Characters: John/Cam, Vala
Word Count: 1,745
Notes: For colls, because it's her birthday and she's awesome.
Other notes: This is the first time I've written Vala as anything but a side character, so do forgive me, I beg you.
Earth, Vala knows, is an utterly ridiculous place full of complicated rules about stupid things. She doesn’t understand them but she does memorize them, trying to discern which can be pushed at and which are better off actually respected.
One of the rules she find most confusing is the policy that doesn’t allow certain relationships in the military. Of all the rules she’s learned on Earth, this is the one that really, honestly confounds her; what difference does it make who wants to put what bits where if they’re willing to serve their planet?
She’s not from Earth, though, and she’s not of their military, and she’s not interested in having sex with women, so she puts it out of her mind. There are more interesting things to worry her pretty little head about, like perhaps a certain scientist with intriguing glasses.
It doesn’t spring to Vala’s mind again until she sees Cameron smile when they get notice that Atlantis is sending their Colonel back through for a few meetings with the dreadful oversight committee. It confuses her for a split-second, because she’s never seen that particular smile on Cameron’s face. It’s happy, almost ridiculous, and it’s small and brief even though it makes her think that he wants to be shouting and swinging from rooftops. The smile comes back when John Sheppard steps through the Gate later that afternoon, tired and worn and looking like he needs nothing so much as a good nap.
She sees him return Cameron’s look, though, tiny and peaceful and beautiful, and if she’d gotten a look like that from any man upon her return through the Gate she’d have been across the room and in their arms in a heartbeat.
But then Vala recalls the law of the land, that she might see but she can neither ask nor tell, and there’s something close to despair that flashes through her for a split-second. She makes her way to Daniel’s office and drapes herself across his couch. “I don’t understand, darling,” she says helplessly, and then remembers that she’s not to tell him, and the feeling comes back.
Daniel looks up from his… whatever he’s doing, involving far too many books that don’t look interesting at all. “Everything okay?”
“No,” she replies despairingly. “But I suppose that’s normal for them.”
Daniel’s brow creases and he actually sits back from his books. “What’s normal for who?”
Vala shakes her head. “Earth is so ridiculously backwards,” she tells him instead. Daniel’s facial expression doesn’t change. “Your laws and ridiculous moral codes. Why should it matter?”
And then something must click, because Daniel’s face clears and his expression softens. “Hey. Let’s go grab a burger.”
And she’s not exactly in the mood for food, but she can tell the tone of voice that says let’s talk somewhere else, and maybe she’ll get an answer.
Except she doesn’t, not really, because she sits and silently sips her milkshake while Daniel tries to explain UCMJ and this article and that clause and it doesn’t clarify anything at all.
“Why does it matter?” she tries to ask. “Daniel, darling, have you seen them?” One hand flutters in the air, trying to articulate around the words she refuses to let spill from her lips. “They’re in love,” she continues more softly. “They’re in love, and they’re not allowed to be. It’s – sickening, Daniel.”
Daniel is quiet for a long moment. “I know,” he finally agrees. “It really is, when you think about it.”
And the worst part, really, is that it’s a problem that can’t be fixed with any of Vala’s usual solutions. Nor her more unconventional ones, she realizes after some thought. No, this is a problem that she can’t solve at all.
But maybe it’s one she can lighten.
“Let’s get a drink,” she says to Cameron later that week, a few days after John left for Atlantis again. “I’ve got a question for you.”
His eyes do a comical sort of widening and narrowing dance as he looks over his shoulder at Daniel. “Um. Now?”
“Yes,” she says brightly, and Daniel barely even notices as she drags Cameron to the surface.
They pass the first few bars, the ones they normally go to, and Cameron throws increasingly questioning looks in her direction as she tells him to keep driving, but she doesn’t want to have this particular conversation anywhere near someone who might potentially have the power to wreck anyone’s life. Cameron is hers, fiercely and deeply hers in a way that screams family, brother, safety, and that means that his John is hers, too. She won’t let this come back to hurt either of them, not if she can help it.
“You love him,” Vala says when they’re settled into a booth in the back of the bar. Cameron just stares at her, eyes wide and surprised for a few seconds before he grabs the neck of his beer bottle and tilts it back, taking a few long pulls. When he sets the bottle down, it’s with a little more force than is strictly necessary, and his face is grim.
“And he loves you,” Vala adds, wondering why this conversation is making him look so pained, so vulnerable.
“Yeah,” he finally grinds out. “What do you want?”
Vala’s mind flashes through a torrent of emotions more quickly than she thought might be possible – confusion, surprise, anger, sadness. “Cameron,” she tries, voice gentle, but he refuses to meet her eyes. She slides her hand across the table and lays in on top of his where it’s clenched next to the beer bottle. “Cameron, please look at me.”
His eyes snap to her face, and she doesn’t know what it is that he sees there, but his shoulders relax a little and his face loses a bit of the tension she saw rise. He lets out a breath. “Sorry,” he says finally, looking at a point somewhere over her shoulder. “That wasn’t fair to you.”
“To me?” Vala wants to laugh, but that’s hardly appropriate. “That’s the reaction of someone who’s had to make that offer before, darling. I’d say that my feelings aren’t the ones we should be worrying about right now.”
“People are assholes,” Cameron responds, and that’s all he’ll say on the subject.
Vala sighs and tells him what she wants to do, how she thinks she can help, and he doesn’t look offended but he doesn’t look wild about the plan, so she pats his cheek as she stands. “Think about it,” she suggests. “I know you don’t think that much of me at times, darling, but this…” She lets out a breath. “This is something that I want to do for you, if you’ll let me.”
Neither of them really says much on the ride back to the Mountain, and Cameron doesn’t say anything to her for the rest of the day, but in the morning he presses a small thumb drive into her hand and a kiss to her temple.
“Thank you,” he says quietly, and he means it.
Vala sets to work, reading what Cameron has written and rewriting it in her own flamboyant style before sending it off to Atlantis. To the SGC, the email will look like her own personal brand of flirtation, love letters to a scientist she’d developed a friendship with when they’d briefly met the year before. On the other side of the wormhole, though, Janie will simply print out the letters and bring them to John. He will go through the same process on the other side, and he and Cameron will be able to talk a little more freely, to have communication that won’t get them thrown in jail just for existing.
It’s not much, but it’s what she can think to do, and every time Cameron gives her a new letter to type and another kiss to the forehead, he seems a bit lighter, like this is actually helping.
It goes on for much, much longer than Vala ever anticipated it would. She didn’t set the system up with an expiration date in mind, and it’s not something that she minds doing. The look on John’s face when he’d come home the first time after she’d helped set the system up is something she treasures now, four and a half years later, because there’s still stress and worry and weight in his face but there’s something else, too, something that makes everything feel better, and he walks straight up to Vala and presses a kiss to her temple, just as Cameron has taken to doing. It makes her smile, and he smiles back, and Vala vows to keep it up for as long as she can.
Cameron appears in her office early one Monday, smiling from ear to ear, and when she holds her hand out for the thumb drive she’s expecting he gives her a printout instead. Vala frowns but reads it, slowly putting it down on the table and looking up into the brilliant smile on Cameron’s face. “This is real?”
“It’s real,” he confirms.
Cameron laughs, the great whooping laugh that splits his face in two, and grabs her from her chair, spinning her in the air. “Really, really real,” he promises, and she laughs along with him and returns the hug she knows he’s wishing he could give to someone else right now. She doesn’t mind.
It’s a week before they can arrange to get John home, and when the wormhole opens he steps through, eyes searching for Vala, who has greeted him each time he’s come back for nearly five years. His brow creases when he finds her, standing behind the paneled glass of the control room, but she smiles and points to the sliding bulkhead doors where Cameron is standing, a soft smile on his face.
She can’t hear them, not from here, and neither can anyone else; that’s sort of the point of it. She can see the smile appear on John’s face, though, can imagine the sound of his laughter, and she can finally, finally watch Cameron open his arms and wrap them around John’s lanky frame in front of God and Landry and everyone.
She looks away then, a smile of her own playing across her lips. She’s been privy to enough of their life, she thinks, relaying their relationship back and forth under the radar for so long. She can let them have this moment for themselves.
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