Spoilers: Everything up to Beachhead S9
Summary: He knows things could have played out better, guilt doesn't change anything but the truth is important. Daniel POV, with some possible D/V leanings in there.
A/N: Betaread by the wonderful Fanwoman :D
It seems like it's always on a sandy desert planet that this happens. In among the dusty environs, the natives mill around unsure of what to do, who to believe. There is him, the man of words who seeks to teach them the meaning of wisdom, rather than the others who inevitably come, who preach the wonders of yet more false gods. What's a few hours worship a day for the quick fix of enlightenment and ascension? It might be reasonable if it were true. They're god-like, but they do not deserve the blind faith. They are lying to all of them, and most people are oh so happy to lap it up and be herded to the Ori's purpose, whatever that may ultimately be.
But he hadn't expected this prior. She was different, the cloak showing a distinctly female form; and it is not until she lifts the hood that he finds himself speechless. There is the same pale skin, with light blue veins standing out against the pallor of her face. Her once black hair is streaked with gray and white, and her eyes are glossed over, a translucent white that lacks the vitality they should show. It stands there, staff in hand, wind blowing the long lank hair behind, occasionally strands whip back around like a storm is brewing. This motion is all that alludes to any energy it might have, for there should be no wind. This is just for drama, a show of power over the elements. It frightens the people enough, but he sees further.
Somewhere, deep down, Vala is still in there. And it is as he thinks this that he is slammed back with enough force to wind him. She stalks forward, oddly angry for a prior, and he smiles through the pain. Maybe they couldn't take all of her away after all, and it's not just his imagination. Standing over him she grins, a grotesque display, like something else is creating the expression – something supernatural seeking to control her body and failing subtly. But she does grin; priors don't do that. It would be a comfort, except she's scaring him now – those eyes, so lacking anything, suddenly seem to flare up with a dark passion, and she utters three words before she swings her staff down. He can feel the displacement of the air and the tension of the situation; he waits for the strike, for the blossoming of pain or the tithe of some otherworldy magic unleashed. It never hits him.
He wakes up in a sweat - that nightmare, again. He knows it's absurd, that the idea they could ever make her a prior is more than a little ridiculous. They'd sooner kill her, or make an example another way. But in his dream, she is an example for him, of how he failed her, that for once he should have listened, should have given her some benefit of the doubt, some glimmer of recognition that she wasn't useless. She'd saved them all, and he'd failed her in the same instant.
He was flippant in a way he'd never wanted to be with a woman. It was just that she was Vala. She was annoying and exasperating, and all reason and normality flew out the window when he was around. He'd never seen past her facade, even if he'd known it must exist. He'd thrown her out of his room, expecting nothing better from her but lies. She could have been telling the truth, and he hadn't cared. As it had turned out, she did care about someone other than herself, and that's what had gotten her stranded in another galaxy. All he had to do was have a little faith in her, but he'd lost patience long before he'd seen that it was possible she was more than she let on.
The three words haunt him, not just the thought but the vindication she declares them with. They are as true as the teachings of Ori to the woman in his dream, said in the same manner of the mantra they have - Hallowed are the Ori . There is no mistake to her belief in either.
And they are never the same three words. It's strange how the same sentiment can come in so many forms. Every time it's different. You betrayed me; you abandoned me; feel my pain; share this suffering; I blame you; you are responsible; you deserve this...
Maybe he does, maybe that's why he keeps on reliving this disturbing fantasy; his own mind knows better than to let him off the hook. The words are so different from what he wishes she could say to him. Three words free of innuendo or any of the other usual emotions she displays. Three words that speak nothing but the truth as he sees it, through his vision of her. It's oddly appropriate she appears as a Prior, opposing his beliefs, revealing the 'truth'. It’s also ironic, a Prior is speaking the truth rather than lies, and he finds the truth hurts. She won't even say 'I forgive you', nevermind anything more than that. Maybe he’d deserve such words of absolution if he hadn’t allowed himself to be too willingly deceived by her selfishness and biased by her perpetual bluffing to see she had a heart – that she wanted to be more than she presented if only people could see past it. He'd simply been too eager to believe otherwise, because sometimes it's so much easier to look no further than what you are shown.