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 Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

 

Chapter 7

Ba'al stared out at the al'kesh that moved just in front of his flag ship. No doubt Keku wouldn't be on the planet. The coward had probably run to hide. But from what he had been able to learn, the planet was one the Goa'uld used often for meeting with those he supplied. It was simply a matter of waiting for him to return.

Another thought began to prod at him. If this planet was as lush as his First Prime indicated, even without a source of naquadah, it could be useful. Particularly if there were those who might 'visit' there, seeking to do business...of the sort that they would prefer others to not know about. Such as arming themselves in preparation to attack a rival Goa'uld. Accepting slaves taken from planets owned by more powerful Goa'uld. If Keku was providing the equipment needed for certain...experiments...that was worth knowing as well. Nirrti had to find her supplies somewhere, and she didn't dare show her face long enough to barter with her brothers and sisters in open markets.

Yes, such a place could be valuable, if he were very careful. With enough cover, he would be able to hide several squads of Jaffa, who would do nothing more than watch any and all activity, and report to him what they learned. Once he knew just who Keku was dealing with, and what he was providing each of them, he could approach those Goa'uld, and enlist their loyalty, in return for his silence on their 'business ventures'.

He wanted a close look at the planet. There might be a suitable place for a look-out station...a carefully concealed place from where his Jaffa could monitor the more commonly traveled routes through the system. From where he could initiate attacks...and raids.

A smile stole over his face, pulling the corners of his lips up in satisfaction. Keku had just handed him a most impressive prize. And the fool wasn't even aware of it! As soon as they arrived, he would pilot a glider over the surface of the planet himself, and locate the most advantageous location for the hidden outposts he was already planning in his mind.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

"You managed to get Casey and Teal'c up here...alone?" Jack panted, following Sam over the crest of the small mountain.

"I carried Casey this way," Sam replied. "Then I went back for Teal'c. I had to drag him. Found some vines that made excellent ropes. I wound up pulling him up the back way, because I thought it would be easier."

"Was it?" Daniel asked.

"No," Sam replied. "I didn't think I'd make it. Then, I couldn't get him into the cave...the opening is rather small...and it's high, you sort of slide down into the cave. But there's a deep depression in the floor, towards the back, and it's the perfect spot for them."

Again looks were exchanged between the two men. Sam had told them about killing the Jaffa who had been looking for her after she had fled the village. And she'd left only after making certain Teal'c and Casey were well hidden. Neither had paid much attention to the ditch beside the path that led from the Stargate, around village, and to the road that connected the straw-roofed dwellings with the dirt loading dock. Apparently it was deep and full of broad-leafed foliage. Just as Casey had predicted, Sam had spent time running and fighting for her life. And, just as Casey had predicted, they had been 'captured', albeit unknowingly by the Goa'uld who owned the ha'tak.

"Well, now we know why she couldn't see Teal'c, or herself," Daniel mused. There was no reply for several moments as the three of them walked, slid and nearly tumbled down the back side of the steep hill.

"Ya know, since she's never 'seen' our deaths...she was drugged out of her mind by Ba'al when the three of us were killed...it's possible she didn't understand what she was seeing," Jack said, breathing heavily.

"And she'll beat the hell out of herself for that," Daniel replied, his own breath coming in quick gasps of air.

"We'll be there for her. And for you," was Jack's quiet promise. Proving to the archaeologist once again that his teammates saw and heard far more than they let on, and that they understood the guilt that Casey harbored for each incident she deemed to be a failure on her part.

"Here it is," Sam said, pointing to the spot that looked like a very dark rock. She crawled into the cave. Smiled as both men had to hunch their shoulders to fit.

Three flashlights clicked on, and Daniel and Jack surveyed the cave.

"Agh! Must have been some sort of animal in here," Jack said, wiping a hand over his mouth and nose.

"Not exactly. I found what looked like sweet potatoes. That's what they smelled like when I cut one open," Sam grinned.

"Please tell me it tasted better," Daniel said.

"Worse, actually," Sam replied.

"Shit," the archaeologist muttered, his stomach rumbling at the thought of sweet potatoes. Or any potatoes, just as long as it was food. "I was hoping I could just hold my nose and eat it."

"Sorry."

Walking over to where his Wife and best friend lay, Daniel aimed his flashlight beam at them, winced when he saw the gaping hole in Casey's uniform, and the blood that covered it. That had to have hurt like hell, he thought. Remembering the pain of the staff weapon blast that had killed him.

"So, now what?" Sam asked. It was a relief to hand the responsibility of her safety, of all of their safety, over to Jack. He was the team CO. It was his job to make the hard decisions. Or the easy ones, when she was just too damned hungry and tired to be able to think straight. She certainly had the training and the experience to be a team commander. She also fully understood the responsibility. The weight wasn't something she'd gladly take onto her shoulders. And right now, her aching shoulders needed the relief of handing 'command' back to the person best suited for the job.

"You say that the weapons and packs Radar and Teal'c were carrying were burned in that fire?" Jack asked.

Sam nodded. "There wasn't anything left but a few piles of black timber...and lots of ash. I know Teal'c was trying to get to those crates with the red markings on them. He knew they were explosives."

"Diversion," Jack nodded.

"Too bad it didn't work," she sighed. "If those villagers had just stayed quiet...for just a few seconds, it would have."

"Yeah, well it means we don't have a deck of cards," Jack said, a smile tugging at his lips.

Daniel ducked his head, smiling as well. Jack teased Casey about the fact that she always carried a deck of Hoyle cards, and an Uno deck. Just in case, she always said. If things were too boring. Or they were just too tired to go any further, but needed to stay awake.

"For now, I guess we should try to rest," Jack said. "No clue what's going to happen."

Sam pulled out her canteen. "I found water. We can go for more after sundown."

The two men drank gratefully. Then the three settled in, leaning against one another for support, and comfort. Just a few more hours...

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

"I will examine this planet more closely," Ba'al informed his First Prime, who had used the ring transport to return to the ha'tak as soon as the two ships were in orbit above the planet Keku used as his trading post. "If a suitable location is found, I will order the building of an outpost."

"Yes, My Lord," Laqip replied automatically.

"Before I commit to building such an outpost, however, I must first determine just what Keku is doing. You will establish listening posts to monitor his activities. I want them well hidden. A squad of Jaffa will maintain visual monitoring of the Chappa'ai as well. I do not want Keku or his activities hindered, merely observed. Nor do I wish for my Jaffa to be heard or seen."

"Yes, My Lord." Not the most difficult of assignments, given that any listening posts would be temporary, until Ba'al decided to take over the planet. A few tents, carefully covered with foliage from nearby, and 'construction' would be complete. Well trained Jaffa would be able to establish multiple posts of that nature, completely surrounding the village.

"If you find that you need more supplies, you will use the Chappa'ai to conduct raids."

"Yes, My Lord." His stomach clenched. Once, commanding a raid had held no such feelings. But since the Tau'ri of the First World had begun spreading the seeds of rebellion...fostering the hope of freedom among the slaves who served various Goa'uld, encouraging those still free to remain so...conducting raids to procure slaves, or supplies, had become as dangerous as entering any battle. One never knew what to expect on the other side of the Chappa'ai.

They had reached the glider bay. Ba'al strode forward, climbed into the craft that had been prepared for him. Six others waited, the pilots prepared to flank their god, and protect his ship should danger appear from any quarter.

 

 

 

The planet was indeed lush...jungles and forests stretched on for miles, broken only by the occasional mountain ranges. Near the equator, nestled in a valley between two smaller chains of jagged, rocky mountains, was a small village. Obvious markings made it apparent that this was where Keku landed his ha'tak.

Ba'al frowned as he maneuvered the glider over the area. What had been a loading dock near the landing spot was nothing more than scorched earth. There had been a fire...a very large, very hot fire. Nearby trees bore scars from the heat, vegetation browned for yards in all directions from the blackened dock. Had there been an attack? Or merely an accident, caused by a careless slave or inattentive Jaffa?

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Villagers paused in their work, pointing at the craft that moved overhead. Huy felt his heart drop to his feet. His Jaffa had just reported being attacked by a glider. A scout, apparently, who had returned to whatever ship was lurking nearby, bringing more of the cursed things.

"Huy!" The Jaffa ran toward him. "There is a glider on the ground, crashed. I do not know if it is the one that attacked us."

His eyes went back to the gliders overhead. Perhaps the first had not been a scout. The implications made his blood run cold. If the first glider was a victim, then there were two Goa'uld System Lords nearby. And his god would not be pleased to learn that others were trespassing on what he considered to be his planet. "Keep watch for more gliders. We must find that woman. She will know who the gliders belong to."

Several of the Jaffa exchanged glances. They had already surmised that the woman was Tau'ri. The weapons used, the way the three intruders had been clothed, all fit with what Olokun's Jaffa had told them of the troublesome First Worlders. The woman would know nothing about any System Lord who would dare to approach the planet controlled by Keku.

"Go! You have your orders! Find that woman!" Huy roared angrily.

"And the villagers who fled?"

"If you see them, kill them. If not, do not waste time searching for them." After two days, he had little hope of his Jaffa actually locating the woman. For all he knew, she had been wounded, and had died somewhere, hidden in the abundant plant life that covered the planet.

His mind focused on the seven dead Jaffa. Killed by a Tau'ri weapon, of that he had no doubt. However, now he wondered just who had wielded that weapon. The woman his men insisted had escaped...or an unknown enemy.

If Keku returned to find another Goa'uld present on the planet, it would not go well for him. That was, if he was allowed to live. Huy shuddered imperceptibly. Feared that his days were numbered, and that that number was fewer than the fingers on his hand.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jack sat upright, blinking sleep from his eyes. Strained to listen. He could have sworn...

"Is that a glider?" Daniel's voice whispered.

"Sounds like it," Sam confirmed.

Giving a groan of protest, Jack reached for his flashlight. At least he hadn't been hearing things, imagining things, or dreaming. Not if Carter and Daniel had heard the sounds. "Probably Kookoo's," he grumbled.

"I don't think so, sir," Sam replied. "If Keku was going to come back, he'd return in his ha'tak."

"Sam's right," Daniel agreed. "There's no reason for him to come back in a glider, or even send gliders in for any recon. He already controls the planet."

"So what you to are trying to tell me, in order to ruin my day," Jack groused, "is that we've got another snake to worry about."

"You're not as dumb as you look," Daniel grinned.

"Oh, har-dee-har-har. It's going to be crowded enough around here with Kookoo's guys stomping around. Don't need more Jaffa joining the party," Jack said. He rubbed a hand over his face. "Carter, you said the village is about five miles from here?"

"Yes, sir."

"We need to find out exactly what's going on."

"I agree," Sam nodded. "We should try to get the wing cannon off of the glider you crashed-"

"I did not crash!"

Daniel snickered.

"Of course not, sir," Sam grinned. "We should still try to get the wing cannon. We might need it. I'm almost out of ammo."

"That's a good thought," Jack allowed. "Let's find out what's going on first." He glanced over at the hole where Teal'c and Casey were lying. It just felt...wrong...to leave them alone. Although he'd be damned if he understood why...he'd left dead team members behind on other missions, always with the intent to return for them. A couple of times, he'd actually been able to do so. Which was probably why, he reflected, he was so adamant now about never leaving a man or woman behind. Regardless of the situation. Dead or alive. Everyone made it out, or no one left. Unless, of course, those leaving were his team, and he was sending them to safety. The single exception to his rule. One that his 'kids' tended to ignore. A fact that usually left him speechless from the emotions that filled him when it did happen. "Rocco and Radar will be okay?"

Sam smiled. "Yes, sir. They'll be fine."

Daniel looked over at the two prone bodies as well. When he'd reanimated, every memory, every emotion, all that he'd ever experienced had rushed through his mind with lightening speed, leaving him breathless, confused, and not a little overwhelmed. He could only hope that the bitter memories of her childhood...things that Casey had admitted existed, although they'd been so repressed that she wasn't certain what lay hidden in the dark shadows of her mind...wouldn't send her into an emotional and mental tailspin. Particularly if they were still here. She'd need to be...cognizant...and able to escape.

"Okay. Carter, you know the area, take point. Let's do this quietly, shall we? No getting caught."

Daniel and Sam exchanged grins. "Right," Daniel replied. He followed Sam, wondering just how she managed to get Teal'c through the opening, especially without help. He had to hunch his shoulders to get through the small hole between the rocks that formed the mouth of the cave.

 

 

 

The early afternoon sun created shadows among the trees in which to hide as the three crept closer to the village. They'd seen at least a dozen Jaffa; the agreement was that the metal-armored men seemed to be patrolling the area, and their attention was most assuredly on the sky above them, not the forest around them. Which was unquestionably to their advantage.

"Let's get closer," Jack whispered, from where he was crouched between his two 'kids'. "Danny, see if you can make out what those guys are saying."

Daniel nodded, his eyes on the Jaffa who seemed to be in charge. Like the others, his attention was definitely on what was above him, not around him. Several villagers huddled nearby; it was obvious they'd been beaten. Anger flared in his veins. Damned Goa'uld...damned Jaffa! Those people had probably been happy living just a simple life, until Keku had decided that for some reason, their planet suited his purposes.

It was difficult to discern entire conversations - or even whole phrases; but he was able to catch a few individual words, and certainly the emotions were that of fear and worry. Apparently some threat had caught the attention of the Jaffa. That threat, he assumed, were the gliders that he, Jack, and Sam had heard. What was worse, the Jaffa were nervous, and as such, were taking their fears out on the innocent villagers.

"Not much we can do about that right now," Jack said, when Daniel reported what he'd been able to hear.

He hated to admit it, but he knew that Jack was right. From what little he'd heard from the Jaffa, Keku was due to return the next day, the day after at the latest. Speculation was running high among his men that an unnamed Goa'uld was going to attempt a 'take-over'. If that happened, they expected to be fighting within just a few hours. "If another Goa'uld shows up, he or she might not ignore the Stargate. Keku doesn't seem at all concerned about its presence," Daniel pointed out.

"So we have just a matter of hours to get the hell out before the 'gate's blocked," Jack said. He tugged on the bill of his cap. "We're going to have to make a run for it."

"Jack-" Fear gripped him as he contemplated leaving her behind, even if it was only long enough to get back up...something he would admit could become necessary.

"Not without them, Daniel," Jack said gently. "Can you carry Casey?"

"Of course!"

"Still got those vines, Carter?"

"Yes, sir."

"We'll detour to the glider on the way back. I'll pull Teal'c. Carter, you're going to have to be point and rear guard."

"I can do it," Sam said firmly.

Jack held her eyes for a moment. "I know you can," he said softly. "Okay, let's move before we run out of luck."

Daniel shook his head. As far as he was concerned, they had run out of luck the minute that the team had been separated. What they could use was a continued run of good luck; for it had to be the fabled SG-1 good luck that had seen Keku's First Prime allowing them to escape in a stolen glider, and that same good luck providing the coordinates for the planet. Just let us get home, he prayed silently.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

It took twice as long to get Teal'c out of the cave as it had for Sam to get him inside. Without Jack and Daniel to help, she never would have been able to have moved the Jaffa, if that had become necessary. The two men did, however, learn the ingenious way in which the major had managed to get Teal'c to 'hunch' his shoulders.

As soon as Casey was through the opening, Daniel had her in his arms, cradling her cold, still body as gently as possible.

Jack had been rather put out to learn that one of the wing cannons had been destroyed during his 'hard landing'; the other was impossible to get to, without digging and trying to lift the wing off of it. It was probably just as well, given that it would no doubt have been too heavy for Sam to carry in the first place, making it impossible for her to use in the second place.

The afternoon had turned warm. Rivulets of sweat ran down his back, between his shoulder blades, as he struggled to maintain his balance. Once they were past the dry river bed, Sam had informed them, the way would be easier. Cooler too, if they were in the forest. Daniel licked his dry lips, wishing for just another swallow of water. Sam's canteen was empty, they'd shared what had been left, but Jack didn't want to waste time trying to get more. Made sense, he admitted. But he was still thirsty.

Sam was leading, turning every few steps to scan behind them, making certain that they weren't being tracked. Daniel marveled again at the fact that the she had managed to get Teal'c up the steep incline alone. He'd read stories of the amazing feats of strength that people were able to perform when they were frightened. Adrenaline could induce strength that a person never dreamed he or she had. No doubt the situation had had Sam running on pure adrenaline. Still...determination had to have been in as great a supply as the hormones that had been pumped through her body.

Jack had insisted on wrapping his shirt around Teal'c's head, to protect him as much as possible. It was interesting, Daniel thought, that even though the two were dead, it was impossible to treat them as such. Most probably because, in spite of the fact that death was usually a very permanent condition, a miracle in an underground cavern had changed that fact for the five of them. Teal'c and Casey were dead, but only for a few more hours. So, he thought, treating the two as if they were merely unconscious was the way their minds dealt with that fact.

Step after step after step they moved closer to the village, closer to the ridge where the Stargate sat silently. Knowing full well that Keku's Jaffa could be anywhere, that the two groups could stumble upon each other at any given moment, had his heart pounding against his ribs. 

Step...

Step...

Step...

Each crunch of his boots against the rocks carrying him and his Wife that much closer to their escape...just a few feet closer to home. Each step leaving him all the more weary. And hungry. And thirsty. God, he was so thirsty!

 

 

 

The sun was beginning to drop in the sky, moving toward the horizon, when the three made it into the relative safety of the forest. Sam was amazed to find that the tracks that had been made, when she had been dragging Teal'c's body to the safety of the cave, hadn't been discovered by the Jaffa whom she was positive had been carefully searching the area, following the false trails she had laid.

"Getting to that rocky ground threw them off," Jack said, grunting a bit with exertion as he tugged the vine ropes, pulling Teal'c along.

"They had to have figured out where I went," Sam replied.

"Not necessarily," Daniel said. "If they thought you had stopped somewhere, that whoever you were dragging was mobile again, they might have believed you had headed deeper into the forest."

"Yeah, only a crazy woman would drag a dead Jaffa up the side of a mountain," Jack teased.

"Maybe I was crazy," Sam allowed. "I know I was desperate. I couldn't leave them...I couldn't take the risk that the Jaffa would find them...I couldn't."

"You did good, Sam," Jack said softly. Given the circumstances, she'd done the near impossible, in just a matter of hours.

Conversation dwindled as they moved closer to the village. Twice they stopped, the sound of movement in the nearby brush sending them scurrying for cover. Whether the movement had been animals, villagers, or Jaffa, they'd never know.

"Just around this bend," Sam whispered, pointing ahead with the muzzle of her P90.

Jack nodded. "Go take a look. Make sure there aren't Jaffa near the 'gate."

She nodded, sprinted ahead. Returned just as the two men came around the curve in the narrow path. "No one is there. The Jaffa seem to be gathered in the village."

The sound of approaching glider craft had three pairs of eyes scanning the skies, trying to see past the profusion of limbs and leaves.

"Crap! Let's move it, campers," Jack said, pulling with renewed determination. There was only one choice for them now; get through that Stargate. If they were caught by whoever was flying around...

Daniel didn't recall the path to the Stargate being quite so steep. Twice he had to put his hand out to keep himself from falling as he struggled to carry his Wife to safety. He'd remained behind Jack, hoping that if need be, he could offer a bit of protection.

The DHD was in sight. Sam raced toward it, had already entered the glyphs that would see them home, and was sending the IDC when Jack and Daniel stumbled closer.

 

 

 

Ba'al flew over the village. Just a cluster of small huts, he mused. Not many slaves available there. He was gauging the distance from the housing to the Chappa'ai when he saw them. He turned his glider, intent on making it back before the Tau'ri, for he immediately recognized their clothing, could make good their escape.

His approach was low, he had every intention of firing. His eyes went wide when he recognized the face of Major Samantha Carter as she looked up. She was filthy, but there was no mistaking the anger and the hatred that colored her expression.

Casey! Jackson was carrying Casey! His heart nearly stopped beating. Even from the distance he could see the black marks on the front of her shirt, the blood stains. Could tell that she was dead. How dare he? How dare that Tau'ri put Casey at risk like that? Enraged, the Goa'uld was determined to murder the man who had always come between him and the woman he loved. The man who had allowed her to be killed. His thumb moved over the trigger.

No...no, he'd spare Jackson's life. Because living without her would be far more punishment than even he, as a god, could inflict. "Never again will she call your name, Tau'ri," Ba'al hissed. And felt a modicum of gratification at that thought. If he couldn't have Casey, as least she'd been taken from Jackson as well. It was a small comfort, but he held tightly to that knowledge. He glanced around. He would mourn the loss of his Consort later. For the moment, his attention needed to be focused on taking control of this unimportant, but very useful little planet.

 

 

 

"We gotta move it!" Jack shouted, seeing the glider coming around for another pass. "Go! Carter, GO!"

With a backwards glance over her shoulder, Sam raced up the steps and through the event horizon. Daniel was right behind her. Jack was on his heels, apologizing to Teal'c for the steps as he hauled the Jaffa through the 'gate.

Exhausted, hearts pounding with fear, adrenaline pumping through their veins and giving each of them a severe case of the shakes, the three breathing members of SG-1 collapsed onto the ramp.

Home...they had made it home! Daniel hugged Casey's still form tightly. Pressed a kiss against her muddy, bloody forehead. "We're home, Angel," he whispered.

General Hammond was running into the 'gate room. "Colonel? What the hell happened?"

"Exactly what Casey saw, sir," Jack rasped. "Only she didn't realize what she was seeing."

Hammond frowned.

"She didn't 'see' our deaths when we helped the Tok'ra," Sam explained. "So she had no idea that the fact that she and Teal'c were 'missing' meant that she and Teal'c would be killed."

"I see," the general finally replied. "How long have they been dead?"

"Almost three days. I figure about eight, maybe nine more hours," Sam said.

"Get to the infirmary. We'll debrief when Casey and Teal'c can join us."

"Yes, sir," Jack said, standing wearily. He moved aside when four Airmen stepped forward and gently lifted Teal'c's body.

No one bothered to suggest that Daniel should give up his burden, even though he was so weary that he staggered with each step. "She's going to make us stay," he predicted, leaning against back wall of the elevator. He had no doubt that Janet would go into protective overdrive the minute she laid eyes on them.

"Probably. She'll hook us up to IV's, too," Jack mused.

"I just hope she'll let us eat," Sam said, her stomach rumbling loudly.

"Me, too," Daniel agreed.

 

 

 

Janet took one look at the group that stumbled through the door and was giving orders before she'd even fully risen to her feet. She made it to Daniel's side at the same moment one of the medics reached for Casey. "We'll get her cleaned up and into pajamas," she said softly, putting a hand on the archaeologist's arm.

With a nod, Daniel relinquished his hold on her, watched as the medic took her to one of the beds at the back of the room.

"What happened?" Janet was checking Daniel, running her hands over his neck and throat, noting that he was shaking slightly.

"Same old, same old," Jack replied. "We thought we had it figured out. Should have known that if Radar didn't see a way out of it, there wasn't one."

In between having lights flashed in their eyes, their temperature taken, and their blood pressure checked, the three demanded to be allowed to shower and get a hot meal. Janet agreed to the showers, as they were all a bit 'ripe'. She did, however, insist that they return to the infirmary immediately afterward. Where, she promised, there would be three trays of food waiting for them. To make certain that her orders were followed, two orderlies and a nurse accompanied the team members. SG-1 had a bad habit of disappearing the moment they 'escaped' from the infirmary, regardless of whether or not they had actually been released. Complaints were issued, familiar territory for the medical personnel who worked with SG-1. Those complaints were summarily noted, and ignored.

No one was surprised, nor was anything said, when Daniel slipped behind the curtain where Casey lay, two nurses cutting off her burned, filthy uniform. "Let me know when you're ready to wash her hair. I'll do it," he said softly. He'd washed her hair when she'd been in the coma after her return from the astral plane. He'd do so this time. She was his Wife, he would take care of her as much as possible.

"Of course, Doctor Jackson," one of the nurses replied. She smiled at him, hoped to receive one of his heart-stopping smiles in return. What she got was nothing like she had wished for; a barely discernable lifting of the corners of his mouth, a slight nod, and he moved back through the curtains.

The other nurse watched her co-worker's eyes. Waited until the archaeologist was being ushered out of the infirmary by one of the medics. "He's very much in love with his wife," she said quietly.

"Sure he is," the first nurse smirked. "Never known a man yet who didn't like a little slap and tickle on the side."

"You just met one. In fact, you'll find most of the men who work in the mountain are of a...higher caliber...than the regular rank and file. The best of the best work here."

"Your point?"

The second nurse studied the woman beside her for a moment. Given how the woman had come to be at the SGC, there had to be more beneath the exterior 'I'm easy' attitude that the woman displayed. Figured that there was nothing to lose by issuing a simple warning. "Just be prepared to be rebuffed...a lot. I haven't met a man yet who wants more from a slut than a quick tumble. If you're looking for more than that, like the affair you had with that colonel at your last post, that won't happen here."

The first nurse looked sideways at her companion. They'd been so careful! No one knew! It just wasn't possible! "How...who...how did you know about that?"

"Information gathered on every person in the SGC is very thorough. There isn't anything that the Secret Service can't find-"

"Secret Service?"

"They perform most of the background checks for the SGC. From what I've heard, they can make the CIA and the FBI look like amateurs when it comes to finding dirty laundry," the second nurse replied. "Doctor Warner suggested you for the opening we had because he worked with you in Maryland. He said you're a top notch surgical nurse."

The first nurse puffed slightly with pride. She remembered Doctor Warner from her time at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Which would explain why she had been chosen for a tour of duty on an Air Force base. The SGC gathered the best of the best from all branches of the military. She'd only seen the doctor twice since her arrival to Cheyenne Mountain, but she'd have to remember to thank him for his recommendation.

"Doctor Fraiser read the full report on you, and told General Hammond that she'd give you a six month trial period. If you keep your nose clean for six months, she'll put in to have your transfer made permanent. Ferretti already has a betting pool started."

Stepping back, the words hitting her as if they had been a physical slap, the first nurse felt her jaw drop slightly. Like everyone around her, she was aware of the betting that went on. "Betting pool? About me?"

The response surprised her. So did the hurt that flickered in the other woman's eyes. The reaction told her more than the first nurse realized. "Yep. Word around here is that you won't last four months."

The two nurses worked in silence for several minutes, gently removing the clothing from Casey's body, then just as gently bathing her, making certain that the curtains remained closed, so that the seer's privacy was maintained. The first nurse had been at the SGC long enough to know that the lovely Mrs. Jackson was a favorite among those who worked in the secret facility, and anyone who showed less than the proper amount of respect would hear long and loud from those who found such actions unacceptable.

"Look," the second nurse said softly, "my guess is you'd like to make a clean start. This is your chance. Don't blow it. Don't chase after the married men; you'll just rack up a lousy reputation."

The first nurse didn't respond until they had finished putting the blue infirmary pajamas on the slender seer. "He's so good looking," she sighed, casting a glance over her shoulder. Even though she couldn't actually see Daniel Jackson, she knew he'd returned; she could hear him talking to Doctor Fraiser.

"Yes, he is. And he's crazy in love with his wife." The second nurse gathered the dirty uniform pieces, sealed them into an incinerator bag. "Like I said...don't blow this chance. Stick to flirting with the single guys."

It had been a long time since she'd had a friend. Since anyone had shown enough concern to even talk to her about her actions. She hadn't realized how long, nor how much she'd missed...craved...that connection. The first nurse touched her co-worker's arm. "Thanks."

The second nurse smiled. "Sure thing."

"I...uh...well, sometimes..."

"I'll keep you in line," the second nurse promised, the twinkle in her eyes taking the sting out of the words.

"Thanks...again. It's been a long time since I actually had friends where I work."

"Sounds stressful."

"It is."

She'd come this far, she thought, might as well take it all the way. "How about a cup of coffee and a piece of pie at break?"

The first nurse gave a genuine smile. "Sounds great."

Janet moved away from the curtain, the IV bags hanging from stands, ready to be inserted into the three conscious members of SG-1. She'd been worried about her decision to let the nurse be assigned to the SGC. Now, however, she thought that perhaps her concern would be for naught. Best bunch of people in the universe, she thought again. The best of the best; even when the best needed a second chance at getting things right.

The two nurses stepped out from behind the curtain. "Doctor Jackson, your wife is ready for her shampoo," the second nurse smiled.

Daniel nodded, crawled out of the bed he'd been lying on.

"Do you need any help?" the first nurse asked, a bit hopefully. Fought to keep her expression as neutral as possible when her co-worker tossed a warning glance in her direction.

"That's okay, I'll help," Sam said, already on her feet as well.

With a nod of understanding, the two nurses hurried on to the other tasks that awaited them. Janet couldn't help but smile when she heard the two talking quietly, the newcomer asking questions of her more experienced companion. She had no doubt that there would be no trouble from that corner. She also knew that a friendship had just been born...which was something that happened with regularity within the drab walls of the SGC.

The basin that Daniel used wasn't deep, he was forced to refill it with clean water nearly a dozen times before he declared that Casey's hair was clean and completely soap free. He wasn't fond of the shampoo that the infirmary used, but it was better than nothing, and he hadn't thought to have Sam get Casey's favorite from her locker. After drying the long tresses as much as possible with the towel, Daniel sat down on the side of the bed, put Casey's head against his shoulder, and carefully combed the long, blonde silk, making certain that there were no tangles. Odd, it didn't feel any different than it did when she was alive. When Sha're had been killed, and he'd been able to say goodbye to her, touch her one last time, her hair had felt as cold and lifeless as her hand against his fingers.

"Daniel...bed, now," Janet ordered gently.

He'd just settled in when three trays arrived, heaped with the daily dinner special. To be honest, he had no idea what it was. Looking at it was of little help. Some sort of casserole, he assumed. His stomach didn't really give a damn what it was, and demanded that it be sent down immediately.

Jack and Sam were wolfing their food down just as quickly, the three of them eating more than just a few bites of an energy bar for the first time in at least sixty hours. The IV's that Janet had started contained a slight sedative, which was the only way to get the three to cooperate and rest. They were practically asleep on their feet, but stubborn pride, and the need to continue watching over their teammates...a subconscious need rather than an actual, physical requirement...would have them fighting sleep for as long as possible.

Within thirty minutes of the empty trays being removed from the bed tables, the three were sound asleep. With luck, Janet thought, they'd remain that way for at least eight hours.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

It was just after four a.m. when the first gasp echoed in the quiet of the infirmary. The second filled the air just moments later, followed by a soft moan.

Daniel sat up. Had he heard...?

Oh, goddess! She pressed her hands to her head in a feeble attempt to stop the spinning that seemed to have taken over her brain. Images long ago tucked away, feelings of fear...of shame. Flashes of Helen Webster's face, the features twisted in anger as she screamed; social workers, looking at her as if she were nothing more significant than the pieces of paper they sorted through in the folders they carried; Frank Webster, his eyes sad, his expression one of defeat... She tried to bite back the sob that rose in her throat.

He was on his feet...found himself hindered by something. He frowned at the clear narrow tube that connected him to the bag that hung on the stand beside the bed. The sound of her tears had him ripping the annoying apparatus that impeded his attempts to reach his Wife from his arm without a second thought. The curtain had been left open; in the dim light that reflected from the hallway he could see that she was sitting up, her face buried in her hands. "Shh...it's okay, Angel," Daniel whispered softly.

In the moment that his arms went around her, all of the fear, all of the pain, all of the shame seemed to drop away. She pushed away the memories she'd hidden from for so many years, shoving them back into that place where they couldn't hurt her. Casey wrapped her arms around his neck, clung to him as the feelings of panic, the emotions that had been overwhelming, began to subside. Slowly, she steadily pulled to the front all the beautiful memories that had been made since meeting Daniel. Felt the peace and happiness that being with him had always brought settle into her heart and mind once again. "What happened?"

"Sam says you took a staff blast," he replied.

She frowned. In an instant she was standing on that dirt loading dock, Teal'c dead just a few feet from her...the Jaffa...the sudden, intense pain, feeling as if her body had been hit with fire. Knowing that she was about to...

Daniel pulled away just far enough to look down into her face when she gasped again.

"Now that hurt," she muttered.

"Yeah, like a son-of-a-bitch," Daniel smiled. His wounds had been nearly identical when he'd suffered his 'first death' after becoming Immortal.

"And then some." She glanced around. "Infirmary?"

"Yep?"

"Teal'c?"

"In the bed next door," Daniel replied. He reached out and tugged the drape completely open, to reveal the Jaffa sitting up in his bed as well.

"I guess we didn't move fast enough," Casey said, smiling at the large man. "Or in the wrong direction, or something."

"So it would seem," Teal'c replied. "It is true then, we were...dead?"

Daniel nodded. "Three days."

"It appears that the reason you did not see me in your visions of the mission, was because I was dead," Teal'c said.

"Yeah, go figure," Casey replied, rolling her eyes. "I knew it looked odd, I just didn't understand why."

"Probably because you were still doped up and with Balls when the three of us took our little excursion into the land of the dead," a voice said.

"Hey, boss. Sorry I didn't see this. Sure would have helped, huh?"

"Actually, I think everything turned out just the way it was supposed to," Jack insisted. Knowing that the seer would blame herself indefinitely for her 'failure', he was determined to let her know that she had nothing to feel sorry for.

"It did?"

"Yep. Daniel and I met Kookoo's First Prime, and if that boy isn't on the verge of deserting, I'll eat my hat. Sam saved a few villagers, and took out a few Jaffa, and then we came home."

"Uh huh." Casey turned her attention to Sam, who was awake now as well. "How bad was it?"

Sam smiled. "While I was on the planet? Bad. Now that I'm here? Not so bad at all."

Casey reached up and cupped Daniel's whisker-stubbled cheek. Four days worth of beard, if she was counting correctly. She couldn't help rubbing her fingers back and forth slightly. "So you and Jack were captured?"

He had to stop that gentle, innocent caress before it made him so crazy with need that he took her right there and then. His fingers closed around hers, moved them to his lips, then held them tightly, against her thigh. "Nope."

"You weren't?"

"Nope."

"We did catch the First Prime in a very...uh...delicate...situation," Jack grinned.

"What?"

"Delicate situation?" Sam said. There hadn't been much discussion of what the two had experienced once the team had been 'reunited'.

"He was getting ready to do the horizontal hoochie koochie with one of Kookoo's harem girls. That's a big no-no with the snakes," Jack smirked.

"We were hiding in one of the vents," Daniel explained. "We were going to try to get to a weapons locker, figured getting into one of the storage rooms would give us a safe place to hide for awhile. But it was already occupied. Jaffa have superior hearing, you know, and he heard us trying to back away."

"So he pulled you out?" Casey asked. Daniel had shifted, so that he was sitting with her pillow to his back. She was leaning against him, her head on his shoulder, one arm behind him, the other around his waist.

"Not exactly. I shoved the grate into his face, which gave us a few minutes to get away."

"Then what happened?"

"We got a bit of sleep," Jack said smugly. "And then decided to try for the armory again. I figured we had a better chance if we just stuck to the corridors, and hid in the shadows. Came around a corner, and there he was."

"He had no clue who we were, as in the infamous SG-1, or even Tau'ri," Daniel said, picking up the narrative once again. "He only knew that we'd been witness to his little tryst. I let him know that we didn't have any desire to tell anyone what we had seen, that we just wanted to get home. I guess he was afraid that if Keku had us in custody, that we might tell all in an attempt to stay alive. His first priority, it seemed, was protecting the woman. He loved her, no doubt about that."

"So getting you off the ship was in his best interest...well, her best interest," Casey surmised.

"Yep. He let us steal a glider."

"Let you steal a glider?" Sam asked.

"Yeah. He made certain that when we left, there weren't alarms going off anywhere. He kept his end of the bargain," Jack replied. "We flew right into an asteroid field. Kookoo was hiding his ship in there, I guess."

Janet walked into the room. "I thought I heard voices." She smiled when she saw that Daniel was beside Casey. Until she realized that his IV stand was still beside his bed. "Daniel, you took out your IV!"

"I had to get to Casey," he said, his chin going up slightly.

The doctor wisely decided to let the matter drop. If he'd had to tear up the infirmary to get to his wife, he would have done so. Her eyes moved around the room. SG-1 was together; alive, healthy, and for the most part, pretty happy. Couldn't ask for better than that, she thought contentedly.


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