Disclaimer: Do not own. The characters and mythology are not mine. Just borrowing, I promise.

Spoilers: Since I can't wait for the new movies to come out, this is my take on what should happen in the upcoming movie "The Ark of Truth". Definitely deviates from the spoilers for the movie, but everything up to Unending and spoilers about the movie are fair game in this story.

Summary: My take on the "The Ark of Truth". SG-1 heads into the Ori galaxy to retrieve a device that could very well end the Ori invasion. Vala centric, definitely some Daniel/Vala tension, rest of team play a large role (perhaps even Adria if I feel up to it). Expect lots of angst, a surprise appearance by a well-loved character, and perhaps some action as well.

Special thanks to Lizzie: What can I say? You're just wonderful! Thanks for not letting my plots run amuck. Thanks for being my sounding-board, and my tether to reality!

Darkness knows not the passage of time.

It is ignorant of the divisions that mark it, of days, weeks, even months. It has only heard whispers of cyclical seasons, rumors of summers, winters, and springs. So it concerns itself with more tangible matters, extends its icy tendrils until they suffocate every corner of her cell, obliterate every semblance of color, form, of normalcy.

Darkness wallows in its own forgetfulness, until knowledge of what is day and what is night crumbles into granules of a lost memory, only to be whisked away by a light breeze. There are no hours, no minutes, just continuity. Everything is connected: neither object nor individual can escape the shadows seeping towards them, but rather, fuse together, become one with the dark. Even she has to endure the shadows, as they tug at her limbs, coaxing her to surrender to their timelessness, their forgetfulness.

But, resting her head against the cold stone floor, beside her only miserable possession, Vala closes her eyes, and listens. She listens to a sound that has become indistinguishable from her own heartbeat. It is the ticking of the watch upon the cold ground, as it marks Earth hours with intricate precision, as it slices through the stifling silence.

Darkness has honed her senses, sharpened her eyesight so that she could now distinguish between all degrees of gray. She has learnt to see the vague outlines of the hour and minute hands, learnt to read the time in the absence of light. She painfully raises herself to her elbows, and squints her eyes at the delicate hands: it is 1406 hours Earth time.

More precisely, it is 1406 hours Colorado Springs time. She treasures that morsel of knowledge, lets her head fall back to rest on the ground, closes her eyes and smiles silently to herself.

1406 Hours Colorado Springs Time: Time perhaps for the team to grab a late lunch in the commissary. Unless they are currently offworld, of course. Otherwise, it would be Mitchell's turn to extract Sam and Daniel out of their respective labs, and she can see him scolding them and making them promise to pay more attention to their mundane human needs. If today were meatloaf day, she can see Teal'c helping himself to seconds, and Sam making a dash for the last of the blue jello. She can vividly see their grinning faces as they sit around their habitual table, and wonders whether, at some point, they take a moment to speculate on what's become of her. But mostly, she wonders what they are talking about, and what is making Daniel's nose wrinkle with unbridled laughter. …

But a protesting growl emanating from her stomach reminds her that thinking about food is probably not the brightest of ideas given her current circumstances. She should know by now that expectations are best kept at their barest minimum. She should be thankful that her guards seem to have forgotten to pester her today. But, against her better judgment, she is hopeful. Perhaps her guards will remember to feed her this time?

Darkness is volatile, restless, trickling like black ink from one corner to the other, dispersing, coalescing, and dispersing once more. It is as volatile as the frequency of her meals, the temperament of her guards, her daily dosage of 'conditioning' … Only the ticking of the watch remains certain, unwavering, eternal. It grounds her, this sole point of reference, this last shred of sanity. She sighs loudly as she opens her eyes to stare at the blank stone walls of her prison. She considers getting up, considers attempting to shake off the remnants of this morning's conditioning session that has left a lingering tremor in her limbs, and a crushing ache in her lower back. Morning, at least according to her rough calculations, her calibration of the watch's time with the changing shifts of her guards. Even now, she cannot be sure. So instead, she listens.

1630 Hours Colorado Springs Time: Teal'c and Mitchell must be entertaining themselves with a new round of their weekly sparring sessions, and Daniel must be toiling away in his office, deciphering his latest acquisition of old rocks and tomes that may, or may not hold the key to saving the entire universe. She can see Daniel's face tense with concentration, his glasses sliding down to balance precariously on the tip of his nose, his hand scribbling furiously, excitedly on the scrap of paper at his disposal. Maybe Sam will drop by with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. At which point Daniel will embark on a rather loquacious description of his most recent find, his eyes betraying a complete immersion in the subject at hand. She wishes she could discover what fuels the latest fire in his eyes, what new mystery teeters on the verge of being unraveled by the relentless Daniel of the Tau'ri.

She often wonders how she has become so obsessed with time, when it had become her daily ritual to listen to primitive, albeit elaborately fashioned, Earth time-keeping devices. But thoughts of this nature always lead her to a question better left unasked: how long has she been here?

An entire year, say her captors.

Five Earth months, give or take a couple of weeks, say her own estimates.

An eternity, says the darkness.

1900 Hours Colorado Springs Time: A movie, perhaps, is in order. Teal'c, with a smile of conviction, will suggest Star Wars for the upteen-thousandth time. Daniel will insist on watching some movie or the other concerning the adventures of an Indian man named Jones. Nevertheless, everyone knows that Mitchell and Sam are the ones wielding the real power over the decision. The movie finally agreed upon will be one of their suggestions. She can see the team taking a vote, and finally settling on Mitchell's movie. She hopes that this time around, the movie will not involve a handful of untrained armatures trying to shoot down an entire army of 'not-dead' people with antiquated shotguns and a limited supply of ammunition. She can see Mitchell, Sam, Teal'c and Daniel, as expected, engaging in a heated argument regarding whose turn it is to make the popcorn.

She catches herself laughing out loud, laughing hoarsely, mirthlessly, into the darkness. Yes, this definitely has to be the irony to top all ironies. How can she use his watch to remember, when she had explicitly taken it from him, so that he could forget?

She suddenly wishes she hadn't asked for his watch at all. What had possessed her to do so in the first place? Maybe if it were still in his possession, he would have realized how long she has been gone. Maybe she wouldn't have been forgotten at all. Why else have they not come for her already? She curses the stupid thing. Then she makes a half-assed attempt to get up, to smash the troublesome gadget against the wall in an elaborate show of fury. But immediately, an immense fear tightly clasps its enormous talons around her chest. No, she cannot smash the watch. She had made him a promise! Besides, she cannot destroy the one link she has left to a world unfettered by darkness. She allows herself to collapse unceremoniously back to the floor.

In the end, all she can do is listen.

So, she listens as time continues to elude her, listens as a timeless darkness reclaims the last remnants of herself …

A/N: As always, I want to know what you think. Love reviews of all sorts, and please feel free to criticize as well. Second chapter is on the way ...