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Between Two Evils
"…Stuck between a rock
And a hard place
Between a rock and a hard place…"
"Rock and a Hard Place"
performed by The Rolling Stones
Written by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
She was stirring her coffee, just watching him. He was busy answering emails, checking the list of items he wanted translated, marking the translations he needed as soon as possible. His eyes flickered from the legal pad in front of him to the computer monitor and back, the blue of those eyes unmistakable even from across the room. She watched the muscles in his arm and hand flex as he scribbled furiously. That seemed to be the way he always wrote, bursts of scratches across the paper, a pause, then another burst of movement. She rested her chin in her hand. Continued to watch him. He was so damned good looking! A tiny sigh of contentment passed her lips just before she took a sip of coffee.
He glanced up at her, found those beautiful green eyes fully focused on him. "What?"
She smiled. "Nothing."
He studied her for a minute, could see nothing in those pools of green that indicated anything amiss. In fact, the only thing he could see in those amazing eyes was love. Which brought a smile to his face. The chirping sound on the computer notifying him of an incoming email pulled his attention back to his work. He had less than two hours to get everything he needed together and finished. "Case?"
"Hmm?" He was so damned cute when his glasses were perched on the tip of his nose the way they were at the moment. It happened every time he was busy working like he was. He pushed them up absently. That was sexy too!
"See if you can find anything about Dagon's attack on Toren. Anything at all. It might give us a clue to his strategies," he said.
She turned to the computer on the worktable, pulled up the database that she and Stephanie had slaved over for weeks, that was added to on an almost daily basis, as information became available. She found three myths, short accounts that fit the parameters of the search, and printed them out. She was about to turn the computer off again when a paragraph about Toren, and his defeat at the hand of Dagon, caught her eye. Curious, she did a search on the Goa'uld. Daniel had been right, as always…there really wasn't much known about Toren. He was the god of the Underworld, had legions of 'living dead' soldiers, and was known as a great lover of women. So much so that he refused to kill a woman, unless she was battling directly against him. Even then, he would offer her the chance to serve him. She tucked her foot beneath her as she read the few lines that described him.
"And he was a god of great passion, and those women to whom he turned his eye fell to his feet, overcome with joy. Never did he raise a hand in anger against them. Always did his hands caress them with tenderness and love. And so it was that his handmaidens would defend him to the death, fighting even as his soldiers, taking up sword to slay any enemy who marched against him. And Toren was known as the god of the heart, of love, and of all lovemaking. And it pleaseth him greatly when in his temples ceremonies of love are performed in his honor."
She shivered slightly, images of the man dancing across her mind. She wondered how much of what was written was nothing more than propaganda. The look of love in Ba'al's eyes flashed through her memory as well. She shivered again. A Goa'uld was an egomaniacal, lying, cheating, murdering parasite. Even if they did have a 'tender side'. The thought that she needed to beware when dealing with Toren lingered, poked at her. Daniel's voice filtered through to her brain, interrupting her reverie.
She looked up. "What?"
"You must have found something interesting. Will it help us?" He was getting up, walking toward her.
She quickly closed the tab to the open file that she had been staring at. Left behind were the descriptions of Dagon's battles against Toren, and several other 'gods'. "I don't know. It seems that Dagon liked to send in spies, turn his enemy's own troops against him, with promises of promotion and wealth. As soon as the battle was over, any traitors not immediately useful were killed, keeping the others in line for fear of their lives."
Daniel had seen her click a window closed. "What else did you find?"
He didn't say anything. But the flash of guilt in her eyes worried him.
She tugged her lip between her teeth. They were just getting their feet back under them from the last rough spot in the road. Keeping this from him wouldn't do their marriage any good. Besides, he was already aware that she was attracted to that damned Goa'uld. "Just a little tidbit on Toren," she said softly, her voice barely audible.
He leaned a hip against the worktable. "Such as?"
With a sigh she reopened the document. Kept her eyes on the keyboard while he read. Was not at all prepared for his reaction.
"Oh, Angel, I promise, I won't let him get near you," Daniel said softly. He reached out and gently caressed her cheek. "You don't have to be afraid of him."
"Afraid?" Oh yeah, she was afraid all right! Since seeing him naked, aroused, coming on to her, she had been terrified of having to deal with the bastard. Because on a basic…primal…level, she had responded to him. And that scared her to death. Never had any other man ever caused such a reaction in her! Nergal had terrified the bejeezus out of her. Ba'al was just a means of getting information to defeat him and the other System Lords. Zinder and Framone were batshit crazy, and although all of the men were handsome, extremely handsome if she was honest with herself, she had never been more than superficially attracted to any of them. Dagon was now in residence in Steven Rayner's body. And that bastard had tried to rape her. Wade…she shook her head mentally. Had he not turned out to be her brother-in-law, she didn't think he would ever have been more than just the man she had cheated on Daniel with, even it if was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Mostly because he looked too much like Daniel. Duncan, well, that attraction had been nothing but induced Fire. But Toren…there was something going on there…her body recognized it, and responded to it…She shuddered slightly.
"C'mere, Angel," he said softly, tugging her to her feet. He put his arms around her, pulled her close. "I'll be there for you, always. You'll never have to deal with him, talk to him, alone." She wouldn't have to deal with him now, his brain told him, if you hadn't thrown a jealous temper tantrum! He glumly acknowledged this fact. He pressed his face against her hair, breathed deeply. She had exposed herself to the Goa'uld because he had demanded to see the…man…who had caught his Wife's attention. He knew better than anyone how she felt about Goa'uld. No matter how good looking the guy might be, he would never be anything other than the enemy to her. Even when her body was reacting to the way the man looked.
"Thank you," she whispered. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against his shoulder. As long as he was with her, holding her, keeping her safe, Toren wasn't a threat to her. If only she could believe that she wasn't going to be…tempted…by this Goa'uld! Her previous reactions to him, however, let her know that whenever he was near, she was at risk of having to fight her own body.
"I don't know that this helps us much. I don’t think Dagon is going to try and get a spy into the SGC," Daniel said, rereading the information about that particular Goa'uld.
"I can't say that it absolutely won't happen, but it would be damned hard," Casey said. "I can't think of anyone who would tempted by anything that a Goa'uld had to offer."
"It would be impossible for any 'spies' to get word back to him, as well. All communications on the base, and on the ships, is monitored," he added.
"Well, let's hope they focus on each other. We'll just tidy up when they're finished," she said, a smile on her face.
"Works for me. Let's get this to Jack," he said, gathering the printed sheets. He glanced at her face again. Something was bothering her. Something to do with Toren. He thought about the way she had looked when he was standing in front of her, naked, stroking himself to show her what he had. Her eyes had been bright, her cheeks flushed, she had licked her lips several times. He knew her well enough to know that she had been turned on. He had also seen the surprise in her eyes when that had registered in her mind. She was confused, and frightened over her reaction to the Goa'uld. As long as he was with her, he could protect her. The key was to never allow her any contact with that damned snake without him.
A A A A A A
Jack agreed that there was little chance that Dagon could ever plant a spy in the SGC. It might be easier to do among the Free Jaffa, he thought. But even that was a risky proposition. Right now Dagon didn't have the ships or Jaffa at his disposal to do much more than hold them off. Reports from Methos confirmed that they had battered his fleet. He still had ships, five al'kesh, as far as they knew. No motherships, and that was a good thing. Word was sketchy on the number of Jaffa and 'Zombies' at his disposal. The hope was that destroying the pyramid that had served as a 'storage facility' for those…creatures …had eliminated all of those abominations. The search for Dagon's other laboratory's was on, they wanted to take that out as soon as possible.
SG-1 was gathered in the control room. A message was being sent to Dagon. It was simple and to the point: Toren was on his way to capture Daniel and Casey. When confirmation of its delivery had been received, Casey would contact Toren. His ships were still approaching, although not moving quickly. He didn't seem to be in the rush that Dagon had been. It was quite possible, Jack theorized, that Toren had learned about Dagon's losses.
"You would think that Toren would have second thoughts about messing with us," Casey grumped. "We just kicked Dagon's ass, all that's left is the knock-out punch."
"True," Jack agreed. "But when has a Goa'uld ever been smart enough to realize that they aren't as powerful as they believe?"
"Good point," the slender blonde said.
"Message coming in," Kyle announced. "It's from Dagon!"
The team and Duncan grinned at one another. "That was fast," Duncan said. "Okay, what does it say?"
Daniel leaned over, watched the Goa'uld script that filled the monitor. "That our insolence will bring our defeat, and that we have been only an annoyance. That if what we say is true, then he'll allow Toren to deal with us, and then he will deal with Toren when it's convenient for him."
"Denial is not just a river in Egypt," Casey mused.
"In his arrogance, Dagon has told us much," Teal'c said. "It is clear that Dagon does not have the resources to move against Toren. He is hoping that we will cause as much damage to Toren's fleet as he has suffered, and he's also hoping that during the battle we will be weakened. Then he will move in for the kill."
"Typical Goa'uld bastard," Jack muttered. "Get everyone else to do your dirty work for you!"
"So, what do I tell Toren, or do I tell him anything?" Casey asked.
"We could 'paraphrase' this message a bit. Tell Toren that Dagon is waiting for the Tau'ri to knock him down to size, and then he plans to attack and finish the job," Daniel said.
Jack and Duncan both nodded. "Okay, that sounds good. Let's see if it will stop that fleet," Duncan said.
Casey put her arms around Daniel's neck. Felt his go around her waist. "Ready?"
She waited anxiously for him in the meadow. There! He was there! She ran toward him, giggled when he grabbed her and spun around with her. 'Hold me tightly,' she whispered.
'Always,' he whispered in reply. He opened himself, let her take the strength she needed from him, keeping the Fire that burned in his body completely under his control.
They moved through space, located Toren's fleet. Unlike Dagon, Toren seemed to find no need to hide behind a cloak of darkness. Casey hesitated, reached out to see if the Ancient who was controlling Toren and Dagon was nearby. She wasn't.
She took a deep breath. Glanced at Daniel's face.
'I'm right here, Casey. I won't let him hurt you. I promise,' he said softly.
With a nod, she moved forward. He was on the pel'tak. She hesitated, stood near the control console, watching him. She could tell that he sensed her presence. His eyes closed. Suddenly he was standing beside her. The shirt he wore was open to the top of his pants, his broad chest and the smattering of dark hair that covered it clearly visible. She fought the surge of lust that filled her.
"So, you return to me," he said, a soft smile on his face. He reached out and caressed her cheek.
"To warn you."
One eyebrow went up. "That you and your friends are going to kill me? I believe you have already delivered that 'warning'." He sounded amused.
She shook her head, dropped her eyes. Okay, let's see if I can do this without getting myself into trouble, she thought briefly. "I…the leader of Gamma contacted Dagon. Told him that your fleet was on its way."
Toren laughed. "I suppose this leader thought that Dagon would come running to attack me?"
Slender shoulders moved up and down slightly. "It was worth a try. We're no match for you. Dagon…that Goa'uld was a fool, and with a bit of luck, we knocked him down to size. Our leader had hoped that Dagon would at least knock out some of your ships, in order to give us a fighting chance." She pulled her lip between her teeth, glanced up at him. Knew what she had to do, to say, if she was going to convince the Goa'uld of her intentions. "I…if I…" she let her gaze drift to the floor. Come on, damn it, she thought irritably, take the bait!
"If you do as I wish, you would ask a favor in return," he finished for her. "Such as?"
"Let my Beloved live. Let my friends live."
"You must come to me, willingly. Stay at my side as my Consort."
She barely suppressed the shudder that filled her. "I will. When you…arrive…I'll…I'll come to you."
Toren studied her. "Without reservation."
She glanced up at him, closed her eyes, then nodded. She hoped she had the right amount of misery on her face. She was pretty sure she did…she was feeling pretty damned miserable right about now. The thought of actually having to go through with such an agreement made her stomach roll in protest. If things went badly, that was exactly what was going to happen!
She jerked, her eyes flew open. "What?"
"To seal our agreement. Kiss me."
Her heart was pounding against her ribs. She could feel Daniel stirring from his place behind her. Oh, god, this was not what she had planned! He wasn't supposed to demand anything of her, not yet!
'It's all right, Angel,' Daniel said softly. 'You belong to me, and only me. Nothing he does can change that. It's just a way to keep him doing what we want him to do. Just acting, like you did with Methos.'
His voice echoed in her head, his love wrapped around her like a soft, warm blanket. She put her hand on Toren's cheek, raised up on her toes, and pressed her lips against his.
Toren stood still, allowed her to kiss him. Soft, sweet, warm…amazing that he could feel these things; taste her, smell her, on this plane. He began to kiss her back. When she would have pulled away from him, his arms wrapped around her and pulled her close.
No! her brain screamed. Back away! Pull away! Her heart was hammering, her pulse racing. Her body was responding to him, and when her free hand brushed against his naked chest, she could feel her nipples harden, that familiar ache between her thighs. She was not going to give in to simple lust! This man was a Goa'uld! She moved slightly, pulling away just a bit. Hopefully not enough to alert the bastard who was kissing her. But enough to give herself a chance to fight that damn attraction.
Daniel watched, his own heart pounding with jealousy…with fear. When he saw her body pulling away from the Goa'uld just slightly, saw her hips shift backward, he smiled. She might be attracted to the bastard, her body might be responding to him on a primal level, but her heart was keeping her as far away from him as possible.
Toren pulled his lips from hers, smiled down at her, ran his hand over her cheek, to her throat. Felt her tense slightly. "You cannot fight it, my sweet one. You are as enamored of me as I am of you."
Not even in your wildest dreams, cupcake! she thought irritably. "I want your word that my husband and friends won't be harmed."
"You have my word," he replied.
"I…I have to go…before anyone realizes I'm…not there," she said.
"I understand. It would please me if you came to me again, soon."
I'll bet it would! she thought. She was starting to feel pissy. And when dealing with this damned Goa'uld, that was a good thing! She pulled away, and then moved quickly back to the meadow in her mind.
'Are you all right?' Daniel asked softly.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Her body was shaking like a leaf. 'No.'
He pulled her close, hugged her tightly. Smiled against her hair when her arms locked around his neck. She was clinging to him so hard that she was nearly choking him. 'It's okay, Angel,' he whispered.
'I love you, Daniel. Only you. Always you, forever and ever.'
'I know, Angel. I love you, only you, always you, forever and ever,' he replied. 'We need to let the team know that the message has been delivered.'
She slowly moved away from him. Smiled when his hand caressed her face. She leaned her cheek against his palm. Watched him slowly move away. She opened her eyes.
Daniel lifted her fingers to his lips. "It's okay, Angel," he said softly.
Casey blinked back the tears that threatened, nodded, looked down at the floor.
He heaved a silent sigh. She would carry guilt over this for weeks to come. He tightened his fingers around hers. Smiled when that pressure was returned. "She told him. He seemed to already know what Dagon had said."
Jack snorted. "Probably the same thing he would have said if the situation was reversed. Are those ships of his close?"
She nodded. "A couple of hours at most. I probably just made things worse. He'll want to get here as soon as possible and claim me," she spat.
"Claim you?" Sam asked, her eyes wide.
"I had to pretend to bargain for Daniel's safety, and yours. He'll spare you, and in return I get to be his Consort." She shuddered. "I do not want that happening!"
"Let's get to the Persephone then," Jack said. "We'll take SG…" he cleared his throat. "SGI-3 and SGI-5. Same mission as before."
Everyone knew that for one moment, he was going to suggest that SG-6 would accompany them…as they always had. Duncan cleared his own throat. "I'll get word to Robert. And I'll have the families moved here again, just in case."
Jack nodded. "Let's go, campers. We have another damned Goa'uld to stop." He led the team down the corridor to the armory.
"What about that woman?" Sam asked nervously.
"I didn't feel her," Casey replied. "If she's still around, she's not with Toren." The thought that the Ancient woman could have simply hidden from her crossed her mind. "Unless she was hiding. In which case we're screwed."
Jack stopped short, Sam ran into his back. "Is it possible?" the general asked, a frown on his face.
Casey nodded. "I think so. Her hiding, I mean. She's after Daniel. She'll use me to get to him, if she can."
Duncan had been following the team to the armory, having already called the other two teams to meet them there. "Should I call your dad?"
"Yes. Let her fight against Daniel and my dad!"
The Highlander nodded, turned back towards the control room.
Daniel put his arm around her shoulders. Caught the look of guilt that filled her eyes. "Don't you dare blame yourself for any of this," he said softly.
She glanced up at him. "Why not? I'm the one who caused the entire freaking mess to begin with!"
He stopped walking, turned her to face him, his hands holding her shoulders firmly. "Just how the hell do you figure that?"
Her shoulders moved slightly in a small shrug. "I had a feeling that letting Doctor Rayner come here was a bad idea. But I didn't say anything, because you seemed comfortable enough with him working here, and we did need a good archaeologist. If I had just…if I hadn't…"
"If you hadn't what, Case? If you hadn't been the incredible woman you are? Steven Rayner had the hots for you before he got here. I figured that out in the first five minutes after he walked down the ramp. It's not your fault. I had a feeling it was a bad idea to let him come here, too. I ignored that feeling. Bringing him here was my fault, I'm the one who hired him!" Daniel said. "He was an ass. He wanted to prove to the world that he was a better archaeologist than I am. That's the reason he wanted to come here. Then he tried to rape you! He did that to strike out at me as well! How better to hurt me than hurting you? The only reason he went back to P3R 899 was because he was convinced that the 'secret rooms' in that cavern were full of artifacts. That had everything to do with besting me, and nothing to do with you!"
"But-" she tried to protest.
He put his finger on her lips. "No buts, Case. You are not to blame, for any of this. Say it."
Jack, Sam, and Teal'c looked on, concern on their faces. They were well aware of Casey's tendency to take the blame for situations, especially bad ones. And how heavily that guilt weighed upon her.
"Say it, Case," Daniel said firmly.
"I am not to blame for any of this," she said, her voice soft and not at all convincing.
He shook his head, pulled her against his chest. "What am I going to do with you?" he asked softly.
"Done deal, babe."
"Let me kick some Goa'uld ass?"
"Kick away, Angel," he said, grinning down at her.
"Casey, if I find out that you're still blaming yourself after this, I'll kick your ass," Jack said, just before he started toward the armory once again.
"I will too," Sam said, giving her friend's hand a comforting squeeze.
"Indeed, Casey Jackson. The only one to blame for the situation we now face is Doctor Rayner," Teal'c said. He followed Jack and Sam.
"See, they know it, too," Daniel said softly.
"It feels like it's my fault," she whispered.
"Only because you let it. Come on. Let's get ready to kick some Goa'uld ass." His arm went around her shoulders. Hers went around his waist. They walked into the armory to prepare for another battle against an enemy that continued to plague them.
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