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It's Hard to Say Goodbye
Two hours later the team dropped into the chairs that surrounded the conference table in the SGC briefing room. Duncan could see the fatigue in all five faces. Only part of it was physical, he knew. His own face reflected the strain of the past fifty-two hours. "Tell me you got him," he said as soon as he walked through the door.
Jack shook his head. "He jumped to hyperspace while we were still busy with two of his al'kesh. He kept jamming all signals."
"Then at least tell me we've knocked him down to size."
"We don't have enough intel to know how much damage we've done. He's lost three motherships, six al'kesh, one temple compound and it's creepy laboratories, three pyramids; one a landing sight, the other one of his palaces, the third the barracks for his zombies, and let's see…what else, at least part of his harem…" Jack said.
"Not to mention his collection of real statues," Casey interjected, shivering slightly.
The older man nodded, shuddered slightly. "Yeah, real creepy. This asshole turns people into statues."
Duncan's already pale face went whiter. "You have got to be kidding!"
"This guy is making Nergal look sane," Daniel said, shaking his head slightly.
"And we just made him madder than hell," Jack said. "I don't think he expected us to take the fight to him. Nor was he expecting us to hit him as hard and as fast as we did. He suffered some major losses in just a little over two days. Chances are, he's going to go lick his wounds somewhere, build back up, and try again."
"He wants Daniel and Casey," Sam said quietly. "He offered to let us go if we turned them over."
Duncan nodded, he had read Jack's field report. "Okay, so we know that we were right about his intentions. Now, why?"
"Because some snake-head named Toren has been giving him heartburn. Evidently Toren has several very strong seers…unlike Dagon, who has to take seers with very little ability, dope them up and make them work together. We're his key to ruling the universe, or so he thinks," Casey replied.
The Highlander nodded, jotting notes on the pad in front of him. He looked up at Daniel. "We need all you can find on this Toren. We might see if we can play one against the other. Right now, go home and get some sleep."
"Um…is there going to be…" Casey closed her eyes, took a deep breath. "Is there going to be a Memorial service?"
"Yes," Duncan replied softly. "Friday afternoon. I've arranged for their families to attend."
She nodded. "The rat bastard is going to pay," she said softly.
"Yes, honey, he is. Now, go home and sleep." The Scot reached over and patted her hand, then left the room.
A A A A A A
Julie was just turning off her computer when she noticed Daniel and Casey walking into his office. She could just barely see Daniel drop into the chair behind his desk. He looked exhausted. Casey had her back turned toward the door, Julie was unable to see her face. No doubt the young, blonde Immortal was just as weary. It had been intense on the base for nearly ten hours, with President MacLeod ordering everyone to bring family to the facility until further notice. Her friends in town had reported, via the phone, that Hope had literally shut down for the day, not one business remained open after Robert deValicort's announcement on both radio and television that an invasion force was heading toward Gamma. He had urged all of Hope's citizens to remain at home with their families. The spaceport had emptied, all of the transports and freighters leaving as soon as authorization was given. When word came through that the motherships had been destroyed, life resumed as normal. She shook her dark head. She had been born and raised in a small town in Ohio. From time to time that innocent, naïve mid-western girl still struggled with the realities of living on another planet. The past two and a half days had been one of those times. She crossed the corridor and tapped lightly on the door. "Welcome home," she said, smiling brightly when Daniel glanced up and bade her enter.
"Thanks," he said, giving her a tired smile.
"There are a couple of cute jokes for you, Mrs. Jackson," she said with a smile, looking over at Casey.
The blonde merely nodded, and didn't smile.
Julie frowned slightly. "Um…is everything…is something wrong?"
Casey studied the young woman. Surely she had heard about SG-6. "As a matter of fact there is. Four very good friends died out there two days ago," she said curtly.
The dark haired woman blanched slightly. She had heard about the deaths, of course. She had never met the men, so the news had been little more than names attached to the report for her. The look of grief in the green eyes that stared at her let her know in an instant that those names…those men…had indeed been good friends. "I'm sorry," she said softly.
She shook her head, ran her hand through her hair. "I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean to snap at you."
"It's all right," Julie replied. She gave the boss's wife a small smile.
With a slight nod, Casey turned to Daniel. He was staring at Julie. Her heart gave a small lurch inside her chest. "I'm ready to go home," she said softly.
"Hmm? What?" He looked over at his wife. Noticed the small frown on her face. What the hell had he missed?
'Looks good, doesn't she?' Indeed, the young woman was quite attractive in her tight, short blue skirt, and matching blouse. She knew she sounded snippy. She didn't care. She was tired; physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. She was heartsick. She was in no mood to deal with Daniel and his penchant for dark-haired beauties.
'You've been staring at her since she walked through the damned door!'
He barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. 'I wasn't aware that I was staring at her.'
Casey looked at him again. If she hadn't been so tired she would have recognized the look on his face. He had been 'gone', thinking about something pertaining to his work. She shook her head. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
He held out his hand, wrapped his fingers tightly around hers, pulled her close. "Case, do you remember hearing the name Toren before?"
A smile flittered over her face. He hadn't been staring at Julie. He probably hadn't even seen her, not really. She searched her memory. As weary as she was, her mind wasn't functioning well. "I don't think so."
He turned to his computer, flipped the switch and powered it up. Casey and Stephanie had created a database that held all the information they could find on any and all Goa'uld they learned of. "That name sounds so damned familiar," he mumbled to himself.
Casey glanced at Julie and winked. "Julie, it's almost five. If you want to call it a day, it's okay. I'm stuck here until I can get him to surface again."
"I heard that," Daniel said, entering the search parameters.
Julie giggled. Before she could reply, there was a knock on the door. She looked at the man who stood there, green fatigues unable to hide his muscular body. His blue eyes moved over her for just a second before moving to Casey's face. What hunk! He was almost as good-looking as Dr. Jackson! A glance at his hand showed it to be ring free…not that that actually meant anything…but still…
"Uh, welcome back, Case," Turk said.
"I just wanted to let you know that we're ready to go when you are."
She smiled. "Thanks."
"We'll get him, Case. We'll make that slimy bastard pay." The Marine's voice was soft, and full of determination.
"Yeah, we will." She looked at Julie. Who was still looking at Turk, although the woman was doing her best to keep from appearing to study the man. "Turk, this is Daniel's-"
"Our!" Daniel interjected, proving that he was listening to the conversation.
"-secretary, Julie Harwood. Julie, this is Adam Turac. We just call him Turk." Casey glanced at Daniel and giggled…he was frowning at the computer screen. That he had actually been listening to the conversation was nothing short of astounding.
Turk took the proffered hand, noticed that his hand completely engulfed those soft fingers. "Nice to meet you, Julie."
"Likewise…Turk," Julie replied, just a bit breathlessly.
Well, well, well, Casey mused, watching the two as they gazed at each other, their hands still clasped.
"Found it!" Daniel crowed. "I knew that I had heard that name before!" He turned around, greeted with the sight of Turk and Julie staring at each other, their hands still moving slightly as they shook hands. His eyebrows went up, then back down, and he looked over at his Wife. Who was watching the two with a look of interest on her face. 'Don't you even think about it!'
'Don't think about what?'
'If it happens, it happens. You stay out of it.'
'Out of what?'
'I mean it, Casey!'
She gave him a wide-eyed look of innocence. 'I have no idea what you're talking about.'
He moaned mentally. And made a note to talk to Turk. The man deserved a fair warning.
Casey cleared her throat softly. Turk seemed reluctant to let Julie pull her hand away, and that woman wasn't moving far from where she stood, which was practically on top of the Marine. "Julie, I think you were getting ready to leave for the night?"
Julie spared a glance at her. "Um…yes, I was."
Turk cleared his throat. "Yeah, well, I just came down here to let you know we're ready to rumble."
"Thanks, Turk. It will be a couple of days. We need to collect some intel on this ass before we jump from the frying pan into the fire," Casey replied.
The Marine turned his attention back to the beautiful blonde Immortal. "Rumor has it that you guys wiped out a shitload of his ships."
"We just made our report," Casey declared, shaking her head. Yep, fastest rumor mill in the galaxy, that was SGC Gamma! "By our count we took out three motherships, six al'kesh, and two compounds, including a lab and his zombie storage pyramid."
"Sweet!" Turk grinned.
"Yeah, it was," Casey grinned in return. The thought that Tony and Texas would have been doing the SGC happy dance with her over the news brought a sudden sob of pain to her throat. Tears welled up in her eyes.
Daniel was on his feet, pulled her into his embrace. He gently pushed her head against his shoulder, felt her arms go around his waist and hold him tightly.
Turk's eyes met those of the archaeologist. Neither man took well the fact that the Goa'uld was responsible for her tears. "We'll make him pay, Casey. I promise," the Marine vowed quietly.
She only nodded her head, not trusting herself to try to speak.
"Well…uh…I'll talk to you later. President MacLeod wants a Marine presence at the spaceport for a couple more days. Just in case some asshole gets in into his mind to try and take advantage of the situation," Turk said.
"Let's hope we don't have to deal with that on top of everything else," Daniel said softly.
"I hear that, Doc. Well, goodnight folks. Real nice to meet you, Julie," Turk said, flashing a smile at the dark haired woman.
"Yes, it was very nice to meet you," Julie responded, her smile lighting her face.
The Marine gave a small wave, and left the office.
Julie looked over at Daniel. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Probably not," Daniel replied. "SG-1 will take a down day. But we'll be here Friday."
With a nod of acknowledgement, the young woman left the room.
"Ready to go home, Angel?"
She nodded. "I miss them."
"I know. I do too. Let's go home, Casey. We'll have dinner with the kids. Have snuggle time. Then I'll take that hurt away, I promise," he said softly.
He led her to the elevator, his arm around her shoulders protectively. It was early evening, the sun nearly orange as it moved closer to the horizon. The air was warm, and filled with the sounds of military life around them. Those sounds changed as they drove through the quiet neighborhoods…children playing, dogs barking, laughter from someone's backyard.
She sighed when they pulled into the garage. Nicholas and Emily were bouncing in the kitchen, waiting for them to get completely through the door before racing into the arms of their parents. Casey held her children closely, kissed the tops of their heads, hugged each of them again.
Erin opened her arms when Casey had risen to her feet again. "I'm so sorry, my darling," she whispered, holding her daughter tightly.
"Me, too," Casey replied.
"I know you're tired. Would you like for me to stay and make dinner?" Erin offered.
She shook her head. "Thanks, but no, I can get it."
The older version of Casey nodded. She turned her attention to her son-in-law. "You look tired as well." She hugged him as tightly as she had Casey. "If you need anything, just call."
"I will. Thanks." He kissed the side of the woman's head. "Go home and put your feet up. I know that these two can wear a body out."
Erin smiled. "And I love every minute of it. Have a pleasant evening."
"Bye Mom, thanks. Love you," Casey said as her mother walked to the front door.
"You're welcome, my darling. Love you, too. Goodnight." The door closed quietly behind her.
Daniel leaned back against the counter, watched as Casey took a casserole from the freezer and carried it to the microwave. She set the timer, then turned on the oven. "Are you okay?"
She looked over at him and smiled. "I will be. I…I've never…I've never lost anyone before, except for Grandma Rose. I was thirteen when she passed away. This feels…I feel as lost now as I did when she died."
He nodded. "Just keep remembering them, Angel. All the good times."
"It shouldn't have happened. We made it back okay. SGI-3 made it back okay. It's just not fair!" She wiped at the tears that had started to flow.
She took a deep breath. "I can't imagine what Anita is going through right now," she said softly.
Pain flickered over his face. "I can," he replied, his voice a mere whisper.
She crossed the kitchen, wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pulled him close. "I know," she whispered in return.
He held her tighter, pressed his face against her neck. Breathed deeply of her sweet scent, welcomed the feeling of the flames that began to race up and down his spine in response. He had been granted a miracle. Anita Parker would not be as blessed. He sent up a prayer of thanks that his Wife was safe and alive in his arms, then a prayer for the new widow, wishing for her the ability to find peace as quickly as possible.
The ding of the microwave timer echoed around them. She continued to hold him, instinctively knew what he was thinking. She tightened her arms around him, kissed his neck. "Love you," she whispered.
"Love you," he replied in kind. "Better get the casserole in the oven. Gonna make a salad to go with it?"
She smiled, moved slowly away from him. "I think so. What about dessert? I think I have some blueberries, I could make a cobbler."
"Don't we still have cookies? Cookies and milk would be good," he said.
She put the casserole in the oven, then checked the pantry. "Half a box of chocolate chip cookies," she told him.
"That works." He was already pulling the vegetables out of the refrigerator bin for the salad.
Casey watched him for a minute, then stood at his side, the two of them cleaning and preparing the assorted vegetables for the salad together. "She'll be okay. She's a strong woman."
"Yeah. She has E.J. to help her. Kerry, too," Daniel replied.
She looked up at him. "Please, don't think about it. I hate seeing that look in those beautiful blue eyes."
He couldn't help but smile. "What look would that be?"
"That look of pain, of desolation."
Desolation. Yep, that's exactly how he had felt. Desolate. Broken. Empty. He dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose. "I'm okay, Casey. You're standing here with me. Everything is okay."
She smiled. "Together, always."
Three blocks over Anita Parker stared out the window. And wondered if she would ever be able to breathe again. If she would ever sleep again. If the pain that had her in its vise-like grip would ever allow her to live again.
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