Disclaimer: Not mine, never was, just like to borrow characters and insert my own plot A/N: No Spoilers, except for general Season 10 for Vala. Unrequited Vala/Daniel. Set in some indeterminate time in the future. Also, Lizzie, you're awesome! Thanks a million.

"Balakesh! Green cardamom! Aromatic tana leaves!"

"Silken canvases! Embroidered scarves! Magnificent linens!"

"Exotic spices to liven up your dull cuisine! Hot spices guaranteed to set your dish on fire! Hulhab imported fresh from Tanseer. Get your spices right here! Right here!"

The clamor of voices, of shopkeepers shouting their prices, of customers bargaining them down, and of currency being exchanged could be heard from as far as two streets down. The noise came first, and then the sweet musky aroma, a smell of spice intermingled with flavored tobacco permeated the entire vicinity and suffused one's lungs. Beneath the low hanging roofs lining the narrow stonewalled street, a blinding explosion of color marked the entrance of Thalhan Soor, the largest, most famous marketplace in all of Qasrah. Although the blackened cobblestones and the large weathered stone blocks whispered tales of the market's legendary history, their dullness stood in harsh contrast with the vibrant reds and blues of the fine Asthorian rugs on display, and the reflection of the midday sun bouncing off countless precious and semiprecious metal trinkets.

She could barely contain her excitement. With a skip in her step, Vala Mal Doran found herself maneuvering through the overcrowded street, eyes wandering fervently over the sparkling crystal ornaments of one stall, to the lustrous trays crafted from a peculiar silver metal in another. Nowadays, she had tried to avoid bustling marketplaces, especially given her line of work. There was always a small, yet sufficiently substantial risk of some trader recognizing her, thus blowing her cover or worse. But this time around she had allowed herself a brief respite. She was just itching to lay her hands on the latest upgrades for her ship's hyperdrive, and possibly a new shield generator and some weaponry. It also wouldn't hurt to acquire a few valuable trinkets here and there. The band of smugglers she was assigned to intercept weren't arriving at the city until much later that evening anyway. So why not immerse herself in some materialistic pleasures until then?

"Old habits die hard" was her excuse, a typical Tau'ri saying summoned from her secret stash of proverbs. But she couldn't help also thinking of the Jakadian proverb "A timour's spots never fade", and "Man's nature cannot be untaught" which was either Falonite or Aryssian. But damned if she can remember. She's been to too many places, mingled with too many cultures. After all this time, confusing proverbs shouldn't really matter. Besides, she had surprisingly discovered that the wealth of human wisdom across countless planets seemed to sum up to a handful of shared, age-old truths. No wonder proverbs were pretty much the same everywhere …

Vala smiled to herself. It was all so refreshing, the current of people rushing past her, the urgency in their voices while appraising objects and bargaining for them. After all this time, she longed to join them in their bustle. Even though she had been told that the upgrades she sought lay in a rather obscure shop further down the street, Vala decided to slip into a rather peculiar, surprisingly empty store to her left, which had immediately captured her attention.

Her first reaction was to cough violently, as dust from the thick film coating the cluttered shelves fluttered around her and irritated her nostrils. She glanced around the seemingly empty shop and determined that even its manager was nowhere to be seen. Instantly, her gaze was drawn to a specific shelf in the far corner of the store.

Raising her hand gently, she picked up one of the captivating translucent orbs from the shelf. Upon her touch, the azure orb began to radiate a soft glow, pulsating from its center against her hand, and sending an inexplicable warmth coursing through the blood vessels at her fingertips throughout the rest of her body.

"What is it?" She said out loud, to no one in particular.

"It's happiness," said a weary, disembodied voice behind her.

Vala jumped so suddenly, she nearly shattered 'happiness' all over the un-swept floor.

Turning abruptly, she spotted the source of the voice. A disheveled old man stood about two steps behind her, leaning heavily against a wooden cane. It took her a couple of seconds to register that the man seemed to be completely blind, staring at a spot a little to her left while he addressed her.

"You sell happiness?"

"Well, of course."

"…. Right…. and this one?" Vala asked, her curiosity piqued as she picked up another orb from the shelf, which started pulsating with a red glow as soon as she touched it.

"This one is sorrow."

Vala decided right away that the man was obviously "wonko". Of the sea of questions flooding her mind, she bit down the first one, which was "How did you know what I just picked up when you obviously can't see?" and instead asked a second question:

"How do they work?"

"These orbs, young one, can store the essence of happiness or sorrow. If purchased, one can store either emotion in the orb as soon as he or she experiences them. Then, one can relive past feelings of happiness or sorrow upon touching the orb any time in the future."

The old man was either an incorrigible swindler or just plain crazy. Selling happiness? Jacek himself wouldn't have come up with a scheme so absurd. Deciding to play along, and admittedly a little intrigued, Vala asked the next, most logical question, ignoring how preposterous it sounded to her ears.

"How much does happiness cost?

The man hesitated before he answered, seeming to consider Vala and her question for a few seconds.

"For you, young one, a thousand dankas."

"Flattering as it may be, I'm not as young as you think. I'm old enough to know when people are trying to rip me off." But he wasn't. The price was relatively cheap for someone purporting to sell people an end to all their misery. "And sorrow?"

"Ten thousand."

"Seriously?" And, before she could stop herself, Vala blurted out: "Surely, sorrow cannot be more expensive than happiness?"

The bizarre old man's features contorted into a toothless grin.

"Young one, you suffer from the same misconception your race harbors about happiness and its worth. Many a young person has entered my store, seeking the same objects, asking the same questions – "

But Vala wasn't listening anymore. In fact, the roughened voice of the old man was temporarily eclipsed by hearty animated timbres from across the street. They froze her limbs on the spot.

There was no doubt about it: it was his voice. Could it really be him? Now, after so long? What was he doing on Qasrah?

Vala turned to glance across the street, and sure enough, in a store whose shelves were overflowing with old scrolls and manuscripts, stood Daniel Jackson, archeologist, linguist, and savior of the universe, leafing idly through a thick yellow-paged manuscript.

"…. The key lies in the duration people are capable of experiencing happiness and sorrow …"

Vala didn't know why her first instinct has her ducking behind a wooden pillar in the store, leaving the old man to ramble on by himself. Safely hidden from Daniel's sight, her breath quickened as she took the liberty of examining him from across the street.

"…Young ones, such as yourself, often delude themselves into thinking they can capture happiness for an eternity …"

Time had been kind to Daniel. He was slightly fuller, slightly greyer, but as far as she could tell, he still retained that air about him, the ardent zeal with which he pursued knowledge of the universe and its people. That alone would keep him young forever. She watched as a slight breeze tugged at his loose fitting clothes, watched fondly as he seemed to exist within a separate space, within a serene bubble insulated from the din and the coarseness of the market around him. Yet, she felt foolish watching him as she was. The circumstances under which she last saw him were shaky at best, but hiding like this was just silly. It shouldn't matter that she suddenly packed up and left, that she didn't even stop to say goodbye. But it wasn't the same after that final penultimate battle. She wasn't the same. It was as though part of her had died, and replaced by a vast hollowness. And, she had grown tired of the monotonous grey walls. As it was, her old habits, which never seamed to die, had kicked in. She needed to get away, to travel, to wake up in different bed every week, to live only for herself and for no one else.

She needed to feel numb again.

And she has been successful so far. Nevertheless, on seeing him there, the old pain broke free and trickled up to the surface. She longed to talk to Daniel again, longed to hear his voice. She should really creep up behind him, startle him just to gauge the surprise on his face, forcing his brow to wrinkle delightfully. She should proceed to tease him about his receding hairline, have him comment about the short chin-length hair she has been sporting in return, and share a hearty laugh with him about how old they've become. She wanted to tell him of her vast travels, of the people she's met and the amazing places she's seen. She wanted to see the proud glow in his face when she told him that she has maintained an honest profession ever since she had left, that she hasn't reverted to her old 'devious ways' as he had once called them. She wanted to hear him laugh at the ironic turn of fate when she told him that her job entailed intercepting and arresting smugglers, and restoring their stolen merchandise to the rightful owners.

More so, she wanted to ask him of Earth, the SGC, of Mitchell, of Sam and Teal'c, wanted to remember their time together fondly and reminisce about their conquests. Maybe they should have a drink together so that she can hear tales of Teal'c's leadership in Chulak, Sam's exploits in Atlantis and Mitchell's forays into the administrative world as a General. She wanted Daniel to gasp at her resourcefulness when she told him that she still scrounged for news of her teammates whenever she had the chance. After all, she had long since forgiven them for giving up on her …

"… In truth, happiness is only momentary, but sorrow can last a lifetime."

As Vala began to take the first step towards an unwitting Daniel, Daniel turned around so that she could see the enduring sparkle in his pale blue eyes, and the smile gracing his lips. For an infinitesimal second, she was filled with an inexplicable joy. He had finally seen her!

But, a new figure crept into view, blocking her line of sight. And just like that, the moment fizzled away, soon to be replaced by a sunken feeling that slithered into her stomach. No, Daniel wasn't looking at her at all. Daniel was smiling at tan, brown-haired woman, who, clad in a locally embroidered gown, had just joined him in the store.

"… As such, and since sorrow often outstrips happiness in its quantity and duration …"

Her inhibitions worsened as she saw Daniel snake an arm around the woman's waist, pulling her close, into the serenity of his impenetrable bubble. He was smiling like an infatuated teenager. Vala's mouth became dry. She watched as the woman pointed at something in Daniel's book, immediately enlisting an invigorated explanation from Daniel.

"… Sorrow costs more than happiness."

She finally understood. "Happiness is momentary, but sorrow could last a lifetime," wasn't that what the old man had said? She heard Daniel laugh heartily, a sound nearly foreign to her ears. And suddenly, the marketplace didn't fascinate her anymore. She didn't care about orbs, trinkets, or upgrades. As she glanced around and all she saw was the vulgar coarseness of the tradesmen. The crystals were duller, the metal lacked luster. And the smell. How could she not discern the pungent stench of sweat and dust overpowering the aroma of spices earlier? She felt sick.

Yes, Vala had wanted to ask Daniel many questions. But mostly, she had wondered about one thing: was he happy? One look at his radiant face, and she had her answer. Why bother him with unwanted specters from the past? Vala took a step back. But as she headed to leave, the old man startled her again.

"So," he said, "Will you be purchasing anything from this collection?"

It didn't take her long to decide that she wanted neither happiness nor sorrow. No, she'd rather live in the comfort of the 'in between' as she liked to call it. So, she kindly took her leave of the old man, and as discretely as possible, slipped back into the busy street. In a few seconds, the ever-elusive Vala Mal Doran had disappeared entirely within the crowd. It was as though she had never been there at all.

Out of the corner of his eye, Daniel Jackson imagined he saw a flutter of familiar obsidian hair, a glistening shadow that was there and then instantaneously gone. Under the keen impression that he was being watched, he set down the manuscript he had held between his hands, and quickly turned to face the street. His eyes scanned the stalls, the people and the tradesmen intently for any sign of his observer. But in the end, there was nothing to be seen. Nothing out of the ordinary. So, feeling slightly foolish, Daniel turned back to the woman beside him, smiled gently into her inquiring eyes, and planted a soft kiss upon her temple.

"Is everything alright?" she asked.

"Yes. I'm just glad you're here."

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