"Muscles, are you busy?"
Vala stood in the doorway of Teal'c's quarters, looking down in the mouth. In fact, she looked positively miserable, and it didn't suit her. Teal'c raised an eyebrow,
"I am not, Vala Mal Doran," he responded cautiously. "I have nowhere to be until tomorrow, when I go offworld for the High Council Meeting."
She came further into the room, twirling a strand of hair and looking disconsolate. Teal'c hid a smile. He was very fond of Vala Mal Doran, although he made sure not to show it too obviously. His fifty extra years with his colleagues weighed heavily sometimes; he knew them better than they knew themselves, or at least it felt that way.
Why are you unhappy?" He put the question lightly, hoping for a typical Vala response - 'oh, I'm so bored', or 'the commissary has run out of chocolate cake again.' - but it was not to be. Vala sat on his bed, and pulled her knees up to her chin.
"Teal'c," and the use of his name rather than her trademark nickname brought a frown to his face, "do you think I'm as much of a nuisance as I used to be?"
Ah. This was serious. He sat on the chair and watched her. She didn't meet his eyes.
" Vala Mal Doran, look at me." His voice was commanding; even so it was a reluctant gaze she turned on him.
"I do not remember your ever being a nuisance." His tone was gentle, and brought forth a tremulous smile.
"Daniel." She sniffed, involuntarily, then tried again. "Daniel doesn't want to spend time with me." Her eyes, always so expressive, showed her hurt.
"He called me a nuisance when I asked him to come and have coffee with me. He said he had a deadline for Sam, and couldn't take a break. Perhaps I pushed it a bit hard, but really, everyone has to eat."
She sniffed again, and fished around in her sleeve for a tissue.
"He said to go and pester one of the junior officers to come with me," indignantly, " a junior officer! While he fades away in his office and I get bored out my mind by inane chatter!"
She subsided, and tried a watery grin.
"You see, the thing is, Muscles, I've tried really hard. I haven't flirted with him in ages. I haven't teased him. I've tried to be a help with all the translations." She blew her nose. and looked blankly at the tissue in her hands for a few seconds.
"He just," she looked up again and grimaced "he just doesn't see me. He has this fixed picture in his head of who I am, and, well, I don't think I'm that person anymore. Huh! Sometimes I miss her"
Teal'c was glad to see the small flash of defiance emerge. A subdued Vala was hard to take. He wondered how Daniel Jackson could be so blind. Perhaps it was time to have some words with his friend, not to divulge secrets of the past he'd sworn to keep, but to suggest that perhaps the archaeologist have a good look around him here in the present. Yes, definitely time...
Teal'c realised he'd missed part of Vala's next sentence. She was speaking softly, almost in a whisper, and he had to lean forward to catch her words.
"... so I'm saying goodbye, for the moment. The Tok'ra have requested me specifically. I wasn't going to go, but I can be of more use there than here, and General Landry has okayed it"
Wait" Teal'c was confused, but Vala, caught up in her speech, didn't notice.
"I leave in a few minutes - they're sending an escort for me, and I have an IDC for when I wish to return."
Teal'c grasped the salient point.
"Then you do intend to return? " His dark eyes bored into hers, but she met them square on, steadfastly.
"Yes. I will come back, I've made my home here. I just think that I need a bit of distance. It's a confidence boost to be wanted," she sighed, " and Muscles, my confidence needs a little boosting right now. "
In one graceful movement she was off the bed and at the doorway, picking up a small bag he hadn't seen she had with her. He stood, and moved towards the door, partly blocking her way.
"Have you told Daniel Jackson of your intentions?"
Her shoulders slumped a little further. "No" she replied quietly, and the hurt was back in her eyes. "He's terribly busy. You'll tell him for me, won't you Muscles?"
"I will" and something more besides he thought darkly, and she reached up, and kissed him on the cheek. In a moment of rare abandon, he wrapped his arms around her, sweeping her up and hugging her hard. Vala, after a moment of surprise, hugged him back, her face buried in his chest.
Just then the sirens sounded for an offworld activation, and he released her. She smiled tremulously at him, and picked up the bag. "Tell Sam I expect to see that moon base up and running when I get back!"
"Vala Mal Doran, I would hope that you do not stay away that long."
From his frown she could see that he meant it. Flashing an approximation of her old, insouciant grin, she was gone, off to the gate room to meet the Tokra, and Teal'c, his peace of mind severely disturbed, was left to ponder on what to say to Daniel.
It would, he thought, be best if he didn't see him straightaway, and perhaps say something he might regret. Picking up his staff, he headed for the gym, deep in thought.