the sandbox!

p.s. Vala's reaction to having her hair dyed was interesting, wasn't it? Surprised the hell out of me. It came, a little bit, though, from the notion that it was green--what made you pick green for Vala? Do you remember?
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From:holdouttrout
Date:July 28th, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC)
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I picked green...well, partly because it's my favorite color (*g*), and partly because it *wasn't* pink--which seems to be the standard Vala-color. I thought it was a little more challenging--both for Vala and because green is a tough color to dye hair without it looking really odd.

Plus, I thought that Teal'c would look fabulous with pink hair.

I'm really glad you gave her detailed reaction to it, because it's exactly the way Vala would have reacted--a little bit annoyed with the color, a little bit amused, and definitely entertained.

I have to admit I'm fairly shocked you picked me to remix. It's definitely a treat--you write such great stuff.
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From:_minxy_
Date:July 28th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
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Coffee break on a fic posting day = checking LJ! Yaaaaaay.

I love green. I think it's particularly grand that you picked something *other* than pink for Vala, if for no other reason than I got to let her pout about how it wasn't pink. And I'm just sure that Teal'c rocks pink hair like a highly punk rocker type guy. Makes it look gooooood.

Whyfore shocked? Although, talking to synecdochic, I think my methods for thinking a pair might be extra interesting remixing each other are perhaps a little odd. I think a good pairing, a really interesting pairing between authors allows for a fascinating structure of a story--a plot either could work with, that each would take in different directions. I mean, if you pair up two people who would write it very similarly, it seems like it'd be harder for them to find a hook to work with anyway. But I admit that I deliberately challenged myself with you (it worked out with the assignments, and I just kind of went, 'huh, that would be interesting'), because I wanted to see if I could write Sam/Jack if I borrowed your plot. AND THEN I TOTALLY FAILED TO PICK A SAM/JACK STORY. But really, I sat down to read, like everything you'd ever written and right at the top of your LJ was posted a Vala and Teal'c friendship story! How could I resist such magnificence??? Eeeeeeeeee prank wars! (<--my thoughts at the time too.) I would scroll through other stories and come back again and again to Teal'c and Vala. That was my process right there. Crazy, eh?

I'm so glad you're happy with the story. I ended up pretty pleased with the story.
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From:holdouttrout
Date:July 29th, 2008 01:01 am (UTC)
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Shocked because I just didn't see it coming, I think. :-)

*laughs at the lack of Sam/Jack despite intentions* This is especially funny to me because I went looking for a Sam/Jack fic to write of kellifer's, and didn't end up choosing any of them. *grins* I got to the Sam/Cam fic, and I just...stopped looking. My entire process for choosing a remix fic, let me show you it.

I really love the opportunity for character exploration that Teal'c and Vala have--they're definitely not explored as much as some of the other characters in canon or fic. Teal'c, especially, doesn't have nearly enough fic compared to the amount of time he's been around.

Also, I just find 'Unending' terribly interesting. There's so much time there, and so little of it explored. And it's a high-stress and yet boring situation...a little like Big Brother: SG-1.
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From:jenlev
Date:July 28th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
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This is beautiful and eloquent. I love the imagery of how Vala searches and is sometimes not seen herself. And the circles are perfect, as is the tone of her perceptions about Teal'c. The depth of her recognition about Teal'c past life and how this current situation impacts them all is nicely shown. And she herself revealed in how she understands the rest of them.

Also wonderful how Vala moves from one moment of self awareness to another and then onward to a deeper engagement of her companions.

And Decaf switch, hilarious. Oh my gods.. I’m typing this as I read and blue, Bwahahah! You’ve also given me thinky thoughts about how the nature of the situation impacts their response to what might have once been normal boundaries.

Interesting how she creates internal bargains with herself and then with the team. Also, I love how very much himself Teal'c is as he responds to her. They all are. You’ve layered in the story of her past so well with the current setting, wonderfully done.

The paragraph about how changed she is by quetesh is marvelous and feels so very true. I love that liberty prank, that they have days and moments of joy and connection in the midst of what could be only a ‘waiting life’ they all make it a real one.
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From:_minxy_
Date:July 28th, 2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
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Oh lordy, stream of consciousness reactions are so much fun to read.

Vala has an edge to her, I think. I mean, why not stoop to evil switching of decaf for real coffee? You can just see her put on her innocent face for that one. I'm sure the 50 years of Unending would have dulled her quite a bit, but she's a very ends justifying the means kind of girl.

I'm sure their normal boundaries would have already been shot to hell, and for Vala, normal boundaries already included lifting objects, using someone elses credit cards and sneaking into their bed at night. I think she does a lot of that (this is a foundation of how I angled into her character) because she doesn't like the sound of her own thoughts banging around in her head; either she speaks them out loud (dangerously revealing) or she finds something to *do*. Teal'c's influence on her is possible because he gives her something to do and something interesting to think about that later makes it okay to just stop and think about... whatever.

She doesn't do a very good job, usually, of not thinking about Qetesh at all, but I don't know that I can really judge the girl for her coping mechanisms.

And I love that her antics change things on the ship, that she finds someone who will play with her but allows all of them (invites all of them) to share in the entertainment. It's a very generous role to play in that small community.

Thank you so much for such lovely feedback, Jen.
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From:jenlev
Date:July 28th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
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Hee! I'm glad, it's fun to write too. :)

And you're right about Vala, a lovely edge that says so much about the universe she's experienced.

As for the boundaries, oh yes....she'd be all like "What boundaries...blink, blink".

Her coping mechanisms work, and they brought her to where she ends up so that's a good thing I think. Some kind of safe haven/cave of the SGC as home. And the team as family. And the ability to trust enough to play with the boundaries and the team is also a good sign.

And thank you for the great story! *hugs*
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From:synecdochic
Date:July 28th, 2008 09:39 pm (UTC)
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The way this took shape was gorgeous! Oh, it's so wonderful to see where it went -- and Vala, learning patience from the master, and just. yes. Every expression he gives her is a smile.

(I love the prank wars, too. *g*)
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From:_minxy_
Date:July 28th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
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God, I love the prank wars. What a marvelous idea. And with TEAL'C.

Thanks for all your help as a soundingboard, my lovely. I appreciated it more than I can say. I owe you for turning me on to Scrivener as well.

I often thought about the scene in... oh, the one where Sam gets shot and Vala is up with Tomin and she thinks the village might have been destroyed? Then the village reappears and there's *Teal'c*; Vala runs and jumps into his arms and he's just so chill about it and happy to hold her for a while. That encapsulates their relationship, I think. Every expression he gives her is a smile, absolutely. Makes Continuum just *amazing*. Such an amazing shared back experience that it makes their current personality differences almost irrelevant--there is respect and admiration that no one else can comprehend, I think.
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From:lyrstzha
Date:July 29th, 2008 12:34 pm (UTC)
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This is such a lovely look at Vala. You have her voice down very well, and there are some wonderful insights into her character here. And this bit is almost too shiny to look upon: “I prefer to reshape them forcibly into a story worth the reliving,” Vala says carefully, a thousand splendid nightmares clouding her view. “It sometimes takes a great deal of effort.” To make a memory fictional enough to be worth the telling, to bear the reliving of it.
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From:_minxy_
Date:July 29th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
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Oh goodness, that was a such a hard conversation to get to. Did that have that connection yet? The self-awareness? Both of them? Did they say too much? But then it became one of those moments when Vala hates the sound of her voice in her head, has to speak things aloud, and I thought it worked, ultimately.

I'm glad you thought her voice worked. She's a very complicated and intelligent character. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!
From:troyswann
Date:July 29th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
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Ah, this is terrific. I like the way that the sadness or horrors of the past are threaded through the present, the way that meditating on the past is also an excuse to plot against team mates in a prank war--she really does turn her memories upside down, doesn't she?

The tone of this is excellent, a kind of spareness that echoes the ship trapped outside of time, but rich with Vala's complex personality, her age and her youth, her sadness and her joy.

Most excellent.
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From:_minxy_
Date:July 30th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
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Vala is like no other character I've ever tried to write. It seems like such a mistake to take her at flaky face value, but if you start visiting her motivations, it's not easy to stop. And her limits are so different than anyone else's. I mean, she really, really doesn't want to think too hard about what she knows, what she remembers, but at the same time, her baseline is so skewed that what she does talk about in an absent 'yeah, that happened or did happen or will happen' way is pretty damn self aware already.

Just, you know, she makes you rethink a lot of previously deliniated boundaries.

I love Vala now, really. Dismissed her pretty easily before (which was a mistake, obviously, and not just because she'll rob you blind if she thinks you don't see her.)

Thank you for your lovely praise, and especially for the notes on tone and interwoven history. It's *wonderful* to hear that those things worked for you!
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From:_minxy_
Date:August 24th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)
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Oh, yahoo fails me by not sending me this comment.

I am so, so flattered. I -- RECC'ED! Wooo!

I'm thrilled you like it.
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From:oxoniensis
Date:August 24th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
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This is fantastic - such an intriguing look at Vala, the way her life has shaped the woman she's become. I came away from this feeling that I knew Vala better, and that's always the sign of a story that really gets under the skin of a character.
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From:_minxy_
Date:August 24th, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
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That is really amazing praise. Thank you so much!

Also, fabulous icon.
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From:oxoniensis
Date:August 24th, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
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Very much deserved praise - I just wish I were more articulate.

Also, fabulous icon.

Thank you!
From:stultiloquentia
Date:August 25th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I think this is the most satisfying, faceted characterization of Vala I've ever read. I love the theme of prodding at a bruise, walking after sex, nudging snappish old Daniel, but carefully, carefully. Unending has always weirded me out, because, stupid plot logic aside, they all come across as so boring and unimaginative and inept at coping. This is such balm. Of *course* Teal'c and Vala are the prank warriors. It's always been my experience that wise people are serene, but even wiser people are impish. Teal'c is smiling.

I also love Daniel and Teal'c looking at each other across the wobbly Statue of Liberty. That was a nice beat.
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From:_minxy_
Date:September 3rd, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
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Oh wow, thank you so much! I love some of these friendships that don't get a lot of beats on air (but *should*) Teal'c and Vala, Daniel and Teal'c. Such incredibly interesting individuals and friends.

Thank you so much for your feedback.
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From:hariboo
Date:September 26th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC)
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Just stunning. I love this fic so much. Beautiful work.
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From:_minxy_
Date:September 29th, 2008 05:19 am (UTC)
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Thank you! And thanks for that lovely rec over at stargateficrec. I appreciate it so much.
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From:jenrose1
Date:September 26th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
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Oh my. Thank you.
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From:_minxy_
Date:September 29th, 2008 05:19 am (UTC)
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Thank you.
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From:aurora_novarum
Date:January 7th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC)
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Oooh, I was looking for holdouttrout's original, and I never read your remake of it, minx!

“For those of our age and experience, Vala Mal Doran,” Teal’c says, probably without opening his eyes or twitching the hands held outstretched on his knees, “It is well to remember that memories are dangerous.”

So sad and haunting knowing what is ahead for Teal'c, burdened alone with the memories.

I love the perspective of Vala and her ideas of subtlety and especially colors. I think your variation of the Liberty Mold is my favorite part.
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