Daniel stared in horror at the room. The blood was everywhere, spattered across the walls, on the furniture, what looked like several pints of it on the floor. The room looked like a murder scene from some crime drama show on TV – except that this murder scene was real . . . and it was his.
Trying very hard not to think about it, Daniel stripped out of his bloody clothes. He quickly washed the blood from his body, feeling a desperate need for a very long, hot shower. The shower wouldn't be possible, but, if he asked, he was sure that Egeria would let him use the bath for the freemen. That would have to wait for another time, though. Right now, he had someplace he needed to get to as fast as possible.
Hurrying down the halls, Daniel followed a course he had traveled many times, the one leading to the library. When he got there, his heart cracked open at the sight before him. Decimus sat at his desk, face buried in his hands, his bent shoulders shaking as he wept.
"Decimus?" the archeologist called softly.
The old man's head rose. He stared at Daniel dumbly.
"D-D-Daniel?" he finally stammered disbelievingly.
"No, you're not seeing things. I'm really alive."
"B-b-but I was told. . . . They said. . . ."
"Yeah, I know." Daniel gave his friend a gentle smile. "I got resurrected . . . again."
In the next moment, Decimus was hurrying to him. Then Daniel found himself in a tight embrace, feeling the man's body quaking against his.
"Oh, my boy, my boy," Decimus whispered hoarsely.
Daniel returned the hug. "It's all right, Decimus. I'm okay."
The old librarian pulled back and cupped a hand behind Daniel's neck. "It is a miracle."
"A miracle courtesy of Goa'uld technology."
"You are saying that the power of the Goa'uld brought you back to life?"
Daniel nodded. "You know that little healing device that Egeria has? Well, there's a bigger machine that's powerful enough that, if you use it in time, can bring people back from the dead. This isn't the first time one has done that for me."
"Thank all the gods that such a thing exists." Decimus went to his chair, telling Daniel to sit with him. The archeologist got his chair and brought it over.
"Tell me what happened," the library keeper requested. "I was told that you were murdered."
"Yeah. It was Spurius."
Decimus stared at him in shock. "Spurius? You told me that he appeared to dislike you, but I did not think him capable of murder." The man shook his head. "He will be fortunate if Egeria only kills him."
Daniel grimaced. "Yeah, I'm kind of afraid of what she might do to him. She was . . . really angry."
"And with good reason. She cares about you a great deal."
Daniel's gaze fell to the floor. "I know."
"Ah. I see you are aware of her true feelings."
Daniel lifted his head. "You knew?"
"Yes, for a while now. I have known her too long not to have seen it." Decimus' gaze sharpened. "If I am not mistaken, you do not share her feelings."
Daniel sighed. "No, though it is not because I don't think she's an incredible, beautiful woman. I just still love my wife very much." He got up. "I have to go, Decimus. I don't know if word of my death has spread beyond the palace yet or not. I need to get to Aulus."
"Of course. Go hurry. There is love for you in his heart, too."
Daniel hurried out of the palace, ignoring all the stunned looks. Apparently, news of his return to life wasn't spreading as fast as that of his death. He'd already nearly caused a couple of heart attacks and had sent a few women screaming away as he went to his room to wash and change clothes. It would have been amusing if not for the seriousness of what happened. So, what did this bring the death count up to? If they had clubs for such things, he'd surely be a charter member by now.
Should he be concerned that he could crack jokes about this?
No laughing matter was the fate awaiting Spurius. Even though the man had killed him, Daniel didn't want revenge. He didn't want Spurius to suffer the kind of torture that Egeria might be capable of inflicting upon him. He could only hope that the Goa'uld in her was truly gone and she'd grant him a quick death.
Egeria glared coldly as Spurius was brought into the throne room and thrown at her feet.
"My Queen! What have I done?" he asked. "Why am I being treated so?"
"You know what you have done, Spurius. You did cruelly murder the one called Daniel, a man who has gained great favor and honor in my eyes. How dare you commit such an act! In striking him down you struck at me!"
"No, My Queen! It was not me!"
Egeria rose to her feet, her eyes glowing. "Do not lie to me," she commanded in the deep voice of the Goa'uld. "I am your queen."
Spurius began to babble. "I did it for you, My Queen. He curried favor with you for his own purposes and benefit. He used sweet words and a pretense of modesty and kindness to endear himself to you. For seventeen years I have served you faithfully, never asking for more than what you deigned to bestow upon me, yet he was here for mere months and with his lies, cunning and deceit did raise himself to a place in the highest ranks of your servants. I knew that I had to kill him. I tried once before. I had heard that he was made violently ill from the flowers in the west garden and needed you to heal him with your power, so I had hoped that, if he was exposed to them when you were not here to heal him, he would die and no longer be a threat. But it failed." Something almost like a smile came to his face, the gleam of fanaticism in his eyes. "But, this time, I did not fail. Do you not see? I had to kill him to protect you."
Egeria was surprised to learn that it had been Spurius, not Secundus, who placed the flowers in the slaves' dining room. This was not the first time he had sought to bring about Daniel's death.
The queen's eyes flashed with rage. "How dare you think that you have greater wisdom than me, that you can see things that I cannot. Your accusations are false. Daniel is a good and kind man, all that he appears to be. Your jealousy and the darkness in your own heart made you see what was not there." She reached down and grasped his throat, pulling him up off the floor. "If you had succeeded in taking Daniel's life forever, I would gladly torture you until you lay a torn and dead husk on the floor. But you failed this time as well, Spurius. I have brought life back to him and healed the injuries you wrought. He will continue to serve me." She released him. "You, however, will not." Egeria looked at the Jaffa who'd brought the man before her. "Kill him."
As she strode toward the door, she heard Spurius begging for mercy. His pleas were silenced by the blast of a staff weapon.
The moment Daniel saw Aulus, he knew that the man hadn't received word of what happened. Walking up to where the master builder stood watching the construction going on, Daniel formulated his words.
"Hey, Aulus," he said.
The man turned to him with a smile. "Daniel! What a pleasant surprise."
"Um . . . we need to talk."
Aulus' smile disappeared. "Is there trouble?"
"Well . . . sort of."
The builder took him to a spot outside the construction site, and they sat upon a low wall.
"You know how you made me promise to tell you the next time someone tried to kill me?" Daniel asked.
Aulus looked startled. "Someone tried to kill you again?"
"No, someone . . . did kill me."
Aulus blinked, stared at him, then blinked again. "Have you had a few extra glasses of wine today, Daniel?"
"I'm serious, Aulus. Last night, I was stabbed to death by one of Egeria's slaves."
He explained the whole thing to the man, watching Aulus' expression go from horror, to wonder, to deep anger.
"He will suffer greatly for this," the master builder growled.
"I hope not."
"He murdered you, Daniel! He stabbed you in the back like a coward! He deserves any punishment Egeria gives to him."
Not feeling like arguing about what kind of punishment Spurius deserved, Daniel stood up.
"I need to get back. I just wanted to come tell you what happened before you heard about it from someone else. Half the palace probably still thinks I'm dead, and a few people think my bloody corpse is walking the halls."
Aulus laughed, wishing he'd seen the looks on the faces of the people who saw Daniel after his return to life.
The master builder got to his feet and abruptly pulled Daniel into a bear hug. "I bless Egeria for bringing you back to us," he murmured. He then stepped back, patted Daniel's shoulders, wiped a finger quickly over one eye, and strode off back to work.
It turned out that Daniel was wrong about the number of people at the palace who still thought he was dead. When he got back there, he learned that news of his return to life had spread from one end of the place to the other. Many people had found out about his murder and his resurrection at the same time. Another thing Daniel learned was that Spurius was dead. The man was brought before Egeria and executed on the spot. Daniel was relieved that he had not been tortured first.
A servant had informed Daniel that Egeria had commanded that his room be scrubbed clean of all traces of blood. Any furniture that couldn't be cleaned of it – or stripped of covers, as in the case of the bed – would be replaced with new furniture. The process was going to take quite a while, so he'd been banned from his room until it was done. Considering the fact that he had no desire to go back there any time soon, that was not going to be a problem. He was also told that Egeria had given permission for him to use the bath for the freemen, which he most eagerly took her up on, only wishing that he had his homemade bar of soap with him.
The archeologist was in the midst of a conversation with one of the slaves when he heard running feet and turned to see Titus barreling toward him. The boy threw his arms around Daniel's waist.
"He said you were dead!" he cried. "I was playing with Tiberius, and a slave came and told me you were dead!" He looked up at Daniel. "I did not want to believe it. I ran away to the river. But you are not dead. You are alive!"
Daniel wrapped an arm around the boy's shoulders, giving him a squeeze. "I am now. Come on. I'll tell you all about it."
As they walked, Daniel told Titus what happened. The youth was filled with anger over Daniel's murder and awe over his return to the land of the living.
"Egeria is truly a god," he breathed.
"What she used was a machine, Titus, not magical powers." Daniel stopped short of actually denying that Egeria was a god. It was up to her to tell her people that.
Nobody in the library got much of any work done that day. It was a little tough to concentrate on anything when you were constantly being interrupted by people coming by either to ask about what happened or simply to confirm the story. Titus ate it up and became the official storyteller, his recount of the heinous murder and Daniel's resurrection getting more dramatic with each telling. It became even more so when they learned that it was Spurius who put the flowers in the dining room, that this was actually his second murder attempt on Daniel. Titus painted the man as a maniacal fiend who'd coldly plotted the archeologist's murder for weeks.
Daniel believed otherwise. He was thinking about the way Spurius had been acting last night, the pacing, the nervous gestures, eyes that would not meet his. They were not the mannerisms of a man who had coldly plotted his death.
Daniel was certain that the incident with the flowers was a spur of the moment thing, a sudden, impulsive decision. To kill someone that way, from a distance, took far less bravery than to do so up close and personal, especially when the man you wanted dead was bigger and stronger than you.
As for last night, Daniel was almost certain that Spurius' intention had been to kill him in his sleep. He'd learned that the man had completed his duties for the day at the usual time in the evening and had apparently gone off to retire for the night not long afterwards. He would have had no reason to be passing Daniel's door at three in the morning, especially since the lavatory was in the opposite direction. From one slave, Daniel learned that Spurius had been seen near the archeologist's room earlier in the night, at somewhere around midnight.
Daniel's belief was that Spurius had finally gathered the courage that night to murder him, but, upon coming to Daniel's room at midnight, saw that the light was on. He'd returned to his room and waited. When he came back three hours later and found the light still on, he didn't know what to do. He'd worked himself up to finally commit the deed, but his plan was unraveling. And so he began to pace. When Daniel confronted him, he decided to go for it anyway.
The archeologist thought about what would have happened if he hadn't gotten caught up in his work on the Furling language and went to bed when he had originally intended. He'd have been asleep when Spurius stole into his room at midnight. Twelve hours later, his body would have been found, and it would have been too late to put him in the sarcophagus. He'd escaped permanent death because he was a workaholic. He could only imagine what Jack would have to say about that.
Considering what happened, Daniel had fully expected Egeria to ask to see him sometime during the day. Therefore, he was surprised when the day came to a close without a visit or a request to see her. He hadn't ventured into any of the gardens during the day, having had enough of long stares and curious servants as it was.
When Daniel got to his room that evening, he saw that a pretty good job had been done on removing all traces of what happened there. The walls and floor were clean. New bedding and pillows were on the bed. All the chairs had been replaced, no doubt because blood was a lot harder to get out of upholstery than it was off of hard surfaces.
The problem was that, no matter how clean the room was, it couldn't remove from his mind the memories of what happened there. All day today, he'd fought not to think about it without much success. Of course, the fact that the whole grisly story kept getting repeated over and over again didn't help much.
Daniel walked over to the table and looked down at the papers containing the Furling language and his translation notes, which someone had stacked in a neat pile. His eyes went to the dark stains on the paper that had not been there before.
On the previous occasions that he'd died, it had been quick, a brief instant of pain and then nothing, unless you counted his cardiac arrest while in Ma'chello's body. But this time was a whole hell of a lot different. As the knife plunged into his body over and over again, he had known that he was going to die. He'd actually seen his life flash before his eyes and had wondered if he'd really done enough to make a difference.
Forcefully pushing those thoughts yet again out if his mind, Daniel stepped over to the chair to sit down. A knock on the door halted him. He stiffened, remaining locked in place for several seconds, the thought of what happened the last time someone came to his room running through his head. Chastising himself for being silly, he then went to the door and opened it. It was Camilla.
"Egeria would like you to come to her private chambers," the Lo'taur said.
"Oh. Um, all right."
On the way there, Daniel wondered if the reason why Egeria had not talked to him earlier was that she hadn't wanted to do so when there was any chance that they would be interrupted. Another thing he'd heard today was talk of her weeping in utter anguish as she held his body close. His death had hit her hard, and her emotions were probably still high. She might fear that she'd lose control again as she spoke to him. She wouldn't want anyone else to see that.
This time, Egeria was in the lounge when Daniel arrived. She just stood staring at him for several seconds. Then he saw the subtle changes that marked Arria being given control. Seconds after that, she was across the room and holding onto Daniel as if for dear life.
"Oh, Daniel. It hurt so much. It hurt so much," Arria sobbed.
Daniel held her close, rubbing her back soothingly. "Shh. It's okay, Arria. Don't cry."
"We thought we had lost you. Egeria wanted to die. I wanted to die, too."
The confession made Daniel's breath catch. He tightened his hold a little more.
Arria lifted her head and held his eyes with hers. "We care about you so much. Please do not ever leave us. We cannot bear for you to go. We cannot let you go."
Daniel's heart began to sink. Would this incident drive Egeria into refusing to free him from slavery? Would her emotions cloud her conscience?
"A-Arria, I understand how you feel; I really do. But I can't stay here. I have to go home, go back to fighting against the Goa'uld."
Arria's head shook vehemently. "No! You cannot go! You have to stay with us forever!"
Suddenly, the body of the woman he was holding stiffened slightly. He saw a familiar flash of light in the eyes. When it faded, the look of desperation was gone.
"I am sorry," Egeria said. "Arria's emotions overcame her."
"It's all right, Egeria. I understand."
Tear-filled eyes met his. "In all my two thousand years of life, never have I felt so much pain. My grief knew no bounds. If I had not been able to revive you, all joy in my life would have been gone."
"But you did revive me, Egeria. I'm okay." He pulled her a little bit closer. "I'm okay."
Standing there and looking into Daniel's eyes, feeling his warm, living body so close to hers, Egeria felt her self-control slipping. She sensed the danger signals, knew that she should put a halt to this before things got out of hand, but it felt so very good to be held by him. Choosing to ignore the alarm that was now blaring deep inside her mind, she did not rein in the desire that was growing stronger by the second. Her eyes slid down to Daniel's lips. In the next second, her self-control crumbled completely, and she pulled his mouth down to hers.
The feeling of his lips on hers ignited Egeria's desire into a raging bonfire, sending it surging through every part of her. Her body responded. Unaware of what she was doing, Egeria released her Nish'ta'el, Nish'ta'el that her passion and love crafted into a powerful mixture of almost pure pheromone.
Daniel, who was on the verge of breaking the kiss, breathed in the Nish'ta'el. Instantly, he was hit with an intense wave of desire that took control of him completely. His mind and body on fire with sudden, all-consuming need, he crushed Egeria against him and devoured her mouth, her resulting moan lost in the heat of his hunger.
Desperate, needy hands began running over bodies. Egeria released the belt from around Daniel's waist, then her hands went under his tunic to tug and pull at the loincloth around his hips. It came undone and fell to the floor, leaving him naked beneath the tunic.
The touch of her hands on his bare skin sent Daniel's passion rising still higher. He grabbed her dress and, in one move, pulled it over her head, fully revealing her beautiful body to his eyes. Seconds later, his tunic joined the dress on the floor.
They somehow made it to the bed chamber. And then they were on the bed, bodies tangled in wild desire, the need for consummation too powerful to delay any longer.
As Daniel buried himself deep within Egeria's body, there was no voice inside him crying out in horror, no part of his mind telling him that this should not be happening, for the power of the Nish'ta'el was in complete control, and there was nothing left to warn him that this passion was not truly his own.
Hazily, Daniel arose from sleep. He fought to clear the cloud in his mind, confused about where he was and what had happened. And then he felt the warm touch of another body. He turned his head and stared in shock at the naked form of Egeria pressed against his back.
The realization of what had happened slammed into Daniel at almost the same time as the memories did. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God! With a cry, Daniel leapt out of the bed, taking the coverlet with him. Wrapping it tightly about his body, he stumbled into the corner and sank to the floor.
Awakened violently from sleep, Egeria struggled upright to look at him.
"How could you?" he cried in anguish. "I trusted you. I trusted you! How could you do this?"
Staring into Daniel's eyes – seeing the devastation there, the tears on his face – Egeria suddenly realized what she had done. No! Oh, no, no, no! She scrabbled out of the bed and fell to her knees before him, having no thought for her nakedness. Seeing Daniel shrink away from her was like a dagger to her heart.
"Oh, my Daniel, I am so sorry! I did not mean to! It was not willfully done! My love and desire for you overcame me, and the Nish'ta'el was released. I swear to you that I did not know! Please, please believe me. I did not know!"
Daniel heard what she was saying, but he was too lost in the feelings of pain and betrayal that were drowning him. He turned his face away, clamping his eyes shut.
"Please leave me alone," he whispered brokenly. "Just leave me alone."
Her heart shattering into a million pieces, Egeria jumped to her feet, grabbed a sheet off the bed, and fled. Through the lounge she ran, then on into another room, and still another after that until she could go no further. Sinking to the floor, she clutched the sheet to her body and wept in heartbroken shame.
"Oh, what have I done? What have I done?" she sobbed, filled with self-loathing. She had betrayed her beloved Daniel, done to him what Hathor did. There could be no forgiveness for this, no way to undo the damage. All was gone, destroyed, and nothing would ever get it back.
Daniel didn't really know how he made it to his room. He had little memory of the journey. It being so early in the morning, there was no one around, not a soul to see him and wonder at his presence.
Curled into a ball on his bed, Daniel cried. What Hathor did to him tore him open, leaving wounds that took a long time to heal, but, in a way, what happened this time was so much worse. This time, the one who did it was a woman to whom he'd given his friendship and trust.
The rational part of his mind, the part not overwhelmed by emotion, was telling him that, if Egeria had not been lying when she said that she didn't even realize that she'd released the drug, this wasn't a true betrayal, but an accident, an unintentional act resulting from heightened emotions. The problem was that the logical and reasonable part of his mind wasn't speaking loud enough to be heard as more than a little whisper in the depths of his brain.
Every moment of his and Egeria's lovemaking replayed in Daniel's mind despite all his efforts to keep them out. He remembered the lust that took him fully under its control, the need that drowned out every rational thought in his mind. He wanted to shut it all out, drive it from his brain, but it refused to leave him alone. If it had been love that drove him to such heights of desire and passion, he'd have felt nothing but pleasure in the memories. But it had not been love; it had been the drug of a Goa'uld queen making him lose all sense of reason, all thoughts of what lovemaking was supposed to be, what it had always been to him.
At last, Daniel couldn't take it anymore. He left the palace and went to the river. He headed upriver to a spot where a stream merged with the river in a small waterfall. Stripping off his clothes, Daniel plunged into the water and swam to the waterfall, having no thought for the dangers of swimming in the current at night. He reached the waterfall and thrust his body into it, shivering in the chilly night air as the water pounded down on him.
On the day that Daniel was raped, he had managed to hold it together while at the SGC, never letting on what he was feeling. But, once he was home, he pretty much fell apart. He all but ripped the clothes from his body and flung himself into the shower, making the water so hot that it hurt. In the corner of the stall, he'd huddled in a wretched ball and sobbed out his guilt and pain.
Daniel remained where he was for a long time. By the time he got out of the water, he was shivering violently. Having no towel to dry off with, he wrestled the tunic over his wet skin, then sat on the bank of the river, arms wrapped around himself in a meager attempt to warm his body. Forehead resting upon his bent knees, he took several deep breaths as, finally, his mind began to still.
A new image came to him, that of Egeria's stricken face as she told him that releasing the drug had been unintentional, that she hadn't even realized it had happened. As they made love, she must have believed that Daniel's passion was a result of real desire, that he wanted her as much as she wanted him. What must she be feeling now, knowing that was not true? If he was in her place, it would hurt terribly. And how much guilt must she be feeling, knowing that she'd used her power on him like Hathor did? He knew what that kind of guilt would be doing to him, especially if he'd done it to someone he loved.
Daniel got up and went back to the palace. In his room, he stripped off his wet clothes, dried off, and crawled under the covers. He didn't know what to do. Right now, facing Egeria was something he couldn't even contemplate doing, yet he would have to sooner or later. He could not hide from this forever. He couldn't carry on and try to pretend it didn't happen. That's what he'd tried to do after the rape, and it didn't work. It was even less possible this time because the other party involved was someone who lived under the same roof. And, even if that wasn't the case, it would not be fair to Egeria.
His mind coming up with no answers, the physical and emotional upheavals finally caught up to Daniel, and he fell into an exhausted sleep.
Knowing that there was no way that he could possibly work, Daniel sent a message to Decimus the next morning explaining that matters had come up that would keep him busy with other things for the day. There was not another slave in the palace who could have gotten away with something like that, but, in Decimus' eyes, Daniel had never been a slave, and he never treated the archeologist as such.
Daniel spent much of the day in his room. Every time he ventured out, he took the chance of bumping into Egeria. Though it made him feel like a coward, he just didn't feel capable of dealing with the emotional fallout that seeing her would produce. It also made him feel selfish. He knew that Egeria must be hurting, too, and that they really needed to talk, but he just didn't think he could handle that yet.
It was late afternoon when there was a knock on his door. He opened it to find Camilla on the other side. Dreading that she was there to tell him that Egeria wanted to talk to him, he met her eyes and saw that they were filled with fear.
"Camilla, what's wrong?"
"Oh, Daniel, I do not know. It is Egeria. She is in terrible pain. I asked her what was wrong, but she told me to go away. I did not know what to do, and I thought of you."
A leaden feeling in his stomach, Daniel knew what was wrong.
"Take me to her now," he said urgently.
They hurried to the queen's chambers. Daniel's heart dropped like a stone at the sight that met his eyes there. Egeria lay curled into a fetal position on her bed, perspiration on her pale face, eyes closed tightly in pain.
Daniel knelt before the bed. "Egeria, how long has it been since you got any sun?" he asked.
Her eyes opened a crack, then she turned her face away. "Leave me be. Let me suffer alone. It is only what I deserve."
Suddenly angry, Daniel got to his feet. "Like hell I will." He looked toward the balcony. Seeing that it was in shade, he turned to Camilla. "Is there a room nearby where she can get lots of sun? She needs direct sunlight."
"There is the solarium."
Ignoring Egeria's protests, Daniel scooped her up off the bed and told Camilla to show him the way. They left the chambers and traveled down the hall a short ways to a staircase that ascended to a dome-shaped room on the roof that was made almost entirely of a clear material.
Laying Egeria on a settee that faced the sun, he pulled a chair over and sat in it.
"Why do you do this?" she asked in a defeated voice, not looking at him.
"Because I'm not going to let you act like an idiot."
Nothing more was said for the next hour. It took that long for Egeria to recover enough that she was able to sit up, though she was obviously still quite shaky and in pain.
Deciding that it was time that they talked, Daniel looked up at the other person in the room. "We need to talk in private, Camilla. Egeria will be all right now. I promise."
The woman hesitated a long while, eyes going back and forth between him and Egeria. She then reluctantly left.
Now starting to feel angry again, Daniel stared at Egeria. "What did you think you were doing? Were you trying to kill yourself?" His temper abruptly chilled as he wondered if that's exactly what she'd been doing. In a softer tone of voice, he asked, "Is that what you were doing, Egeria?"
The woman sighed. "I was not thinking clearly. I knew that I needed to go out into the sun, but my heart was aching so. When the pain became too much for me to curb, I told myself that it was only what I deserved."
Daniel sighed. He couldn't help but feel guilty over this. If he hadn't avoided her, if he'd decided to stop being a coward and go talk to her, this wouldn't have happened.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I should have come talk to you."
Egeria stared at him. "You are sorry?! How can you apologize after what I did to you? You should delight in my pain."
"How can you say that?! Do you honestly think I'd want to see you in pain?"
Egeria closed her eyes, face turned away. No, he would not want such a thing. He was far too kind-hearted, even to people who did not deserve it.
"I am so sorry, Daniel," she whispered.
Nothing more was said as Egeria continued to recover. It took another hour for her to reach the point where she was able to reduce the pain enough that it didn't feel like the cells of her body were on fire. She made a move to get off the settee, but Daniel ordered her to stay right where she was, able to tell that she was still hurting.
She looked at him almost in amusement. "When was it that you were made my master? I could have you tortured for daring to tell me what to do."
Daniel crossed his arms stubbornly. "I don't care. I'd prefer not to see you fall flat on your royal face."
That actually made the ghost of a smile flit across Egeria's lips. It did not last for long. She hung her head in sorrow.
"I know that I have lost all respect in your eyes. Will I ever be able to regain even one small measure of it?"
"I still respect you, Egeria."
Shocked, she stared at him. "How can you?"
"Because what happened last night doesn't undo all the things you've done that made me respect you in the first place."
Tears filled Egeria's eyes. "I hurt you, Daniel, and I do not know what to do to atone for that, in your eyes or in mine."
Daniel's gaze dropped from hers. Yes, it hurt. Even knowing that what she did was unintentional, it still hurt. Would anything ever really make it all right? It had left Egeria riddled with guilt and had opened a gulf between them that Daniel didn't think could ever be fully bridged because one very important link in their relationship had been broken: the one of trust. He knew that she would never harm him physically and that she would never do anything to betray the secrets he'd shared with her. But could he ever trust her enough to let her touch him, to let her get that close? Each time she did, he knew that the thought would run through his mind, "What if it happens again?" Yes, he and Jack developed an immunity to Hathor's Nish'ta'el, but he did not know if the same thing would happen this time or how long it would take to happen.
Daniel tried to think of some way that something good could come of this, something to make up for what had been lost. That's when a thought came into his mind. It would not make up for what was lost, but at least it would give some meaning to what happened, make it so that it wasn't for nothing.
"Egeria, do you still have my . . . my code of life?"
She looked at him. "Yes. Your seed still lives within me."
He met her eyes. "Then use it, use it for the symbiotes that will one day fight against the Goa'uld."
"After what I did, how I got the code, you would give me leave to use it?" she asked, her voice colored with shock.
"It's there, Egeria. It's inside you. If you just . . . threw it away, then what happened will have accomplished nothing good at all. I want it to mean something."
Egeria gazed deep into his eyes, seeing the emotion there. Something that she had come to see in Daniel was that he possessed a deep desire to help people, to do some good in the universe. What he was saying now was a reflection of that.
Determination hardening her will, Egeria rose from the settee. "It will, my Daniel," she swore. "From your code of life will be made the shield that will protect my children from harm when they blend with the hosts that will fight with them against our common enemy."
Rising to his feet, Daniel watched Egeria stride out of the room toward the final step in her journey to becoming the mother of the Tok'ra.