Disclaimer: Don't own, just borrowing.

Lizzie: Once again, thanks for all your brilliant suggestions, and for plugging in (hopefully) most of my plot holes. Your great input makes this chapter what it is.

Also, thanks to everyone who submitted wonderful reviews of the prologue Your reviews really keep me going: they fuel the clanky machine that sits in my skull. Special thanks to Hazmot who's reviewed all of my stories from the very beginning!

Alright, on to the story...


"Oh Boy."

His most definite, most eminent doom is the first thought that crosses his mind once Daniel Jackson realizes where his unwitting legs have led him. He curses himself for not maintaining the clarity of mind that would have normally protected him from the dire consequences he is certain to face. Yet, thankfully enough, the stalls are empty, so are the showers, saving him from mortal embarrassment, but leaving no one else in here besides her. Uncharacteristically though, his luck holds out even further: she hasn't seen him walk in.

He cautiously begins to turn around, retraces his steps towards the door, virtually tiptoeing away, but nevertheless keeping an eye on her lest she turns around. He raises his arm towards the handle, only a light push between him and salvation, but … oh damn...

"Wow, Daniel," Vala croons mischievously, grinning at him from the center of the room. "Had I known you were going to sneak into the women's locker room, I would have taken my time getting dressed. Sadly, you've missed the show."

Even when she is fully dressed in the sterile blue uniform, her hair gently braided, and her black cloak hanging loosely around her shoulders, Daniel finds himself resisting the urge to stand as close to her as decency would allow. Maybe even disallow. But she makes it easy for him. She steps over the bench, and begins to saunter up to him, mockingly sensual, at the same time expecting a terse rebuke from him to put her in her place. Her mind is already racing ahead, anticipating what he will say next, and planning a comeback for words he hasn't even uttered. But suddenly her face changes when she notices the stern expression on his, how his hands are clenched tightly behind his back, and how he does not meet her eyes.

"Daniel? Has something happened?"

When he doesn't answer, Vala tries again: "Is there a reason why you've followed me in here?"

His throat is suddenly dry.

He wants to tell her, but he can't bring himself to. He wants to look her in the eye, and tell her everything.

But instead he blurts out: "I … well …" then he feels his courage scurrying away through the cracks in his indifferent front.

"You're insane Vala. This a suicide mission and you know it!"

She looks slightly taken aback, as though she was expecting him to say something else. To wish her good luck perhaps. Then she sighs disappointedly, and turns away from him, making a big show of straightening her cloak and smoothing her uniform.

"Daniel, you've already been given the chance to voice your concerns, and I must say they were quite … vocal. Thankfully, and despite your disapproval, General Landry has given me clearance, the rest of the team their support," she says dismissively.

"I can't say I'm surprised that the military is willing to give preposterous suicide missions the green light these days. But, I thought it best to remind you: your plan is ridiculous and will fail miserably."

When Vala turns to face him again, her eyes betray a slight hint of anger, even frustration. But her smile never wavers, and her voice manages to retain its calm.

"Thank you Daniel. Your concerns are duly noted. Now please be a dear and run along to your office, because I really need to gear up."

With that, Vala sweeps past him, making sure to shove him out of her way with her shoulder. As she quickly makes her exit, a peeved Daniel glares after her. But he instantly recovers, starts behind her. He increases his pace to keep up with her enormous strides, as she obviously makes her way to the weapon's storeroom.

"Do you really think that joining your recently repentant, previously overzealous religious husband, that going undercover in an Ori ship, would give you access to Ori intelligence? Do you really think that you can single-handedly guarantee earth's fleet safe passage into the Ori galaxy?"

His words are projectiles, and he aims them with deadly precision at the back of her head. Vala, on the other hand, is content to yell at him over her shoulder as she speeds through the corridors of the SGC.

"Not single-handedly, of course. But someone needs to infiltrate the Ori forces, and report the type of defenses they have amassed on the other side of the gate."

Vala deftly banks to the right, clearing the way for an incoming SF. Daniel on the other hand barely dodges out of the way, unable to emulate the grace with which she maneuvers herself in the bustling corridor.

He feels his face flush. His fingers, were they not knotted tightly, unnaturally, behind his back, would be trembling with the force of his anger. He's infuriated by how avid she is to throw her life away. How rashly she volunteers for every ridiculous plan. Why is her life so inconsequential to her?

"And you think that someone should be you?"

"Must I remind you Daniel, that I have the longest track record aboard an Ori ship? That I'm the only person in this base with a contact within the Ori army? Without me, Tomin would never have defected, would never have shown up on our doorstep and offered to help. I hardly think Tomin would agree to accompany someone he didn't know… intimately… into the Ori galaxy."

"I don't care if you've had 'intimate' relations with an entire Ori battalion. This is insane. There are a hundred … hell … a thousand ways your plan can go wrong. I just don't think you fully understand what's at stake here, Vala!"

"Please, Daniel. Do enlighten me."

"If you fail to transmit the intelligence we need, we're going to have to fly through the supergate blind. Our losses will be enormous. Do you really want more people to die when you inevitably fail to come through for us?"

"So, that's what all this is about then. You simply don't think I can do it."

Vala should have known that Daniel didn't believe in her. Wasn't he always making some snide comment or the other about her incompetence? She shouldn't care, really. His skepticism shouldn't faze her. After all, she isn't risking her life like this to gain some measly scrap of acceptance. She really isn't. She merely wants to shake her fist in the Ori's omnipotent faces, to somehow rectify her role in unleashing their evil upon her galaxy. In the end, what did she have to lose?

"I'm going to prove you wrong Daniel," she says defiantly, coming to an abrupt stop, and turning to face him. Then again, why is she always trying to prove herself to him? Why is she is tearing off yet another piece of herself and casting it to the flames?

At the speed he's maintaining, Daniel nearly runs into her. He feels his arms shoot up instinctively from where they were clasped behind his back, feels them grab for the closest object available to steady himself. He blinks, taking a couple of seconds to realizes that his hands have come to rest atop the shoulders of an explicitly livid Vala.

Before she even begins to shrug his arms off, he tightens his grip on her, fighting the urge to shake her to her senses. But, when his eyes finally rest on her face, he feels something within him give way.

"Vala, you know it's not like that…"he begins gently, releasing her from his grip at last.

"I just don't want you to…"

I just don't want you to go. Don't go.

"I don't want you to get yourself killed…" Daniel manages to say, but at the inquisitive quirk of her eyebrows, he hastily adds: "Er… you know … before sending us the information we need."

He kicks himself mentally, and smarts from the pain of it. How could he ever insinuate that her death may be justified by the completion of her task?

But surprisingly, her face softens into a smile, and its warmth begins to melt away the icy claws gripping at his stomach.

"I won't die, silly."

Vala's confidence, although slightly reassuring, does little to assuage his fears.

"You're quite sure?"

"Of course. And to prove it, I'm going to make you my narro'kel."

Daniel stifles a cough.

"Your narro-what?"

He hopes against all hopes that the word isn't somehow synonymous with consort, or love-slave or –

"My narro'kel." Vala reiterates matter-of-factly, adopting an air that makes the word seem quite commonplace, like something Daniel should know. "It loosely translates to 'keeper of the promise,' and it's part of a farewell ritual amongst the people of Paelan."

"OK…" He decides to proceed cautiously, his incurable curiosity getting the better of him, "How is this ritual performed?"

"Well, first of all, it requires your old time-keeping device, the one you're always carrying around in your pocket when you're not off-world," she says innocently. She extends her right hand before her, and wriggles her fingers in a gesture indicating that he should hand it over.

"You mean Nick's … my grandfather's gold watch?"

"Yes, precisely."

"The watch that's been in my family for generations? I don't think so Vala! Not before I know what you're going to do with it."

"I predicted you were going to be difficult, Daniel," Vala says, and the amused quiver at the corners of her lips trigger flaring sirens in Daniel's head, "So I've taken the liberty of removing the item in question from you when you nearly ran me over earlier."

To prove it, Vala unclenches her left fist to reveal an antique golden watch, which she then dangles from its chain in front of Daniel's face.

Daniel feels warm blood rising to his cheeks.

"Wha? …. How….." He stammers, and reaches forward to reclaim the watch, but Vala whisks it away playfully, hiding it behind her back. She continues before he can protest:

"Relax Daniel. Just let me finish explaining. And please, don't interrupt." She adds admonishingly.

He opens his mouth to protest, but she continues before he can voice any of his objections:

"As I was saying, Paelan, being the rather primitive settlement that it is, sends a large contingent of its most able warriors to battle hostile neighbors every year. The battles are often quite lengthy, and most of the warriors do not survive them. So, when the warriors gather their arms and bid their families farewell, they usually designate a family member, the wife, or son perhaps, as the narro'kel."

"Vala, I don't see how any of this has to do with my – "

"The narro'kel gives the warrior a valuable keepsake of sorts, preferably of emotional significance, like a gold watch for example. It then becomes the warrior's foremost priority to guarantee its safe return."

She pauses momentarily, expecting another outburst from his direction. But although his brow is furrowed, and his arms are crossed against his chest, his only fumes at her silently. So, she continues:

"So, you see Daniel, you shouldn't worry about me at all. In fact, I'm not even going to bid you farewell: I'll be back before you even realize it. I'll be back because I need to return your watch, and the power of my promise to you will protect me from any mishap that might come my way."

She turns to look at him, watches as he ponders her words, but as the silence between them stretches out, becomes taught like a rubber band, her spirits begin to sink. Could it be possible that he didn't even trust her enough to give her some round mechanical gadget?

"I don't know Vala. Nick's watch is extremely important to me. Can I give you something else instead?"

"No Daniel, it needs to be the watch."

"Why?"

In a display completely uncharacteristic of Vala, Daniel catches a slight flush rising to her cheeks when she shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly.

"You know what? Forget it, it doesn't really matter." She turns to go, but he catches her arm and forces her to face him. His eyes beg the question of her again.

"I … I had this notion that … well, without your watch, I'm hoping you'll forget about time entirely. There would be no constant reminder of my tardiness, just a promise of return. So that, before you even realize it, I'll be back to flaunt my astounding success."

Despite her flippant attitude, he can see the allure of her proposition. A chance to forget time, to jam the incessant gears of the universal clock. How could she have known that he had often wished for that precise fact? Does she know how fervently he wishes he can freeze this current moment, embed it in his brain, so that he can forever see her before him as she is right now? He leans forward slightly, so he can entrance himself with the glow of her smile, so he can bask in the gleam of her grey eyes. Yes, he just wants to look into them and forget… forget time, forget the Ori, forget … everything outside of this moment. He sees her take a step towards him, as though, for an infinitesimal second, his thoughts are utterly transparent to her, as though she has felt him tug at the invisible rope binding them together. They stand there, as it seems, for an eternity.

"Alright," he says at last, slightly morose for severing the link between them. But overall, he starts to feel a little better about the entire thing. "Fine, I'll be your narro'kel." He returns her smile. "Is there any sort of incantation that goes along with this ritual?"

Vala seems to hesitate for a second.

"Firstly, we need to hold hands and close our eyes. Then one needs to say some words about promises and the importance of keeping them, and then…"

"Vala! You're making this entire ritual up, aren't you?" His words aren't a question, but a statement of fact.

Vala shoots him a glance that implicates her at once.

"Maybe." She winks at him, and begins heading down the corridor once again.

"I'm going to be wanting my watch back, you know," he shouts after her.

She turns to face him, walking backwards.

"Don't worry, you'll have it as soon as I get back from the Ori galaxy. Unless…"

"Unless what?"

Just like that, the flip of a switch, and she is back to teasing him again.

"Unless, the watch somehow gets lost and manages to make its way to the flea market on Lorenthea. Gold trinkets like these tend to sell for, well … not a sizable amount, but a good pocketful of – "

"Vala!"


A/N: Definitely a lot more light-hearted than the prologue, perhaps not as strong though. Can't wait to hear what you think!

Possible directions for the next chapter: Sam, Vala, Tomin... Ori ship ...