|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Challenge, Friendship, Humor, Hurt/Comfort|
Each player plays his part (with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare).
Written for the SG1 friendathon on livejournal.
Thanks to Denny and Devra for the beta!
Title: Act III at the Dancing Leo
Word count: about 4200
Rating/Warning: PG13 for mild violence, mild language
Spoilers: set in season nine, no specific spoilers
Notes: beta thanks to and
Prompt: Daniel, Vala, Cloak and Dagger for
Act III at the Dancing Leo
Elmano the bartender glared at the well-dressed stranger taking up space at the end of the bar and knew this quiet man... Danel... Daneel... something like that... would not make him rich. Danel carried himself like a warrior, maybe a mercenary. He'd come into the bar and immediately checked the layout for possible threats, the way a soldier would. Yet he treated everyone politely, almost cordially, in a soft-spoken way that didn't fit with most mercenaries Elmano knew. The man had come in every night for the last four days; he'd ordered a semmand, taken his time drinking it, and watched. Oh, he tried not to show it, but he was waiting for someone. The bartender couldn't figure it out. Danel didn't look stupid enough to be a merchant trader, but he didn't look arrogant enough to be a bounty hunter. He spoke the language so he wasn't a tourist, though, Elmano begrudgingly admitted that not many tourists wandered in to the Dancing Leo.
His establishment attracted a well-paying, hard-drinking clientele who wanted privacy... and a few other amenities Elmano was more than willing to supply--at a price. Because his products were good quality and his prices were fair, and because he escaped the notice of the local authorities, Elmano did a good business. “You,” he called. “Want anything to eat?”
Danel looked up. “Are you trying to pawn those disgusting fish things off on me again?”
“Bread.” Elmano grabbed a bowl of rolls and plunked it down. “Soup?”
“Is it edible?”
“Bah. Everything I make is edible.” He bustled away to fill the order.
Daniel stood at the bar nursing a drink that tasted something like whiskey and had the same kick. The amber liquid coated the glass as he stared into its depths. He tried not to look at the door behind him; he tried to ignore the twitching between his shoulder blades that said he was being watched, that he was in danger.
Today had to be the day of the meeting, in this place at an unspecified time. It was the “unspecified” thing that made Daniel nervous, that and the fact that he had his back to the door. He'd taken a position at the end of the bar so that he could, peripherally and discretely, see most of the people in the bar, but he wasn't situated to see who came in and out.
As Danel waited for his soup, he nibbled on a crusty roll and scanned the almost-filled tables. It was a workday, and the crowd combined a little business and a little pleasure, dickering over business deals and flirting with Elmano's girls. They were well on their way to a rowdy evening and a hangover the next day. He jumped as a steaming bowl of something slid under his nose.
“Eat it. You don't drink enough to make me any money.”
Daniel pulled out two small coins. “Will this help?”
“Centils? Bah.” Elmano pocketed the coins and went to wait on his other customers.
Daniel was almost ready to call it a night when he heard the voice he'd been waiting for:
“Get your hands off me.”
“Hands off you? Miss Mal Doran, get your teeth off me and we'll call it even.” Daniel also recognized the other voice; it was Aris Boch. “I'll need to get my shots updated after handling you, you vixen.”
Daniel turned. Despite the fact that the blood pounded in his ears, he remained calm. “It's about time you got here with my property.”
Boch grinned. “Well lookee who I found; it's the infamous Doctor Daniel Jackson. Sorry I couldn't get here sooner. It took me a while to catch her, and then I had to stop for medical attention.” He held out an arm showing Daniel the bite mark. “You didn't tell me the woman would be so much trouble.”
“I thought if I told you how much trouble she was, you wouldn't take the job.”
“I'll take any job as long as it pays well.” Boch hauled on the chain in his hand, making “the woman” stumble. “Although I might change my mind after this. She not only bites, she kicks. I'd show you the bruise but it's somewhere... personal.”
“That's a relief,” Daniel muttered.
“Obviously, I wasn't nearly enough trouble or I wouldn't be here. And I should have kicked you much harder.” Vala held up her hands and shook them. “You can take these off me now.”
Boch laughed. “I don't think so.”
“She's damaged. I don't know if I want to pay for damaged goods. I want my property returned in workable condition. Did you hit her?” Daniel looked her up and down. A bruise covered Vala's cheek, and her eye was swollen almost shut. A trickle of blood oozed from the corner of the eye. Her dress was dirty and ripped.
“Only a couple of times,” Boch said, “to shut her up.”
“Yes, I understand that.” Daniel lifted the chin and examined her carefully. “She does talk too much.”
“She still 'works,' though. All her limbs in order. Besides, if you don't want her, I'm sure I can find a buyer to take her off your hands. She's a pretty thing—when she's not biting.”
“I'll take her.” The man who approached them wore an outfit similar to Daniel's: leather pants and brown shirt, but his coat had seen better days. “Cam Mitchell: bounty hunter.” He stuck out his hand. “You might have heard of me.”
“No,” Boch answered, ignoring the hand, “I don't hear about the failures, just the competition.”
“Failures? I'm so good at my job you've never heard--”
“I didn't say she was for sale,” Daniel interrupted. “I'm the one that paid--”
“She is most certainly not for sale, to you or anyone else.” Vala eyed the three men hatefully. “I. Am. Not. For. Sale.”
“Sure you are, sweetie,” Mitchell said with a leer. He ran a hand down her arm and then a finger up her chest, caressing the skin between her breasts. “It's not a matter of 'if,' it's a matter of when... and how much. So, how much?”
“Get your hands off her,” Daniel insisted. “Nobody touches her without my say so.”
Boch stepped between them. “Boys, boys. Take it easy. I think we should discuss this like civilized human beings.”
Elmano watched the three men haggle over price. The Vala woman, waiting her chance, stepped back and back again. A small crowd of inebriated patrons cheered as the dickering continued. The Mitchell fella said he “had a resale market” for her, as did Elmano himself if it came to that. Unfortunately, the price was a bit steep. As feisty as she was, she'd be too much trouble anyway. Danel's comeback was, “I've already contracted for her,” and Boch just wanted to make a profit, which fit what Elmano knew about Aris Boch. When the woman was at the edge of the crowd, Elmano figured it was time for the sideshow to wrap up. Nobody was ordering any drinks. “Gents, I think you'll find your merchandise is on its way out the door.”
“Son of a bitch.” Daniel spun to face her. “I've had enough of this. You will not run away from me again, you damn whore.”
At his words, Vala froze.
Daniel reached for the top of his boot. Pulling out a small pistol he turned and fired in one precise, fluid movement. The crowd gasped as Vala, her eyes wide and her mouth in a startled “oh,” teetered and fell. The whole saloon stilled; the sound the body made when she hit the floor echoed and faded in the silence.
“Well,” Mitchell said as he sauntered over to the body a minute later, “that was a waste.” He kicked the face-down corpse.
“I had a contract for her; she's mine.” Daniel held the gun in a white-knuckled grip. “I don't like my property wandering away, and I made sure she won't do it again. This is the last time.” He holstered the gun. “As you pointed out, Boch, she is too much trouble, trouble I am now finished with. I will not..." Daniel inhaled then exhaled slowly "...will not let her run away from me again.”
Mitchell shrugged as he poked at the body with his foot. “Guess not.” A small stain of blood mingled with layers of dirt, both on the dress and on the floor. Vala's long black hair covered her face, and her chained hands, splayed on the floor in supplication, reached over her head.
“I still haven't been paid.” Boch leaned against the bar, ignoring the body.
“You damaged my property,” Daniel countered.
“Not as much as you did,” Boch picked up the bowl of soup and sniffed it before pushing it away. “You wanted me to bring her here; you didn't say anything about what condition you wanted her in—just alive, which she was when I brought her in here. Without even a thank you, I might add.”
Daniel crossed his arms, considering, chewing on his lower lip. “I'm not paying full price for her.” He pulled a pouch out of his jacket and took out a package, which he handed to Boch. Boch jiggled the package once and put it in his pocket without looking at it.
Then he snapped his fingers and held out his hand. “Carrying charges,” he said, “along with damages for personal injury. Not centils,” he added, “finaris.”
Reluctantly, Daniel dropped two coins into the outstretched palm, then three, then four. At ten, Boch seemed satisfied; he jiggled the coins as he had the package before he slipped them in another pocket. “I have other jobs waiting for me, gentlemen, so I'll be going. Call me if you need my services again... but only if the job is something safer... like explosives.”
Elmano looked around. The crowd, once boisterous, had thinned considerably. A shooting was sure to attract the authorities eventually, even in this out-of-the-way place, and many of his regulars wouldn't want that kind of attention. But tomorrow Elmano thought, he'd have a full house as people came back to drink and hash out events. He was disappointed in Danel for some strange reason. He hadn't seemed the type somehow, not the type to kill someone. But you never knew about people. He was a damn good shot, that was certain. Maybe he was a mercenary after all. He must have had a history with that woman to just shoot her, poor thing. Elmano shook his head; he was an fool, getting soft in his old age. He filled a pint from behind the bar. “Drink or go,” he told the crowd, looking pointedly at the three dealers in human flesh.
Danel took a coin, a finari, and slid it across the bar. “Sorry about the mess,” he said.
Elmano grunted. “Take the mess with you,” he said. “It's bad for business.”
“Mitchell,” Danel held up two more coins to the man still standing beside the body and rubbed them together. “Carry it out for me?”
Mitchell shrugged again. “Yeah, why not? Fun's over here for the night.” He grabbed the body in a fireman's carry. “Where you want it?”
“I'll show you,” Danel said.
Boch fell into step behind them. “If I'd known you had that much money, I would have asked for more.”
“You got what you came for,” Danel told him.
“Yes, I guess I did,” Boch admitted. “You did too.”
“That I did.”
Elmano almost missed it, the little glance that passed between the three men. No one else had seen it, either being busy with a drink or on their way out the door ahead of trouble. So that's the way it was. He was relieved. He hadn't wanted to believe Danel... he couldn't think of the last name... would kill in cold blood. Good play actors, all of them, with their performance. They'd even fooled him for a few minutes. He'd have to re-think Aris Boch, though. But the Danel fellow, that was good to know. “Soft in the head,” he muttered to himself and went to clean the bar.
“Well?” Vala rubbed at the blood stain on her dress. She and Daniel sat on the floor of the Al'kesh, the steady hum of the engines seeping through the floor.
“Will you hold still?” Daniel pressed the ice pack against her cheek.
“Did you give Aris the roshna?”
“Aris?” Daniel asked. “Since when are you two on a first-name basis?”
“Since we spent four days together in a beat up old cargo ship. Sorry about the wait, by the way. We couldn't get here any sooner.”
“I don't see how can you call him by his first name when he hit you.”
“He hit me because I told him to,” she said. “It had to look real, Daniel, otherwise the deception wouldn't work. What kind of hostage would I have been if I didn't try to escape?”
“I wanted to clock him,” Cam said, coming in with a heated MRE and passing it to Vala. “Teal'c's says we'll be home in two days, by the way, and he wants you to come up front and say 'hi' when you're ready.”
“Clock? Isn't that a device for keeping time? Why would you 'clock' him?”
“It's a euphemism for hit or punch,” Daniel explained.
“Oh. That's really very sweet of you, Cameron. But you don't need to rescue the Damsel in Distress, because I wasn't in distress. I had the situation completely under control. By the way, I almost 'clocked' you when ran your finger up my decolletage.”
Vala looked down at her breasts.
“Ah.” Mitchell cleared his throat. “Just part of the act, ma'am, just part of the act.”
“Vala, will you please keep the ice pack on your face?” Daniel gently pushed it back into position. “So did you really bite him? Boch?”
She held the ice pack in place with one hand and her fork with the other. “He yelled a lot louder when I bit him than I did when he hit me,” she said. “And I can't eat and hold this thing at the same time.” She put down the ice pack to pick up her meal. “I'm starving. Aris is a very nice person but he can't cook.”
“And did you really, uh...” Daniel waved his hands vaguely in the direction of his midsection, “... in the uh... private parts?”
“How shy you are, Daniel. But no, he made that up. Besides, I save that kind of fighting for you.” She gave him a little wink.
Mitchell quirked an eyebrow. “That kind of fighting? Did you hit Jackson where it hurts? I don't remember reading that in any mission report.”
Vala nodded. “On the Prometheus. I--”
“It's not important,” Daniel said hastily. “Really. Not important.”
Vala leaned over to Cam and whispered. “I'll tell you later.”
“So,” Daniel said, changing the subject, “Boch got his roshna and ten finari we hadn't budgeted. What did we get?”
“Finari?” Cam asked.
“Those coins. They're worth about a hundred dollars apiece.
“Ouch! Landry's not going to like that.”
“I didn't know what else to do.” Daniel said. “I didn't want to make a scene—more than we already had, and Boch was pretty insistent. If I hadn't given him the money--”
“Getting back to the question...” Vala dripped cold water from her ice pack on Daniel's lap as she grabbed it, making him swear.
“That's cold, dammit! Boch's right. You really are more trouble than you're worth.”
She ignored him. “...we have intel. Is that the right word?”
“That's the word,” Cam assured her. “What did you find out?”
“I found out that the little planet we just visited is about to be targeted for a Goa'uld attack.”
“Which Goa'uld?” Cam asked. “There aren't that many of the megalomaniacs left out there, at least none with a power base capable of an attack."
Daniel stood, looking toward the front of the ship and Teal'c. “I should tell Elmano. I wonder if I can get a message to him?”
“The bartender,” Cam answered. “Seems like a nice guy. Look, Jackson, we can't go back there right now. We'll get our intel,” he grinned at Vala, “back to the SGC and then we'll figure out what to do next. He wouldn't believe you anyway, would he? He thinks you killed somebody. If you come waltzing in there with some cockamamie story about a Goa'uld invasion, he'd throw you out on your ass.”
Daniel sighed. “I suppose so but I don't want to leave him unprotected.”
“More importantly, we also found out that the Lucian alliance is still looking for me,” Vala continued. “According to Aris, they've offered a sizable bounty for me, dead or alive. It was all I could do to keep him from turning me over to the Alliance instead of turning me over to you.”
“What did you do to persuade him?” Daniel asked.
“I did the same thing you did when you first met him; I batted my eyelashes at him.”
“I never.... Who told you I batted my eyelashes at Aris Boch?”
“You batted your eyelashes at Aris Boch?” Cam asked. “Boy, you really leave a lot of stuff out of your mission reports.”
“Your General O'Neill told me after the briefing that if I got into trouble, I should charm the bounty hunter the same way you did.” Vala smiled at Daniel's blushing face. “I always listen to good advice from my elders.”
Cam put a stop to the antics. “Well, we should have taken care of the problem with the Lucian Alliance, at least, with our performance. It won't take too long for word to get around that Vala Mal Doran, thief, liar, and master manipulator, was killed at the Dancing Leo.”
“Not if no one claims the bounty,” Vala said.
“And Vala Mal Doran, member of SG-1, is still alive and well,” Daniel said. “If someone remembers the name Daniel Jackson, they'll put two and two together and figure out that the whole thing was a hoax.”
“Yeah, maybe. I wish Boch hadn't said your name out loud. Not much we can do about it, though,” Cam said as he stood. “Now, if we've got everything under control, I'm going up front to bring Teal'c up to speed on what's happened, and then I'm going to get out of these damn leather pants.”
“I like those leather pants,” Vala called after him. “A lot.”
“Undercover rawhide is so not my style,” Cam called back with a wave over his shoulder.
“So,” Vala asked Daniel when the two of them were alone, “did you want to 'clock' Aris Boch as well?”
“No.” Daniel settled himself on the floor beside her, leaning against a packing crate. He picked up the MRE and ate the last two skittles on the tray. “No, I can't say as I did.”
“You didn't want to come to my rescue?”
“You didn't need rescuing, remember? Not a damsel in distress.”
“I know, but it would be nice to know that you at least thought about it.”
“I also got some sage advice before we left on this mission.”
“Really. General O'Neill told me to stay out of your way and let you do your thing. He said to trust you, which coming from Jack is actually a big concession.”
“Really?” Vala repeated, a small smile on her lips.
“Really,” Daniel assured her.
“He's a very smart man, isn't he, this General O'Neill?”
“So he keeps telling me. Over and over again.”
“I think I like him.”
“I'll make sure he knows,” Daniel said. “By the way, you never did say what Goa'uld is planning the attack.”
“I didn't get a name, only the sense that it isn't one of the big players.”
“Most of the big players are gone, out of the picture.” Daniel drummed his fingers on the floor. “Could it be Ba'al? Or Yu? Although it doesn't seem like something Yu would do.”
With indignation, Vala said, “Of course it doesn't seem like something I would do.”
“I didn't mean.... Not 'you' you, Lord Yu.”
“Oh. Well.” She settled herself close to Daniel. “I don't think so. My informant made it sound like an up-and-coming bad guy, somebody trying to gather together the leftovers—armies and territories--from other system lords.”
“Does Boch know who it is?”
“If he knows, he's not saying. He might suspect, but I don't think he knows for sure. He would have told me.”
“Because you batted your eyelashes at him,” Daniel snapped.
Vala rested her head on Daniel's shoulder. “Because he's my friend. And yours. If he finds out anything else, he'll let us know.”
“Yeah. Fine.” Daniel let himself relax. “You okay?”
He peered at the tumble of black hair falling over a purple-green bruise. “I'll take that as a yes.” He thought about the gruff barkeep who'd plied him with soup, and the bounty hunter who at one time would have sold him for a day's rations.
“You're keeping me awake,” Vala muttered, “because you're thinking too much.”
“I'll just stop then, shall I?”
“Yes. Good. Stop. So I can get some sleep.”
She shifted until she was able to wrap her arm around his. “I'm not that person anymore, you know,” she said in a quiet voice Daniel almost didn't hear.
“That person that Cam described, the thief, liar, and manipulator. I'm not her anymore. She really is dead.”
“Good. I mean I can still do all those things, but it's not the same--”
Daniel squeezed her arm. “I know. Now go back to sleep.”
“Now that we've bonded like this, I promise when we fight not to hit you 'where it hurts' again.”
“Don't make promises you can't keep, Vala.”
She snorted. “Alright. I'll try not to hit you in there again.”
“I'd be happy if you wouldn't tell Mitchell about the first time it happened.” He crossed his legs, trying not to remember the pain that made him walk funny for a week.
“Can't make promises I can't keep.” She gave a sleepy laugh. They sat together in the quiet of the ship, her head on his shoulder, until she said, “You're still thinking too hard.”
He shrugged. “I'm thinking we need to help those people.”
“We can't help everyone, you know.”
“I know. It doesn't stop me from wanting to try.”
“And we will try,” Vala said, sitting up. “We will.”
Daniel smiled at her and pushed her head down so it rested on his shoulder. “I know we will, we do, but sometimes it all seems... futile. It just goes on and on: the Goa'uld, the Trust, the Ori. It's always something. ”
“It's only act three,” Vala reminded him.
“What do you mean, 'act three'?”
“In a play... act three is where all the good stuff happens.”
"Act three is usually where people die.”
“Or fall in love, or find the map to the treasure, or make new friends; that's act three as well.”
“I suppose.” Daniel sighed. “It would be nice if we eventually got to act five.”
“What happens in act five?”
“In act five, people change the world and defeat the bad guys. Sometimes they even live happily ever after.”
“Ah,” Vala said. “We'll get there eventually.”
Elmano closed for the night and locked the door. He scrubbed the floors, washed the pots, and wiped the worst of the grime off the tables. He started a new batch of bread, setting the covered dough aside for morning. A lot of years he'd been a bartender, enough years to know when there was trouble coming. He thought of his play actors and wondered what kind of trouble it would be.