The Shower Scene Series. Stargate SG-1 Fanfiction by Scribe
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Shower Scenes

Cultural imperatives

by Jb

 

 

All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

Category: Missing scene
Series: Number 18 in Scribe's Shower Scene Series
Season/spoilers: The Light - season 4
Rating: PG
Warnings: Nudity
Summary: Cultural differences threaten to come between Loran and SG1. Daniel's in the shower, Loran's in the wall, and Jack's in fine form

Author's Notes: Many thanks to Ellen, without whose shredding this may have turned several more stomachs than it very well may do.


 

"Ready? One..."

Curious and wanting a better view, but still somewhat apprehensive about these people, Loran quietly crept forward to the very front of the unlit hidden alcove, relying on the heavy latticework of the panel in front of him to shield him from discovery.

"Two..."

"No, wait, I'm not ready!"

"Ah, Christ, Daniel. So get ready then. Okay, on three..."

He peered through the lattice. The three visitors stood together, facing one another in a small huddle, in front of the tall, semi-circular apparatus which had been the focus of their attentions for the entire day. Loran watched, bemused, as for the third time they played a round of this strange game. At least, he assumed it must be a game of some sort. No one appeared to be having much fun, though.

Each of them held one fist hovering above their other open, palm-up, hand, and stared at one another with an intensity which caused Loran to want to check the setting on the device in the light room.

"One, two... three!"

With each of the first two counts, they'd each pounded a fist into their palms. Loran started slightly at the vehemence in the colonel's tone as he barked out the "three" and fingers abruptly shot out with force from fists which met open hands on the last count. His confusion deepened when instead of performing the activity yet again, the group wordlessly split apart, Major Carter moving to refasten the cover plate onto the control panel of the apparatus, while O'Neill gave Dr. Jackson a quick clap on the shoulder and sauntered several paces away toward some items which were on the floor behind them.

Now that the strange activity appeared to be completed, the air of confrontation began to dissipate considerably. Loran wondered if it was safe to show himself. These people seemed to accept him - they'd even promised him a new home - but he really didn't fully understand the reasoning behind the explanation they'd given for how they meant to overcome the effects of the Light, and he knew all too well how quickly moods and behaviours could alter as a result of withdrawing from its influence. He wanted to trust them completely, he really did, and he supposed he was more than halfway toward doing that, but he was afraid... and, well, according to them, he'd have weeks with them here. No sense in rushing into what might be a mistake.

He watched as O'Neill retrieved a large, bulky, folded white cloth of some kind and several other items from the floor, and returned to Dr. Jackson's side. The two men were no longer tense with one another, the game seemingly forgotten now. All right, then. That was better... was safer. Loran began to unfold himself from his crouch in the alcove, preparing to squeeze between the edge of the panel and the wall to his right, to emerge, but then slowed the action, even more confused as Dr. Jackson loudly uttered what was clearly some sort of bad word, bent over, untied the laces of his boots, and quickly kicked them off his feet.

"You lost fair and square, Daniel."

"Yeah, yeah." Dr. Jackson straightened up for a scant second, pointedly scrunched up his face at Colonel O'Neill, and bent over once again.

Loran's stomach tightened as the dark tubes of fabric Daniel Jackson wore over his feet were removed just as efficiently as the boots had been. Before Loran even digested the fact he was now looking at someone else's bare feet, the man abruptly straightened up and stripped his black shirt off over his head, and oh, oh... oh goodness, now he was reaching for the belt at his waist.

Loran froze in shock. Great Father, look at that! He quickly averted his eyes from the expanse of bare skin. His mind raced in a jumble of fear, surprise, and worry, trying to make sense of this new development. This didn't seem to him to be rational behaviour. O'Neill calmly just stood there, the items still in hand, casually transferring his gaze between Jackson and Major Carter, not at all concerned about the fact there was a man standing there right next to him, actually removing his clothing. In full view of another! There was a woman here, as well... one who was accepting this blatantly deviant behaviour with just as little concern as was the colonel. Loran's heart sped up at the thought of what his father would have had to say about such actions. Appalling. Unacceptable. Sick.

"So, Sam, are you sure about this?"

"Well, we examined the guts of the thing, and basically aside from the control mechanisms all we found were the equivalent of water conduits and valves. As for the power, I checked the routing several times to be sure; the power source for both control panels is definitely isolated from the flow. I'm sure it's safe, Daniel."

"Ahh, okay, well... if you're sure."

It was not possible that to these people, this behaviour was... was acceptable, was it? Surely not. They looked just like Loran's own people - definitely human like himself - and they spoke the same language. They had technology similar to what he was used to, and even seemed to measure time in the same way as his own people. Maybe they had different customs and beliefs, though? In the short time he and his parents had been exploring through the Gate before coming to this place, they had encountered only one other world with human-like life forms, and certainly that culture was very different from their own. So maybe there some differences in this case, as well?

He heard a quiet but coarse noise, similar to the one which he'd heard when Teal'c had opened the front of his jacket the day before, and at the subsequent rustle of fabric Loran ducked his head further, confusingly both fascinated and repelled by the idea of Dr. Jackson baring the lower half of his body. His father's voice resounded in his head, sternly castigating him for even possibly being curious about such an event. *No, Loran! Hands plus arms to the elbow only, but nothing else. You hear me? Nothing.*

His father was not here, though. His father was never going to be here again. Loran almost cried aloud in distress as memory of his fastidious parents revived in the form of a mental image of dead bodies on a beach. Clothing half gone from the anger of the seas, pale flesh mottled with unsightly yellowish, red, and blackened patches of skin. He wasn't supposed to look at such particular areas of skin. At least, not that of another person, anyway. But he had. He'd not only seen, but he'd actually had to touch his father's unclothed arms, his chest... his mother's legs.

"Well, Carter, there is that force field, y'know."

"Sir, that's not a very..."

No. He'd had no choice. He'd done what he'd had to do. His father and mother were gone, and with their deaths his life had unalterably changed. The damage was already done... and his father wasn't here, was he, despite the disapproving voice in his mind. Loran took a deep breath, and raised his head. Eyes wide open, his gaze directed through the lattice at, at, at -

"Force field!?"

"... nice thing to do."

Loran gaped. He was actually looking at - There was actually a - Oh, Greatest of Great Fathers! Dr. Jackson stood there in full view, his upper body completely exposed plus bare legs and feet, with only a small amount of black, tight fabric covering those most unmentionable of areas front and back. Loran's gut twisted almost painfully, and after only a moment he had to look away, his upbringing overcoming his curiosity. He concentrated on Major Carter, desperate for some kind of effective diversion. She was just stepping back from the external control panel mounted on the side of the outer shell of the device.

"It's all right, Daniel." She shook her head, smiling slightly at the colonel, and waved a hand toward the arched entrance to the interior of the shell. "I tested it. It's a very low level repulsive field. Just enough to keep the water from splashing out all over the floor, that's all."

Loran flinched as Daniel Jackson walked into his line of sight, stopping next to Major Carter and reaching out to lightly brush his hand across the outer controls. "But it's a force field? An energy field. So if the thing won't work without someone getting inside there, how do you know for sure it's safe? You said you haven't had it up and running. I don't know about this..."

Loran gasped as Major Carter reached out and actually touched Jackson's bare back, her hand moving in a brief circular motion on his skin before she withdrew it. He leaned against the wall, and squeezed his eyes closed for a moment as he considered this new information. Okay, well, maybe that was okay. Perhaps the two of them were partners, as his parents had been? Partners touched, even though no one would ever admit it. Partners had to touch, didn't they? So, it was most likely Major Carter and Dr. Jackson were to each other as his parents had been to one another. As shocking as the sight still was, at least that'd make the act itself more bearable. He'd confirm with the colonel that was their relationship, later. It'd be all right.

"No, really, Daniel, it's no problem. We did get the field working; it's just the water flow that doesn't seem to work from this panel. From the way the power and the controls are routed, it looks like no matter what the external panel is set to, the flow won't actually begin until the inner panel is activated." Carter grinned. "And the colonel refused to go on in there and switch it on to see if everything works okay."

Daniel Jackson raised an eyebrow and looked behind him at the colonel. "Wuss."

Fingering the small globular projections which lined the entire rim of the opening, Jackson ran his hand along the edge of the shell, following its contour right on up and around the top, over his head. Loran noticed the appearance and then disappearance of light brown hairs under Dr. Jackson's arm as he traced the rim overhead and then down the other side, and found himself staring at the man, completely fascinated by the movement of bone and flex of muscle in Dr. Jackson's upper back and side. Loran wondered if that's what his own back looked like - if that's what it did when he moved his arm like that.

"So, how does the force field work? There's no danger of it keeping more than just the water in, once I get in there?"

Colonel O'Neill muttered something Loran didn't quite catch. It must not have been very nice, as both the other two cast disapproving looks at O'Neill, while the man himself smirked in response. Loran was pretty certain by now, even after only two days with these people, that this wasn't an uncommon event as far as interaction among these three went.

"No, it's not like that. This isn't a valid comparison in terms of the physics, but it's easiest to explain it as being analogous to a powerful magnet. When the force field is turned on..." Carter reached out and manipulated a small dial on the outer panel, and Loren was amazed to see a faint red glow emanate from the small spheres inset into the rim of the opening. "...using this dial, it exerts an inward directed force which I think repels the water, keeping it inside where it's supposed to be. Of course, we'll know for sure as soon as you get in there and turn on the water."

She smiled reassuringly at Jackson, then twisted the dial as she waved her other hand back and forth through the opening. The red intensified, the globules glowing more brightly. "The strength of the field can be adjusted, but even at its highest setting it isn't powerful enough to affect any of us. There's a gradient control, just like this one, on the inside as well but it doesn't seem to work without this one being turned on first."

Colonel O'Neill sauntered into view. "Don't worry, Daniel. We've tested and re-tested the thing. There's no serious risk here."

Jackson stepped back from the opening. "Okay, so, you do it first then."

O'Neill wrinkled his nose. "Oh, I don't think so. Actually, I was really hoping you'd lose. The standards of personal care seem to have deteriorated in the infirmary of late."

Jackson gave O'Neill an annoyed glance, then fingered several small, circular, slightly reddened areas on his chest, grimacing as he pulled his hand away and rubbed his fingers together. Loran recalled examining some strange pads of about the same size and shape, with strange metallic nubs on them, which he'd found the previous day in the discard bin. They'd been all wrinkled up, and had some sort of sticky coating on them.

The major gave Dr. Jackson a sympathetic look, pointing toward the inner control panel. "You can adjust the strength of the field from the inside, but there isn't an 'on-off' switch for it in there. You have to turn it on from the outside first. We tried the field from both inside and out, and that's the way to do it. Works fine. To actually get the whole thing working, though, it looks like you have to turn on the field using the outer control panel, and maybe input some settings for water flow - here and here, we think - but the whole thing won't actually start up until the inner panel is used."

Loran struggled to figure out what was going on. It was pretty obvious Dr. Jackson was preparing to actually step inside that thing. They'd mentioned water, so maybe it was for cleansing? No, that was wrong. The small bathing pool his parents had fashioned was at the other end of the corridor, and to empty it and refill it with rain water from the roof all that was needed was to remove the proper plugs from the proper places. His father had shown him how. He'd shown Major Carter. She liked it, he was certain of that; she'd looked very serious and impressed as she'd nodded her thanks.

It had to be something else. Leaning against the wall of the alcove, Loran frowned and tried to recall some of the functions of similar control pads he'd discovered in the palace over the last far too many months since his parents had... had... left. This outer panel reminded him of something else, something he may have even used himself? The one which lowered the covering over the pedestal in the Light room looked very much the - No! Could this be a smaller version of the same device?

Loran started to dart forward, only to stall the movement a split second later, feeling somewhat silly about it. It couldn't be. There was no way these people would do anything to expose one of them to another version of the Light. It was all right. Everything was fine.

Except there was an almost entirely naked man standing not thirty feet away. Which was anything but fine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel was well aware Jack's protective instincts had surged to the fore as he'd fingered the reddened, sore reminders of the electrode patches which had, the day before, been so reluctant to surrender their grip on already irritated skin. He could almost see Jack's own fingers itching to relieve him of the burden of this unknown. Well, screw that.

The only risk he faced here was that of possibly being either flash-frozen or quick-boiled, and even that was an insignificant risk as freedom was at best a quick jab of the finger on the control panel and at worst a lunge out the opening away. Despite Jack's obvious attempts to pervert and distract him from the truth, he'd won the gift of first shower fair and square. Besides, he was not meant to have to exist in this state of post-sickness sweaty discomfort. It was a cultural imperative; he deserved first crack at this.

Daniel drew in a deep breath and let it go in a faint whoosh, banishing his doubts along with the carbon dioxide, as Carter reached forward to press the blue symbol on the control panel. That was the one she said they'd discovered turned on the heaters lining the plumbing. The green one seemed to open the mid-line valves to allow water to flow into those areas of the system, and she'd bet her bottom dollar the purple one on the inside panel would release the water into the chamber.

Carter pressed firmly on both the blue and green keypads. Daniel edged away a step, then shook his head and let out a small laugh. Okay, so maybe it had not been an entirely effective banishment. "God, you'd think I was about to do something really difficult, instead of step into a shower." He fiddled with the waistband of his distinctly non-regulation boxers.

Jack followed the nervous actions of his hands with a raised eyebrow. "Like, deliver a peer lecture on pre-4th dynasty writing systems wearing only your underwear, or something?" Daniel gave him a sour look. Trust Jack not to know when to stop. He suspected what came out of Jack's mouth next didn't even slow down as it passed his brain by. "Maybe if you had, they'd have stayed to hear the rest of it. Or... maybe not."

Daniel ignored the comment, raising his eyebrows at Sam and pointing at the inner panel. "The purple one, right?"

She nodded, and with a quick glance at Jack, Daniel quickly stepped inside. He twisted the dial for the force-field, and as the pale glow intensified he gave them a faintly embarrassed grin. "You're sure you tested the water?" Not waiting for an answer, he jabbed at the keypad displaying the purple symbol.

Nothing happened. Sam frowned, and told him to try hitting the control again. Daniel stood there, looking from her to the control panel and then up to the holes in the ceiling of the chamber. Not knowing just how much force the water would erupt from those holes with - should it do so at all - he thought better of that, and lowered his face to look down toward the floor as he pressed the symbol again.

Crap! So fast as to be impossible to catch with the eye, small apertures opened in the floor and narrow streams of water came shooting upward with a velocity which seemed to challenge the speed of light. Crying out and hopping forward as fast as he could, Daniel shot out through the opening of the shower, cupping his stinging testicles with both hands. God! It felt as though someone had taken a dozen - no, a trillion - red hot needles and... ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Daniel stood bent over, his hands fixed in place over the most adversely affected parts of his anatomy, and tried to shove away the almost overwhelming need to scream and beebop all over the place. It wouldn't help. He felt a hand on his back, heard voices, but it was a few moments before he was able to cope well enough for the sounds to make any sense. Sam and Jack, asking him repeatedly if he was okay, the slight edge of amusement to both their voices belying the expressed extent of their concern. His face burned, but he wasn't sure if it was more from the spots the water had hit him before he'd had a chance to look up and away, or from embarrassment.

When the acute pain settled to an intensely uncomfortable but altogether preferable heaviness, he became aware that the soles of his feet were stinging, and the lower swell of his butt cheeks felt like a swarm of mosquitoes had used them for target practice. Trying to ignore it all, he straightened up... just in time to see Jack about to step, fully clothed, into the enclosure. Daniel did a double-take as he realised there was no water shooting from anywhere inside. The flow must have stopped immediately as he'd left the chamber. Interesting.

Jack paused on the threshold, giving him what appeared to be a thoroughly, genuinely concerned look. "You okay?" When Daniel nodded, Jack stepped backward into the chamber, the apprehensive expression on his face almost humorous enough to overcome the pain laughing would have caused had Daniel given in to that urge. The impulse to laugh disappeared immediately as the water flow resumed with a vengeance as soon as Jack was more or less centred in the chamber. Forewarned, he kept his legs clamped firmly together, leaning back slightly as if to ensure none of the jets made it up his nose. Daniel knew just how fortunate it was Jack had a layer of heavy fabric as protection for the areas the spray did hit.

Frantically jabbing at the purple symbol, Jack swore loudly as the only change was an unfortunate increase in the water pressure. Daniel winced in sympathy, tentatively massaging his aching private parts, as further cursing and jabbing failed to resolve the problem. The narrow jets of water shooting upward seemed more suitable to power washing concrete than to a personal shower. Daniel and Sam stared at each other, and he saw the same reservations that were settling in the pit of his stomach, in her eyes. They'd assumed this thing had to be a shower stall, just had to be, but maybe they were wrong. Hell, for all they knew the Goa'uld had used it to strip paint off the decorative wall panels.

"Yes!" The triumphant exclamation drew their attention back to Jack. The jets of water from the floor were bubbling up in wide, soft fountains which reached almost to his waist before tumbling in waves back to the floor, to drain out through several new holes which had opened beneath his feet. Jack opened his legs wide, allowing the jets to tumble up between his legs, and waggled his hips suggestively.

"What did you do?" Sam frowned intently at the panel in front of her, as if it were going to answer her question instead of Jack.

Jack swiped a finger from top to bottom across the left hand side of the purple symbol, and the soft fountains gently diminished in height until they just barely cleared the tops of his boots. He then pressed his finger against the symbol to the right which Daniel had tried to decipher but could not, and the bubbling fountains turned into short versions of the thin, sharp spikes which had speared Daniel.

Sam began to chatter excitedly. "Oh! The right hand image controls the water pressure, and the left must control the height. Great! The colour must correspond to the origin of the flow. Okay, so if the purple is the control for the lower water jets, not that we realised there were any lower jets but obviously there are, so..."

Daniel rubbed his forehead in fatigue. God, he just had wanted a shower, that's all. Jack rolled his eyes over Sam's babbling and gestured toward Daniel's groin, silently mouthing "sorry about that." Daniel nodded absolution. He hadn't anticipated there would be any real problem learning how to work the thing either. It was no one's fault, really. He held his breath as Jack reached out to touch the red control symbol.

"...at least for the lower jets, the left hand control is the height. Once we figure out which control works the upper jets, though, we'll probably find that..."

There was a spurting noise from the shower, followed instantly by a loud gasp and curse from Jack. Water spat from the upper jets in large intermittent bursts, and while the pressure seemed reasonable, from the expression on Jack's face and the fact he was jumping about yipping, the temperature probably wasn't exactly comfortable. Several upward swipes of the right side of the pad resulted in alterations in pressure, while increasingly desperate manipulations of the symbol on the left simply altered the pattern of release of the water.

"Ahh, shit! Cold, it's too damn cold! What now, Carter?"

As Jack's lips began to turn an interesting shade of blue, Daniel was all too thankful for that streak of protectiveness he'd earlier been dismissive of. Sam remained amazingly calm in the face of the irate glares cast in her direction. "Right... just like I thought, for upper jets the left hand side must control some other function. It's like a shower massage with different settings." Sam pointed to the green symbol. "Try that one."

"Be careful, Jack." Daniel had visions of Jack going from 'a la mode' to 'flaming fricassee' in a matter of an instant.

"Sure, Daniel, and just how do you suggest I do that? Blow on it first?" Despite the sarcasm, though, Jack's touch on the left hand side of the green keypad was feather light. Too light, apparently, as his fingers seemed to be joining his lips in colour. With a deep breath, poised for flight, he pressed harder, and within a few seconds a wide grin spread across his face. "Sweet. That's it... it's warming up." He pressed on the pad again, and then closed his eyes and tilted his face up into the flow of water. "Ahh. That's more like it."

Daniel knew he was pushing his luck with how far this paternal bit would extend, but asked anyway. "So what's the right hand side of the green do?"

Jack slowly turned his head to one side, and with the water still running over his forehead to continue along one side of his raised face, and on down his neck, cracked one eye open to look at Daniel. He turned back to face into the flow and opened his mouth, allowing the water to fill it, and then reluctantly turned and stepped from the shower to stand in front of Daniel. A fountain of warm water liberally laced with saliva splashed over Daniel's shoulder and chest just before Jack smiled smugly with his now empty mouth, gesturing toward the enclosure as he walked off. "It's all yours, Daniel."

He disappeared out the door leaving a trail of water on the floor, before the 'eewww' in Daniel's mind could even make its way to his vocal chords. Clamping her lips in an all too obvious attempt to stifle a laugh, Sam turned to leave, giving him some sage advice on the way out the door. "Maybe it's best you don't even try the right hand side, Daniel. Have a good one, okay?"

Yeah. Okay. Daniel turned his attention to the shower... which was no longer showering, now that Jack had stepped out. Fervently hoping the new settings stayed in memory as they had done before when delivering the torture from below, he stripped off his boxers, took a deep breath, and stepped across the threshold.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Loran stared with mesmerised dread at the black lump which lay on the floor immediately in front of the chamber. His conscious mind tried to deny what it was, and what it meant, but both his rational intelligence and rampant imagination held sway over the tenets of his upbringing. There was no denying it, no matter the source nor strength of his motivation to do so. He may have been too intent upon watching Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter leave the room to have observed it actually happen, but it was undeniable. He knew exactly what that thing on the floor was. Dr. Jackson was now completely unclothed. Just over there, inside that thing.

He could see the red glow illuminating the sides and upper arch of the entrance, and if he kept his eyes fixed long enough in that direction could see the spray of water and catch flashes of movement from inside, quick glimpses of wet, pale skin. The gentle sound of splashing from the shower was joined by a soft voice - a melodic humming; its owner's contentment wafting across to Loran. He averted his eyes, distressed to the point he felt as though he couldn't catch his breath, the sudden great pressure on his chest making it seem all but impossible to take in enough air for survival. He forced his gaze upward away from the threshold, focusing instead upon the small row of round field generators lining the top arch of the opening. He vaguely recalled his parents saying something about some sort of energy field, then deciding not to investigate it, and he wondered if this could be what they had encountered.

He also recalled something far more recent... Dr. Jackson standing just in front of this opening, reaching upward. He remembered the flex of muscle in the man's back and shoulder, and the lines of ribs curving around from front to back as Jackson had extended his arm above his head. A sight the likes of which Loran had never seen before. Should never have seen, not ever. But he could see it in his head right now: a bunching of the muscles in the man's upper arm, and just to the back of his arm a sort of tightening and a ridge of taut muscle appearing on -

Oh! Loran was startled to find himself standing in the alcove with his eyes closed, his thin arm raised above his head in imitation of the image in his mind. Stop! What was he doing? What was wrong with him? Feeling humiliated despite being alone and undetected, Loran stepped back away from the lattice and moved to lower his arm. His new awareness of his own body filtered through his mortification, freezing him in place as he became conscious of the sensation of movement in his back and shoulder. Oh, Great One, oh please... this was so wrong! He clasped his arms tightly around his chest and stood rocking with distress as his father's voice in his head chastised him, telling him this was all his fault. He had placed himself here, in this dead-end alcove, and he had stayed facing forward - had actually watched - as clothing was removed.

As he struggled to control his breathing, locked in a protective self-hug, that horrible, bad part of him which had participated in such an immoral act as to view the unclothed form of another recognised a faint pull across his upper back, a bunching of muscle in his upper arms. No! Oh, please no! Make it go away! Loran quickly pulled his arms away from his body, and placing his hands flat against the lattice with arms locked straight outward, pressed firmly against it in an attempt to push away this new, unwanted awareness. But the act brought other sensations... he felt a definite tightening along the underside of his upper arms. Mental images peaked into clarity - a swell of firm flesh along the underside of a strong adult arm, beginning at a point almost at the underarm and extending halfway along, to be interrupted by a well-defined ridge...

The visual memory swirled around the sensation of his own arms pushing against the panel, and with a sense of morbid, reluctant fascination Loran imagined that was what his arms might look like, right there, right now. Abruptly, his father's angry voice slammed into him, telling him this was worse than utter foolishness - that it was depraved and the image, the knowledge, he sought was degenerate and ugly. The attack was brutal in its clarity and the force with which it delivered its absolute truth. Overwhelmingly swamped by learned shame and abhorrence, Loran bent his elbows and with a violent shove pushed himself away from the lattice panel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Humming pleasantly to himself, Daniel worked the shampoo into his hair, stiffening his fingers to give his scalp a firm massage in the process. Finally, the soap and water of a real shower, to banish the smell of the infirmary lingering on his hair and skin, right along with days worth of dried sweat and the lines of tape residue on his chest, arms, and thigh.

This felt good. No... it felt great. No, wait, it was better than great. It was incredible. Water fell gently, virtually silently, down from the wide perimeter of the circle of jets on the ceiling in a warm, relaxing spray which seamlessly joined with the soft fountains bubbling up from below. Standing centred under the hub of the circle, where the upper jets remained closed, Daniel concentrated on thoroughly soaping his hair to the point he felt large clumps of the scented lather slide off down the nape of his neck to leisurely flow on down his spine. A particularly huge collection of suds miraculously made it all the way down more or less intact, and paused for a moment in the depression at the small of his back, as if to catch its breath before continuing the journey.

Stretching out the muscles of his shoulders and back, his arms reaching out in front of him, Daniel leaned his upper body forward and arched his back, bringing his rear backward out of the centre of the circle, into the perimeter spray. The lather broke up under the warm downfall, proceeding on over, around, and down in slippery, thick rivulets of soapy water. The fountains from below caressed gently, lapping at the insides of his thighs as he spread his legs to allow the water to wash away lather which had tracked around and down to the inside. With a satisfied sigh, he leaned farther forward to bring his upper body out of the centre, placing his hands flat against the near wall, between the two control panels there. As he brought his head and shoulders far enough forward that the spray caught his upper back and shoulders, as well as rinsing the suds from his hair, he let out a satisfied sigh. Heaven. Lock him in here with an endless supply of coins, a vending machine, and a toilet, and he'd be content for life.

Just as Daniel was wondering if there was any way to convince the trades-guys at the SGC to re-plumb the locker room showers to work like this, there was an almighty crash from outside the enclosure. Startled, Daniel's eyes snapped open and his body jerked back, his fingers just catching the edge of the image to the immediate right of the purple control as he pushed himself away from the wall in alarm. Oh... oh, oh... what the hell? Daniel's eyeballs threatened to pop right out of his head as the technological masterpiece of a shower responded to the light touch all too efficiently - heavenly soft fountains of water from below instantly became hellishly thin, high pressure spikes which drilled into him with a vengeance and result all too consistent with his previous experiences with Goa'uld technology. Oww!

A roar ripped from his throat as his brain fully caught up with the water pressure and he felt the stinging impacts in all their glory. 'Oww' just didn't cut it. Daniel moved for all he was worth, lunging for the doorway. He hurled himself through the opening, and was aware of involuntarily rapidly moving beyond that, out into the centre of the room. Running. Stop... wait... stop running! Banging about, you idiot. Hurts! Daniel forced himself to stop, and stood bent over, elbows on his thighs and chin to his chest, trying not to give in to the urge to hop up and down. His hands fluttered in front of him, both trying in vain to wave away the discomfort and undecided as to just where to cup, rub, and soothe first. He drew in a deep, shuddering breath. Wait. Relax. Okay. It was okay... wasn't it? He was just surprised, that's all; a bit shocked. He wasn't really hurt, even though it *hurt*. After all, it's only water...

As he stood there valiantly trying to regain his composure and ignore the myriad of needle-stings plaguing particularly sensitive bodily areas, whimpering pitched far too high for it to be his own filtered into Daniel's conscious awareness. A high, wavering, keening which quite clearly wasn't coming from his own throat nor the shower behind him. Opening clenched eyes and raising his head, Daniel scanned the room.

Ohh boy.

Boy oh boy, all right. To his left, a large section of the heavy, decorated metal latticework which fronted the side wall had somehow crashed over onto the floor, to reveal a small enclosed space behind the panel. And something else, too. Daniel slowly raised himself from his bent-over stance, wincing in discomfort, and stared in disbelief. It was obviously a blind alcove; no way in or out other than around the front edge of the lattice panel. He slowly turned his head, tracing a path with his eyes from the location of the alcove to the inside of the shower enclosure, then back again to the sight on the floor in front of him. Yup. Jeez. Jeez-us!

Gotta be kidding, right? This was just so... so... *so*. There he'd been, blithely stripping off and showering, giving his butt the ultimate in shower massages, and the whole time he'd been... been watched. Surreptitiously observed. To put it bluntly, spied upon. Daniel's chest tightened, and awareness of the stinging heat in his feet, legs, butt, and groin faded back in favour of his rapidly mounting anger.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Daniel fisted both hands, placing them on his hips. The feel of soap-slick skin reminded him of his rather undignified situation - he wasn't exactly giving this lecture in full formal attire - and he dropped his hands. They travelled automatically to cover up his groin, but that felt even sillier so he let them drop to his sides, feeling a warm blush creep across his face. Okay... well, so that wasn't exactly effectively assertive, was it? It took a few moments to get over that embarrassment; that same few moments to realise that in addition to the obvious, there was something very much amiss here.

Loran sat crouched half on top of the fallen panel, one hand pressed to the floor and the other to his mouth, from which a continuous, pitiful, high-pitched whimpering emerged despite the obvious pressure with which his hand was clamped over his mouth. The kid's eyes were huge, and staring directly at Daniel. Despite being angry, Daniel couldn't help but feel increasingly confused as he realised Loran's eyes were virtually glazed over, and the distress evident in the boy's entire manner - the plaintive keening, fixed stare, and the shaking of his whole body - seemed to go far beyond fear or dismay over having been discovered. Loran was quite obviously thoroughly, completely horrified. Utterly terrified.

Realisation of all the -ly's brought Daniel's anger to a dead halt. Loran was terrified of him? Hey, okay, so this time he was actually mad, yes, and no doubt it had shown on his face as he'd realised Loran had been spying on him... but hey, what had he done over the last several days that would provoke this kind of reaction to a bit of justified anger? It wasn't as if he and Loran had not been getting along over the last couple of days; Daniel had thought they were well on their way toward forging an easier, more relaxed relationship than he'd thought possible at the outset when he'd discovered Loran had been there all along, had known, but let them all get addicted anyway. That was stored away well out of sight now, hopefully sort-of on the way toward eventually being forgiven... and it wasn't like he was in any way an imposing figure, like Teal'c or the Incredible Hulk or anything.

Perplexed and concerned, Daniel took a few steps toward Loran, his hands held out palms-up in front of him in unconscious expression of his confusion. His voice soft, he tried to reassure the boy. "Loran? Hey, it's okay. I'm not mad... not much, err, anymore, anyway..."

He stopped when Loran abruptly averted his head and uncovered his mouth to extend his arm in a warding-off gesture, awkwardly skittering backward in what looked to Daniel to be full fledged panic. Daniel's impression was verified when Loran desperately continued to attempt to scoot backward even though he was quite literally up against the wall. It was like watching a malfunctioning toy remote control vehicle - that silly little jeep thing of Jack's, to be precise - bumping and jittering around in a corner, and the strangled sound effects Loran was now providing only heightened the similarity. Daniel frowned, taking a few more steps toward the boy, and wondered if this might have more to do with things he was never a part of than it did his discovery of Loran's little alcove adventure.

Loran turned his head again, looked straight at Daniel. Clearly, saw him coming. Immediately, he turned a distinct shade of puke green. Oh, hell, it looked like the boy was going to spew for sure. Daniel moved forward, then reversed and spun around to go in the opposite direction to retrieve the towel Jack had given him. He could wet it in the shower; Loran would probably need it. He grabbed it and shoved his arm and upper body into the enclosure, braving the reappearance of the stinging flow of water just long enough to fully saturate the towel.

When he turned back, it was to see Loran on his feet, stumbling along with his shoulder pressed to the wall, making for the door to the room. His progress was severely hampered by the fact one hand was held firmly over his eyes. Crap. This was ridiculous. It was clear Loran was extremely frightened of him, and no matter how much that bothered Daniel, even though normally he wouldn't be inclined to push the issue - would back off and give Loran some space and the innate reassurance which came along with doing that - at this rate the child was going to end up tripping over his own feet, maybe hurt himself.

"Loran, wait..." Daniel picked up the pace, making straight for the boy, his arm outstretched to offer a steadying hand. He was only a few feet away when it became apparent he was too late. Loran's hip bumped awkwardly against the wall and he lost his balance, going down with a flailing of thin legs and arms to collapse on the floor in an untidy sprawl. Daniel covered the remaining distance in one giant step and crouched down next to Loran, becoming even more concerned as Loran started to cry. Hard. A lot. More or less sobbing, actually.

God, what was this all about? Daniel reached out and touched the boy on the shoulder. The response was instantaneous, and not nearly what Daniel hoped for. Loran cried out, "No! Don't... it's wrong!" and as Daniel's hand closed on his shoulder he lashed out with surprising strength, knocking Daniel down onto his butt on the floor next to him. Before Daniel had a chance to take in this new and even more undignified position, Loran leaped to his feet, nearly treading all over him as he did so.

"No! Go away! You can't touch me, we can't touch!" Loran was yelling, stumbling away. "This is wrong. Bad. I can't look at you! I mustn't look at you!"

Daniel grunted as Loran's booted foot inadvertently landed on and then slid off his shin. Loran's whole body lurched slightly as he continued his uncoordinated retreat, repeatedly jerking his gaze to and then away from Daniel. The length of time his eyes stayed put on Daniel seemed to lengthen, in concert with the pauses between effective shuffles away from him. He was mumbling, repeating the same thing he had just shouted: that he couldn't, shouldn't look at Daniel. Couldn't touch. Shouldn't look. Mustn't look. Mustn't... look...

In short order, Loran was standing stock still, pressed against the wall right next to Daniel, staring down on him. His face was tinged with that same puke green, and Daniel started to reconsider just who might be in most need of that wet towel in a few moments. But then Loran seemed to recover from whatever momentary stasis had seized hold of him, and with a strangled gasp he jerked to life. Ran. Turned tail and ran for the door. Daniel watched in total confusion as Loran banged the door open and pelted out of the room. The door lazily swung back, not quite shutting, letting in cold air from the hallway.

Daniel lay on the floor, the wet towel halfway underneath him and water from his wet hair dripping into his eyes. What the hell? What had Loran said? Something about them touching, about Loran looking at him being 'wrong'? But he had looked... and he'd looked mighty fascinated, in a bizarre sort of way, at the end there, almost as if... what? As if he had never - Oh, wait. Ohhh, hell. Daniel reached out to the wall to steady himself and sat up, finally getting a glimmer of insight into what was probably going on here. The alcove was a dead end. Loran had to have been in there - maybe hiding, maybe not - before he and Jack and Sam had even come back into the room to try out the damned shower. God knows, Loran had already shown a definite tendency toward hiding himself away from others...

Daniel swivelled around and leaned up against the wall. The horrified look on Loran's face and the boy's words replayed in his mind. Shit. Of course. All cultures invariably established standards for behaviour, had differing sensibilities and beliefs in at the very least some areas. Just like Jack's ice cream had wreaked havoc with a digestive system not used to coping with such rich food - Loran had spent most of that first night hugging the Goa'uld version of a toilet - there were bound to be many Earth-bound things Loran might have difficulty assimilating. Apparently, the revealed human body was one of them.

Okay, so how to deal with this? If Loran was going to successfully be integrated into another world's culture, whether it be Earth, the Land of the Light or anywhere else, there were decisions to be made on what of his own he wanted to retain, and what to let go. And it was pretty obvious Loran would need help with that. Daniel knew if he messed this up trust would become an issue, and there was no way he wanted Loran to have to deal with anything even approaching the grim feelings of bitterness and lack of trust he himself was struggling to overcome - a product of his and SG 5's falling victim to the Light when it all could have been prevented.

Okay. Loran was a child; it wasn't his fault. And neither was this incident. Daniel knew Loran couldn't manage this alone, but it was quite possible he wouldn't be able to intellectually and emotionally handle Daniel's presence for a while. So, clearly, he'd have to give the boy some space for a bit. Luckily they had three weeks in which to slowly chip away at the problem. Luckily? Crap, he couldn't believe he'd just thought that. There was nothing to do with this place that had any right to be in the same thought as the word luck.

Daniel dragged a hand through his hair in frustration. Yuck. His hair was still laden with enough soap to make it feel disgustingly slippery. Wet, slimy, and cold... not just his hair, but all of him. All over. And sore. The floor was damned hard. So, why was he still sitting there? Daniel levered himself up, grabbing the towel off the floor. Okay, so there you go. One more thing which was wet and cold. Oh, this was just perfect. He stood there, the useless, soaking wet towel dangling from his hand, and looked down at himself. There were streaks of dirt from the dusty floor all up and down his legs. He supposed it was even worse on his butt. He'd just got out of the shower, and here he was, filthy.

As he stood there eyeballing himself, he once again became aware of the after-effects of the Goa'uld water torture he'd been subjected to. Was that a bit of swelling there, down there? He stared with distaste at the shower enclosure, full well knowing he had to go back in there, regardless of the current state of his precious bits or the present control settings. Damn.

'Once more unto the breech' certainly was not his swan song, that's for sure. Where the hell was Jack when you needed him, anyway?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A t-shirt is one pretty poor substitute for a towel. Daniel cursed under his breath as his boxers refused to slide on over still damp skin, the wide elastic waistband bunching up around his hips and forcing him to yank on them to get them the rest of the way up. The fatigue pants proved a bit easier, the stiffer material more amenable to manhandling. He wiped off his feet with his socks just one more time for good measure, before pulling them on and deciding to forgo his boots. He really didn't relish the idea of forcing his tender feet into the heavy leather boots, even though he knew walking on the hard floors without them might be just as bad.

His feet were covered; that was the main thing. As for the rest of him... Daniel looked at the more or less mangled t-shirt with regret, and reluctantly pulled it on over his head. Bleaahh. It was cold and wet, and stuck to his skin. It felt awful. The things he did for the sake of others.

He set out toward the main hall, to the Stargate, where the latest collection of boxes the SGC had sent still sat mostly unpacked. Deep in thought, Daniel walked the corridors and turned all the right corners on auto-pilot. He'd have to talk to Sam and Jack about what happened with Loran in the shower room. It was important they understood, that they realised it was essential to ferret out and respect the values and behavioural standards Loran had grown up with, along with finding a balance between Loran's need for personal space and the risk of a new kind of isolation.

He swung around the corner into the main hall, and head down, mulling over whether or not Jack had it in him to be insightful enough to handle Loran with the required sensitivity, made a beeline for the pile of containers against the wall farthest from the Stargate, straight to the one he knew contained their changes of clothing. The jackets were neatly folded right on top of the pile, and he grabbed one and slung it over his shoulder as he pawed deeper in search of a dry t-shirt. Ah, there. Checking the label to ensure it wasn't one of Sam's, Daniel flicked the jacket off his shoulder onto the floor and crossed his arms in front of himself, grabbed the bottom edges on either side of his wet shirt, and started to strip it off over his head.

He foze mid-way through, the shirt more than halfway up his abdomen, as a readily audible gasp followed closely by his name uttered in a very familiar warning tone came from behind him. Still with his arms crossed in front of him, Daniel whipped around to see Loran and Jack sitting together on the steps of the Stargate platform. Loran visibly flinched as Daniel came to rest fully facing them. Damn. He yanked down the shirt as well as he could, fumbling a bit as it stuck to his skin, and hastily retrieved the jacket off the floor.

Daniel hadn't expected to run into Loran; he'd assumed Loran would have run off to huddle alone in one of his hiding places. Stupid, stupid assumption to make, of course. He really didn't know Loran well enough to make any assumptions, did he? It was encouraging, though, that Loran was here with Jack. Daniel pulled the jacket on, answering Jack's stern, 'well, duh' look with an abashed apologetic one, not quite knowing what to do other than to cover himself up. That problem was solved when Loran looked right up at him, and made a valiant attempt to smile.

Daniel seized the opportunity, crossing the room and sitting down next to him on the opposite side from Jack, taking care not to sit so close as to come into physical contact with Loran. Although it was clear Loran was trying hard to relax there was an air of nervous tension about him that made Daniel wince. He looked over the top of Loran's head at Jack, seeking some sort of hint about just what Jack and Loran had talked about, if anything. Jack simply waggled his head slightly and gazed off at nothing in particular. Daniel was on his own here.

He stared at the top of Loran's bowed head and did his best. "There are bound to be some differences between the beliefs of your culture and ours... what you're used to, and what we do. We can work through them together."

Feeling a slight ticklish sensation on his hand, Daniel looked down. Loran was tentatively tracing the viens in the back of Daniel's hand with one finger, the touch feather light, his own hand trembling slightly. There was a matching tremour in his voice as he quietly spoke to Daniel. "Jack says it's okay to touch like this on your world."

Daniel involuntarily smiled. "Yes, it is. Amongst friends."

The finger moved away from Daniel's hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you were going to... to... do private things. I didn't mean to do anything wrong. It... it just happened."

Daniel groaned to himself. Way to go, Jackson. He took another stab at it. "Loran, you haven't offended me. I'm not mad. Just... concerned."

Jack's voice was gentle, reassuring. "Loran, it's all right. No matter the differences, we won't leave you. You don't have to be alone anymore."

Daniel opened his mouth, almost blurting out that although that was true, it didn't solve anything. Jack beat him to it. "You don't have to give up anything you don't want to, Loran, but you may have to make allowances. Some compromises. If you're willing to trust us, we can help. No more hiding."

Jack's eyes met Daniel's own above Loran's head. There was a natural quality of compassion and understanding there, and immediately Daniel felt foolish to have worried about whether Jack would be a help or a hindrance to Loran. What Jack might lack in cultural sensitivity he more than made up for in fatherly instincts. Jack was exactly what Loran needed.

As Loran's head bobbed in apparent acknowledgement of Jack's words, Jack's eyes crinkled in amusement and he softly murmured to Loran, "And other than the kind of touching, what else did Jack say was okay?"

The bowed head sank even lower, and Loran stuck both his hands between his knees. He spoke so quietly Daniel had to bend forward to hear him. "Jack says it's okay to feel embarrassed like I do around someone when you've seen them at their worst."

Silent laughter figuratively poured out of Jack's eyes. Daniel tried to maintain an insulted glare at him, but found he couldn't keep up the pretence. Yes, Jack was *exactly* what Loran needed.

 


 

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