For Better or Worse...
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EMAIL : email@example.com
RATING : PG-13
CATEGORY : A, H/C
SUMMARY : Shower scene for 'The Curse'
SPOILERS : The Curse mainly. Tiny ones for Forever in a Day, Within
the Serpent's Grasp, The First Ones and In the Line of Duty.
Author's Notes: As promised this is the second shower scene for the Curse - the episode being, imho, simply wonderful not least for the scene in which Daniel poses with a large gun.
Daniel perused his surroundings as he lazily kicked off his shoes. The SGC had done them proud with the accommodation. This hotel was certainly the nicest place he'd ever stayed in... The last time he'd been in Egypt, too long ago, he'd had to make do with a tent. A small tent... nearly as compact as those they took off-world... in the middle of the desert. He'd even had to share it... with half a dozen lizards, an assortment of beetles and on one occasion, a snake. Well, admittedly, that time he'd pretty much let the snake have the tent to itself, while he spent the night at the dig. He hadn't been that tired.
Late afternoon sun bathed the bedroom in rich golden hues; the shadows shifting and changing as a slight breeze gently flapped the curtains at the open window. He leaned out. So many memories... most of his early childhood had been here, or in similar places... it was partly why he'd been so contented on Abydos, despite being even more primitive. Gazing across the city he found it had altered considerably. The area around the hotel was completely new, but behind the neatly laid out high rise hotels and offices, plazas and fountains, he could see the jumble of old buildings that he loved to wander through so much. Aerials littered the roofs... they had been there last time he passed through, but the satellite dishes were recent additions... both of them vulgar in his eyes... not how the builders of the ancient metropolis had intended. An irrational anger filled him. It didn't look like home anymore... either of them. Ah, the progress of mankind. How different would this place be had the Egyptians not rebelled against Ra ?
Occasional sounds from the market place reached his ears, carried by the warm, dusty zephyr. He breathed deeply, hoping to catch the fragrances too, spices and meals cooking and... camels, but that was too much to hope for... too far away. Home was too far away... He brushed the tear that suddenly sprung from the corner of his eye with one long finger... 'Don't,' he told himself. After consulting his watch, Daniel took one last lingering look at the place.
Crossing to the small shower room, he found himself relaxing at last. The tension finally easing from his body. Shedding his clothes, he realized just how long he'd been running on adrenaline... Ever since the funeral when he'd seen her again... Sarah... Oh, God.
At least Steven was out of danger. Janet had seen him settled into the local hospital. Luckily, he was too out of it for anyone to make sense of what he thought had happened. Shouldn't be too hard to convince him that he was the victim of some hallucinogenic drugs or something...
Sam had reported to General Hammond and had gotten their transport arranged to take them back to Colorado... tomorrow. Tomorrow seemed like a long way off. Might as well make the best of the situation. A refreshing shower, clean clothes and dinner with Sam and Janet. What more could a guy wish for ? His wife, of course... Sha'uri... Oh, God.
Relishing the chill of the tiles on the soles of his feet, he leaned against the wall of the shower room, allowing the same coolness to permeate his aching shoulders and back. He had forgotten how hot it could be. As a child he'd never thought about the heat, too busy discovering the wonders of the world with his parents. When he'd returned much later, freshly graduated from college, there had been an initial shock to his systems from the atmosphere. The dust had played havoc with his allergies for a while, but once he'd gotten lost in his work, nothing else mattered.
This heat was different. Felt hotter than on Abydos in the height of summer, when even night-time brought little relief. It was cooler in the pyramid, especially when Sha'uri... Oh, God.
Nudging the discarded clothes with his foot, he made an untidy pile that he could just pick up and shove in his case later. He put a hand to his forehead and swiped the dampness away. He'd feel better after a shower. Yeah...
There was too little pressure to force a spray through the pattern of holes, so the water dropped unevenly from the fixed showerhead above him. It was cold. Not butt numbingly freezing, the way it would be in the locker room if the thermostat was turned all the way down, but as cold as it could be in a baking hot place.
It felt good. Cleansing his mind as much as his body as he ducked his head under the tumble of liquid and closed his eyes.
As soon as he'd seen that newspaper article about Doctor Jordon's death, he had known that he would run into trouble at the funeral, which he could not persuade himself not to attend. He had to go... He'd expected the cutting remarks from Steven. He'd even anticipated a cold shoulder from Sarah... maybe even deserved it... but thankfully, it hadn't been given to him. Perhaps if she had treated him with contempt it would have been easier to accept what had happened to her.
Who was he trying to fool ? Of course it wouldn't be. He'd still care. He had always cared about her, but that had been part of the problem, hadn't it ? That's why it had been so easy to leave... he cared... but he didn't love her. He'd thought that he did, at first... didn't everyone ? First date, first kiss, first... time. Then the doubts crept in. She wanted to change him, didn't want him to reveal what he believed, couldn't be with someone who was the laughing stock of their community.
'For better or worse' would never have been possible for them... she wanted 'better', he could only give her 'worse'. The promising career his professor told him was his for the taking, was what she wanted. Glory for him would be glory for her... but it was all a lie... all of it. He couldn't cow-tow to the stuffy, self-centered, unenlightened archaeological bodies that made the rules for them to follow. They had only stayed together so long because they studied together. Daniel, Sarah and Steven... Doctor Jordon had brought them together and ultimately, unwittingly, in death he'd torn them apart.
Not exactly true, because Daniel had cut himself off from the others, years ago... including his mentor... to protect them all from his apparent lunacy. But the old professor's murder and the ensuing events dispelled any hope of reconciliation.
The water was coming down in one thick stream. It was like having a bucket of water slowly poured over him. The way they'd done it on digs. The way they'd done it on Abydos. He dropped his head back a little and let the water run over his face, the way he'd done after a long day of working deep in the pyramid, or after helping to clean out the mastage pens. There was a plentiful supply of water in Nagada, deep under ground. He'd taken it as his job to fetch two brimming, leather bucketfuls each morning, waiting his turn in the line with all the women. He didn't see why Sha'uri should have to carry that weight and was determined to show her he didn't care for the 'that's women's work' policy in the city. He'd heard the laughter from the wives, seen the pity in the faces of the husbands. He couldn't have been happier.
They had never actually said the words, 'For better or worse', since they were married without him even knowing it and when they had had the full ceremony after Jack and the others had gone home, it wasn't anything like any other wedding he'd been to before. But life was definitely 'better'... the best, most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him. The 'worse' came later... not late enough... it could never have been late enough...
A change in the shower pressure took him by surprise and he spluttered as liquid ran up his nose. It made his thinking go back to the water. If, after putting some aside for a late night drink, there was enough left, they would go down to one of the chambers in the pyramid where there were steps running up one wall. He'd poor a cooling trickle over her and she would do the same for him. And he'd look up, just as he was doing now and drink in the sight of her... fresh faced, clinging damp hair, smooth tanned skin... he could still see her now... Sha'uri... Oh, God.
It was getting warm again. How could that be ? He was still in the flow of the shower. The heat became oppressive. Memories, faces from the past... they were responsible for making him flushed, overcome. Don't live in the past... funny sentiment for an archaeologist, he thought ruefully. Get back to the present...
What had he done just lately to make Jack seem so royally pissed with him all the time ? Had Jack's apparently never ending supply of tolerance for him finally run dry ? He supposed phoning the guy in the middle of his well deserved vacation was probably enough of an excuse, this time... What about all the others ? Anyway, he'd thought even Jack would have wanted to know about the possibility of another Goa'uld roaming the Earth. But, no... 'Goodbye, Daniel.' Thanks a bunch, Jack.
Good job you weren't fishing when the Unas grabbed me. 'Sorry, Daniel, couldn't come to the rescue, there was this really big bass, see ? Knew you'd understand...' Luckily, I'd done alright up until that elder one showed up. I'm not sure if Chaka could've convinced him not to serve me up for dinner. Got there just in the nick of time, didn't you ? Yay, Jack !
Could've done with you around when Sarah... Oh, God.
He pulled his head out from under the cascading water and shook it, sending droplets flying around the cubicle. Whoa, bad idea...dizzy... really bad idea... Putting a hand out against the wall to steady himself, he opened his eyes. The light stabbed through his retinas, so he closed them again.
Perhaps he shouldn't have been so blasé about being used to the effects of the ribbon device. He'd wanted Janet to concentrate on helping Steven. After a few minutes, he'd felt fine, he had... really... but now...
Hot, hot, hot... too hot, this wasn't the climate, this was...
The light was penetrating his closed eyelids, an orange glow filled his mind and behind it... the face of another woman he'd loved... and lost to the Goa'uld... and trying to fry his brains... Sarah... Oh, God.
He stumbled blindly out of the shower and felt around for the towel. Didn't dry himself nearly as well as he should have according to Mrs Bains. He always spared a thought for that particular foster mom when he was wet and in a hurry. "You'll catch your death, one of these days," she'd say. If only she knew...
There was a knocking at the door. "Daniel ?" Sam's voice filtered in from the hall, muffled by the locked door.
"Coming !" He called back. Hurriedly he pulled on his boxers and pants. As he straightened up a wave of nausea washed over him, sending him crashing to his knees. Pain filled his head and suddenly the glowing light was back. He felt something tickling his top lip and put a hand there. Blood. His nose was bleeding and he was so hot.
He stared at the incandescent illusion created by his aching brain. Glowing eyes bore into his. A hand reached toward him, the bright beam radiating from the palm, searing his thoughts. The spectres warped and changed as, transfixed, he was held fast in a position of obeisance. Sha'uri became Sarah, became Sha'uri, became Sarah, became Sha'uri, became Skaara, became Sarah, became... Sam...
Sam ? What was she doing in there ? She wasn't a Goa'uld. Well, she had been, but not the evil kind... She had never tried to kill him. The outstretched hand touched his forehead.
He was falling.
"...iel ?" A concerned feminine voice pulled him back from the dark void. "Daniel, are you alright ?"
"Sam ?" He peered myopically at her. The glowing eyes had gone.
"Lie still, Daniel. You passed out. Janet's on her way." Carter leant over his supine body, gauging his reactions.
"How did you... ?" He blinked up at her.
"I called, you answered, then there was a thud. I called again, when you didn't reply, I er..." She nodded toward the door, splintered around the lock from being forced open. "I was worried," she said, as if that were all the justification she needed to destroy the woodwork. "Here." She pressed a cold flannel over the bridge of his nose. "Put your head back."
Silently, he did as he was told, welcoming the chill of the cloth on his face.
"What happened ?" Fraiser came rushing in, a doctor's case in her hand, briefly pausing to study the ruined door.
"I found Daniel on his knees, in some kind of trance. When I touched him he just keeled over."
"How do you feel now, Daniel ?" Fraiser asked, looking him over.
"Yeah, a bit... dizzy."
Knowing the routine all too well, his eyes followed her finger as she passed it from left to right and back again in front of him.
"Good." She praised his co-ordination.
Rummaging in her bag, Fraiser pulled out her stethoscope and listened to the steady rhythm beating beneath the bare chest, still glistening with moisture. She nodded approvingly.
Suddenly aware of the touch of her fingers on his flesh he snatched a look down at himself. He began thanking all the gods he could think of for being lucid for long enough after getting out of the shower to at least clothe the most necessary part of his body. He let out a huge sigh of relief.
"Did you bang your nose ?" She gently dabbed the blood away from it and waited a few seconds to see if it was still bleeding. If she had noticed his spontaneous embarrassment, she didn't say anything, but was there a hint of a smirk on her lips ? She stuck a thermometer under his tongue.
"No." He said nasally, hampered by the obstruction in his mouth.
Fraiser glared at him. He knew that look... she wasn't going to let him get away with anything less than a full explanation. "It just started bleeding, right before I..."
"What ?" She found the penlight and began testing his optic reflexes, while waiting for the answer.
"The ribbon device ?"
"Okay..." Removing the thermometer, she glanced at the readout. Satisfied that he wasn't presenting any serious physical symptoms of head injury, Fraiser gave him his instructions. "Right, I want you to take it easy. Drink plenty of water and go to bed. When we bet back to the SGC, I want you in for a full exam and at least two days of observation."
He looked at her sullenly.
"Alright." He conceded. Although he was feeling much better now, he didn't really think he was up to arguing with the doctor's orders... just yet. Perhaps he could do with a good night's sleep... He couldn't actually remember if he'd shut his eyes at all, apart from being unconscious and he never counted that as 'sleep', since they'd got off the plane that brought them here.
"Take these." She handed him two pills. "They should bring your temperature down and ease the headache. I'll stop by in six hours with some more. If you notice anything at all between now and then call me."
"Come on, Sam, I'm starving." Fraiser replaced her instruments and snapped her bag shut.
"Be right with you." Carter looked at Daniel's forlorn face. "You okay ?"
"Like me to order some room service for you ?"
"No thanks. I'm not really hungry just now." He moved to get up, swaying slightly. "Guess I better do what Janet says."
"You sure you'll be alright ? I could stay..." She helped him to his feet and guided him to the bed.
"No, Sam, you go and enjoy your dinner."
"Wish you were joining us. You could give us the low down on all the local delicacies."
"This is a tourist hotel, Sam. It'll probably be all steaks and fries."
"Shame," she sounded genuinely disappointed. "Still anything's better than MRE's right ?"
"Oh, yes..." Daniel flopped onto the bed and swung his legs up.
Carter went over to the window, pulled it almost closed and drew the curtains. She stopped by the bed and tucked the coverlet over Daniel's shoulders.
"Thank's Sam," he said softly.
She regarded him a moment. His eyes were tightly closed, but he wasn't anywhere near sleep. It had been a tough week for him. Life seemed so unfair. Bad enough that you had to lose one person you loved to the Goa'uld and have them try to kill you, but two ? No, make that three... How could she forget that Skaara had done that to him as well ? It was downright heartbreaking. "You don't have to go through this alone, Daniel. If there's anything I... we can do... Just remember we're here for you, okay ?"
"For better or worse ?" Daniel quietly questioned, as if lost somewhere else.
Puzzled, she found herself chuckling. "Something like that, yeah." She liked that. Friends forever, through thick and thin, come Hell or high water, for better or worse... yeah...
She took that as her cue to leave. "Goodnight, Daniel." Closing the door as best she could, given the damage, she whispered, "Sweet dreams."
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