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Hell is for Children
Janet looked up when the team walked in, her smile and greeting fading when she saw the dazed, pale faces. "Okay, let's get them taken care of," she said briskly to her staff of nurses and medics.
Casey was barely into the room before she began to heave. Daniel managed to grab a bucket for her to throw up into. He rubbed her back gently as she continued to retch. Sam did the same thing, her shoulders shaking as she expelled everything from her stomach.
Jack and Daniel turned green, and ran across the hall to the men's room. Teal'c stood stoically, his jaw locked firmly.
"Get blankets!" Janet ordered. Casey was shivering so hard that the nurse, who had taken the bucket that Daniel had thrust at her, was having a difficult time helping the slender blonde onto the bed.
"Didn't help them," Casey whispered, her eyes wide. She refused to look at anyone around her. "We couldn't help them...we couldn't...we couldn't..." she repeated.
"It's alright," Janet said softly, hurrying to her side. "You're home now. It's safe here."
"For us. Not for them. Never safe again," Casey said.
Janet cocked an eyebrow in Sam's direction. That woman just shook her head wearily. "She held out longer than I thought she would. As long as I did," she murmured.
"What happened?" Janet asked.
"We were forced to witness the rape and torture…and murder, of several children," Teal'c replied. The muscles in his face were clenched so tightly that the bones seemed destined to push through the skin.
"Oh, my god," Janet murmured. She went to the phone, called for General Hammond. When Jack and Daniel came back into the room, she ordered the entire team into bed and sedated. They needed rest, and only with the help of medication would they be able to do so. That not one of them fought her, not even Jack, raised her level of concern.
"Doctor, what's wrong?" General Hammond asked, when he hurried into the infirmary a few minutes later. Five beds were occupied. With the unconscious forms of SG-1.
"They've been traumatized. They all were sick as soon as they walked in here. Well, Teal'c wasn't but I think he's going to have a headache from clenching his jaw so tightly."
"Any idea what happened?"
"Teal'c said that they were forced to watch the rape and torture of several children," Janet replied softly. "Apparently those children were murdered as well."
"Oh, my god," Hammond said, his voice just as soft. "See to it that they get a good nights' sleep," he said.
"Yes, sir, that's my plan," Janet told him. She glanced at her sleeping friends. Neither Daniel nor Jack would be happy about what she was going to do. But she knew that it had to be done, for their own well being. She picked up the phone once again.
A A A A A A
Jack was the first to wake up. He always was. No matter how much she gave him, Janet thought, he was always the first to wake up. "What happened?"
"You had a good nights' sleep," she replied.
He closed his eyes again, put one hand over them. Tried to block out the images, the sounds. Eleven hours. For eleven goddamned hours they'd remained hidden on that rocky outcropping, helpless to save the children who were being brutalized. "How are they?" he asked.
Janet smiled. "Not awake yet."
"Good. Let them sleep," he said.
Teal'c was the next one awake, followed by Daniel and Sam. Janet frowned and went to check on Casey. Found that the young woman was awake, lying on her side, crying silently.
"Casey?" the petite doctor asked softly.
"We didn't even try," the young woman wept. "We just hid, and watched. We didn't even try!"
Jack heard the bitter, heartsick words, and cringed inside. He pulled his weary, aching body from the bed, stumbled to the where his best friend's wife lay crying. "Casey, we'd have been killed. I had to keep you, and Sam, and Daniel, and Teal'c alive and safe," he said softly, sitting down beside her.
She sniffed. "We should have tried…we should…" she sat up, her eyes wide. "They left! They're afraid we'll come back for them!"
Jack shifted closer, took her hand. "You're sure?"
Casey nodded. "They left as soon as the 'gate closed!"
"Let's go, campers," Jack said, already heading for the door.
"Wait a minute!" Janet called. She watched as the members of SG-1 raced after their CO.
General Hammond stormed into the 'gate room. "Colonel O'Neill, just what in the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Going back, sir," Jack replied, checking his P90. "Those twisted Jaffa bastards are gone. We have to help those kids!"
The 'gate opened with its customary splendor, and SG-1 ran up the ramp. "Major, take your men and go with them," General Hammond ordered.
Major Ferretti nodded. "Let's go," he said to the Marines who were the first line of defense in the 'gate room, and the first to go into a hot zone after SG teams that needed to be rescued.
Three Jaffa lay dead at the bottom of the steps. There must have been a brawl among the group. Perhaps these men had wanted to stay. Perhaps they'd been angry at being interrupted during the 'festivities' in the village and complained too loudly. Whatever the reason, their throats had been slit open.
Except for glances to avoid tripping over the bodies, including the five that they'd killed the night before during their escape, none of the SG-1 team bothered with the fallen enemy. They ran through the shallow valley, heading for the hill that would look down on the remains of the village.
Winded, they crested the hill, and looked down. Casey screamed, dropped to her knees. Sam turned around, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Those sick bastards!" Jack said softly.
The bodies of the children and the three women had been stretched out on the ground, arms and legs spread wide. Each one was cut so brutally that the ground was red beneath them.
"Oh, shit!" Ferretti said breathlessly, looking down at the macabre killing field.
"Let's bury them," Jack said. "We owe them that."
Daniel knelt down beside his distraught wife, held her close as she cried against his shoulder, his own tears drying against his skin as the wind blew across his face. "Come on, Case. Let's go help bury them." He was certain that doing that much would help ease the pain that she was feeling. She pulled away from him, ran towards the men that approached the exposed bodies.
When Jack, Teal'c, and the Marines were just a few feet from the bodies, Casey raced up, began hitting them. "Don't look at them! Get away from them! Don't touch them!" she screamed.
"Casey!" Jack yelled, grabbing her wrists as she pounded her fists against his chest.
She looked up at him, her green eyes full of fire. "Don't look at them!" she hissed. "Turn away!"
He looked at Teal'c. That man was already doing as the distraught woman asked. With a nod at Ferretti, he turned; the other men followed suit and quietly turned their backs.
When Daniel approached, he was given the same treatment, her wild-eyed demand that he not look punctuated with her fists against his chest.
Sam rushed to her side. "Casey?"
"Help me dress them," Casey said quietly. "They need to be dressed. There isn't any water, or I'd bathe them," she murmured. She wandered the area, gathering the ripped and torn clothing. She gently untied each one, dressed them as best she could. When she reached the six year old, she began to wail, her grief echoing around her, sending shivers up and down the spines of the men who continued to face the hill in front of the village. She pulled the stakes out of the ground, untied the little body, and held her close, rocking slowly back and forth. When she began to sing softly, the men dared to look.
Sam had quickly covered the bodies of the teenagers, and the women. The young man had been dragged to lay beside the other two. She'd covered them as well. "We need to start digging now," she said softly. "They're covered, you can look." She glanced at Casey. The young woman didn't seem to hear, or perhaps having the bodies covered was enough.
Daniel watched Casey as he helped dig the fifteen graves. One large grave was being dug for the bodies of the men and elders that still littered the ground between the coals that had once been humble homes. She continued to hold the tiny, broken, battered body; smoothing dark hair from a face so bruised it was impossible to make out individual features, humming softly.
"Is she all right?" Major Ferretti asked, nodding in Casey's direction.
"She's singing to a dead child!" Daniel growled. "No she's not all right! None of us are all right!"
"Easy, Danny," Jack said, putting his hand on the young man's shoulder.
He shrugged the hand away. "If we'd just tried harder that night, we might have had the chance to prevent this from happening!"
Jack flinched. "I know," he said softly, before turning and walking away.
Daniel stared after him, understanding in that instant the guilt that the gray-haired man was carrying.
It was nearly dusk when Daniel, covered with dust and blood, approached his wife. She'd stopped singing, but continued to hold the little girl. "It's time, Case," he said softly, reaching for the body.
"Don't you touch her! Don't you dare touch her!" Casey hissed, backing away, the child held tightly to her chest.
"We have to bury her, Casey," Daniel said. He kept his voice soft, low.
Casey looked down at the battered little face. "Just a baby," she whispered.
"I know, Angel."
She struggled, managed to get to her feet, never loosening her grip on her burden. She carried the child to the small grave that waited. She knelt down, gently lowered the little girl into her final resting place. "It's okay, baby. Just sleep now."
Jack turned his head as tears clung to his eyelashes. His own distress kept him from seeing all of the Marines lower their heads respectfully.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," Daniel said softly. "As we were created from the dust of the earth, so we return to the earth."
The sobs started again when the shovels of dirt began to cover the battered little body.
Daniel knelt beside her, pulled her close. "I’m so sorry, Casey, I'm so sorry," he said softly.
She didn't reply. When he stood, she allowed him to pull her to her feet. She glanced around the ruins of the village. It looked so different from here, she thought. So different.
Weary...mentally exhausted...emotionally distraught...SG-1 and the Marines silently made their way back to the 'gate.
A A A A A A
General Hammond was waiting for them. Took one look at the faces, the dirty, bloody clothes, and had a good idea what his premier team had spent the day doing. "Go clean up, people," he said softly.
Daniel looked at Sam over the top of Casey's head, which was nestled against his shoulder. His friend nodded, tried to smile. She'd take care of his Wife.
"Let's go clean up, Case," Sam said softly.
She let the water run over her, washing away the blood, the dirt; wished that the pain could be as easily removed. She scrubbed her skin until it was bright pink, desperate to remove all traces of blood. She slathered lotion on her skin, pulled on the clean BDU that Sam had put on the bench for her. She sat down to brush her hair.
"Are you all right?" Sam asked, brushing her own wet hair.
"No. I couldn't help her. I wanted to. But I couldn't."
"I know. We all wanted to help, Case. But we'd have been killed."
"We should have tried."
"If we'd been killed, who would have covered them? Who would have buried them?" Sam asked softly.
For the first time in almost thirty-six hours, Casey looked at her best friend. "I hadn't thought of that," she replied.
"We need to get to the briefing room. I'm sure General Hammond is ready to hear about all of this."
Casey nodded wearily. "Then I want to go home."
"I know. I do, too."
The two blonde women walked down the corridor, arms around each other, supporting one another emotionally as well as physically.
Daniel looked up when Casey and Sam walked into the room. Casey sat down beside him, laced her fingers with his. She glanced at him, gave him a small smile.
"Okay, people, tell me what's going on," General Hammond said softly.
"When we got to the village, the men had wicked bows and arrows ready," Jack began. "They weren't very friendly, and insisted that we just keep on moving. So we did. Found a place to camp near a sizable naquadah deposit. We were going to skirt around the village and head back for the 'gate at first light. Sometime during the night a group of Jaffa came through the 'gate. By the time we heard the screams, most the men were already dead."
"There was a group of men, and a few of the younger women being taken back through the 'gate," Daniel said. "They'd already started raping the women."
"These Jaffa were…different," Jack said.
"Different?" Hammond said, one eyebrow moving up.
"Indeed," Teal'c replied. "I have never seen Jaffa behave in such a manner. I do not believe they were in control of their faculties."
"Insane?" Hammond's eyes went wide.
"At the very least," Jack said. "They were damned twisted. They'd found five little girls, maybe six and seven, eight years old. They tied them up, and then just ignored them. They did another search, found some teenagers, and spent most of the afternoon abusing them."
None of the team members looked up from their hands as they spoke. General Hammond glanced at Dr. Fraiser. She shook her head slightly. "I take it that things became…worse?"
Jack swallowed. "I'd sent Teal'c to the 'gate. He said it wasn't heavily guarded, so I'd already made the decision that as soon as it was dark, we were coming home. About an hour before sundown…" he broke off, shook his head.
"They raped her," Casey said softly. "And her friends. They didn’t care that it hurt, that they were literally ripping their little bodies open. They just shoved…they just…" she shook her head.
Major Ferretti, his men, and General Hammond were pale at this point.
"There was nothing we could have done, sir. We were too far from the village to be able to fire on those Jaffa. No cover anywhere closer. I made the decision to stay put until a chance to escape presented itself," Jack said.
Casey was shaking her head. "We would've died. Who'd have buried them if we had died?"
Sam gave a small smile.
"Colonel, am I to understand that you were trapped for the entire day?"
"Eleven hours, sir. That planet has eleven hours of daylight," Jack replied.
"I'm sending you all home. Doctor MacKenzie would like to talk to you all when you return. You will meet with him at thirteen hundred the day after tomorrow."
"I don't need a shrink poking around in my head," Jack objected.
"I believe that you'd all benefit from his expertise. I’m not asking, Jack," General Hammond said gently. "This is an order. Doctor Jackson, I am making it a requirement for you and Casey as well."
Daniel barely suppressed a shudder. MacKenzie had been damned quick to lock him in a padded room, and then refused to listen to reason when he'd finally figured out what was going on. He glanced at Casey. She'd almost broken completely out there. If the psychiatrist could help her…"Yes, sir."
"Teal'c, the same goes for you," Gen. Hammond said. The dark man nodded regally. "Dismissed."
There was no playful banter. No conversation at all as four of the SG-1 team members rode the elevator to the surface. They still couldn't look at one another. Each of them continued to deal with the demons that the mission had released in their souls. And wondered if they'd ever feel anything other than numb again.
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