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Duncan frowned as he listened to the report. "I'll get a message out to Thor right away. I wonder why these Immortals were created to be trapped in their own solar system?"
"Maybe because the Ancients had intended for each solar system to have it's own group of Immortals to protect it?" Daniel suggested. "I think that the Immortal nursery set up near Earth was the first, and as time went by, the Ancients 'adapted' their…uh…program, to better suit the ultimate purpose of the Immortals created."
The Highlander nodded slowly. "That makes sense. Well, until we hear from Thor, there doesn't seem to be anything we can do other than send food and blankets to them. I'll have SG-6 take the supplies, they won't be at risk from the Immortal Hunters. I'll send that map with them, along with a message that one of our teams, hopefully SG-1, will return with Thor." The team members acknowledged with nods.
"I take it that we're going to be busy elsewhere?" Jack said, opening up the briefing folder that Kyle had passed out minutes earlier.
"Yep. We just had some interesting images come back from UAV2. I'd like for you to check it out."
Casey looked at the images of what appeared to be a medieval European village…and shuddered.
"Talk to us, Case," Duncan said, having seen the shudder that moved over her slender frame.
"These people are really…oppressed…they're being ruled by a…feels like a very minor Goa'uld. But a really twisted one," she replied quietly.
Every heart in the room dropped. It seemed that every new Goa'uld they encountered turned out to be nastier, crueler, more twisted than the one before.
"How strong?" Duncan asked.
"Not very, I don't think. Just the Jaffa that she has. She keeps the villagers terrified of her, that's how she maintains control."
"Well, let's just go shake things up a bit, see if maybe those villagers wouldn't like to govern themselves," Jack said quietly.
Casey nodded. "Sounds like a good idea."
"Any specifics, Case?" Daniel asked.
She shook her head. "No. At least, not yet," she replied. "Just…really twisted…evil."
Sam shuddered. The last Goa'uld who had been described that way had come close to beheading her best friend. It was only a miracle that he hadn't. Now they were facing the same kind of enemy. The only upside was that this particular Goa'uld had influence on only one small village. "Too bad we can't take the ATV's. It might have shaken the villagers up enough to listen to us, if we rode in looking stronger than their supposed god," she said, studying the images as well.
Duncan nodded. "I'll bet it would have made them sit up and take notice. The UAV shows the village not more than three klicks from the 'gate. Maybe your arrival alone will convince those people to listen to you," he said. "Okay, Jack, get a mission plan together. Down day tomorrow for the team. I'll let you know as soon as we hear from Thor, and I'll send SG-6 out today with supplies for the Immortals on P7X 399. That's it people," he said, closing his folder. With a smile, he stood and left the room. The rest of the team stood and headed for the infirmary, post-mission check ups, and ultimately, home.
Casey stood with her back against the wall of the elevator, her arms wrapped around her waist, her head down. Daniel watched her, a frown on his handsome face. "Casey? Talk to me, babe."
She shook her head. "Nothing to say. Just…bad," she replied. "What would you like for dinner?" she asked, changing the subject abruptly.
He studied her for another minute. "We'll stop by the store. Chicken sounds good, maybe some linguine?"
She smiled. "That sounds easy enough. Green beans too?
He smiled in return. "With ham?"
"With ham," she giggled. She wrapped her arms around his waist, put her cheek against his shoulder.
He pulled her close, held her tightly. "You'll tell me if you…sense…anything?"
"I promise," she replied softly. So far all she had were those uncomfortable feelings…nothing specific. But those feelings were enough to have her on edge and worried.
A A A A A A
Casey was fixing dinner, busy working on the Alfredo sauce for the linguine, going over the alphabet with Emily. Daniel was sitting at the bar, Nicholas on his lap, Emily beside him, the three of them coloring in brand new coloring books.
"'M' is for…" Casey said, stirring the heavy cream into the saucepan, stirring quickly to keep it from scorching.
"Monkey!" Emily replied.
"That's a good one, Baby," Casey said approvingly. "Okay, 'N' is for…"
Emily scrunched her little face, obviously thinking hard. "Nickels!"
"Yes! What is 'O' for?"
"What is 'P' for?"
Casey giggled. "That was too easy. What is 'R' for?"
Again the little face scrunched in thought. "Rabbits! Bunny Rabbits!"
"What is 'S' for?"
"Snakes! Like the nasty snakes that you and Daddy fight," was the reply. A hastily exchanged glance passed between the little girl's parents. It seemed that Emily was overhearing more than she should.
"What about 'T'?"
"Teeter-totter. And Tilk!" the little girl giggled
"I'll bet you can't think of a word for 'U'," Casey said teasingly.
"Umbrella! I know that one cause we just did 'U' yesterday in my preschool," the tot replied smugly.
Daniel chuckled. "Okay, Emmie, what's 'V' for?"
"What about 'W'?" Casey asked.
"Water! Like the water in the lake. It's been really hot, Daddy," Emily said, looking up at her father imploringly.
"I think that sounded like a hint," Casey smiled.
"I think you're right," Daniel grinned. "Maybe we'll have to go to the lake tomorrow afternoon, after Emmie gets home from preschool."
"Sounds like fun," Casey agreed. "Okay, Emmie, what is 'X' for?"
"Xylophone. Peepaw taught me that one!"
Casey laughed. "How on earth do you remember it?"
"Peepaw says it's not a telephone."
She shook her head. Her daughter was highly intelligent, just like her father. For a child not yet four to associate like that to remember was amazing to her. "Okay, smarty-pants, what is 'Y' for?"
"You!" Emily giggled.
"What about 'Z'?"
"Zebra. Daddy, did you ever see a for really zebra?"
"Yep. I've seen them in the zoo."
"Are they really horsies in pajamas?"
This elicited another chuckle from her father. "No, Princess. They're related to horses, but their hair is black and white striped, and each Zebra's stripes are different. Just like we're all different," Daniel replied.
"Ms. Donovan at my preschool says that we're all different and that's good because it would be really boring if we were all the same."
"That's right, Princess, it would be boring if we were all the same."
A A A A A A
Snuggle time found both Nicholas and Emily asleep before Daniel had finished reading the newest Tommy Turtle story. The children were tucked into bed, kisses left lightly on their foreheads.
Casey sank onto the sofa, leaned her head back, and closed her eyes.
"Angel?" Daniel asked softly, sitting down beside her.
"Do you ever wish we could just stay home, like we did for those ten months, before you and Jack went to Arconia?"
"Every time we walk through that 'gate and things go to hell," Daniel replied.
She smiled. "That's been often then."
"Yep. Say the word babe, and I'll retire."
She shook her head. "Daniel, you're The Chosen. You can't-"
"If it means keeping you safe…alive…by my side, then I'll do it in a heartbeat. Let Them find someone else to be The Chosen." His voice was determined…firm…hard.
Casey looked over at him. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.
Daniel twisted around and stretched out, put his head in her lap. "What for?"
"If I hadn't…I shouldn't have said…if I had known that he wasn't going to behead me, you wouldn't have suffered like you did," she replied, her voice full of regret.
He sighed. "Angel, if he had beheaded you, that goodbye would have been something for me to hang on to…to know that you loved me…right up to-" he broke off, closed his eyes, pushed away the darkness of the grief that had overwhelmed him during those long, bleak hours. "Don't blame yourself."
She ran her fingers through his hair, her other hand moving over his chest. He closed one hand around the wrist that moved over him, the other lay on his stomach. "It seems like my… mistakes…have caused you so much pain."
He opened his eyes, looked up at her. "Mistakes? How do you figure that they were your mistakes? Nergal was getting ready to behead you, and it was a mistake to tell me that you love me?"
"No! It's just…you suffered so much hurt, and there was no need…he didn't…and then, I knew that he was out there, I should have been more careful when I searched…I knew that it was possible that he would try to get to me. That hurt you as well."
"Angel, nothing that that son-of-a-bitch did to you was your fault. Noth-ing! What brought all this up?"
She shrugged. "I'm just afraid that if something…happens…on this next mission, it will hurt you…and I don't know how much more you can take."
He could feel his stomach begin to drop. "What are you sensing, Casey?"
"I'm not sensing anything. Not…specifics. Just…just the same kind of…uneasy feeling that I had with Nergal," she replied softly. "It scares me, Daniel. I don't want to hurt you anymore."
He groaned softly. "Angel, you haven't hurt me. What has happened to you, that hurt me. And there wasn't a damned thing you could have done about it. I want you to remember that."
"I'll try," she whispered.
"Do you ever wish we could retire?" he asked softly.
"Every time you have a nightmare because of me," she replied, her voice soft, full of sadness.
He shook his head. "How can I get through to you? Casey, you are not responsible for what was done to you! So you are not responsible for any nightmares I have. Which, I'll have you know, hasn't been for a couple of weeks now!"
She remained silent, continued to gently caress him.
Realization dawned. The reason for her disquiet, her fears. "You're having them again, aren't you?"
She gave a barely perceptible nod.
"The…worst one," she whispered.
He cringed. The 'worst one' was indeed the best way to describe it. In this nightmare, every member of SG-1 was held in Nergal's 'special rooms', and she had to witness them being repeatedly tortured to death, infected with nanobots; she had to watch him screwing those three women again and again, all because of her refusal to let the Goa'uld touch her. "I'll keep fixing them until they stop coming," he said softly.
She shrugged again. "Maybe, if I just give in, they'll stop bothering me. They're only nightmares. Nothing can really happen," she said.
He frowned. After all that they had been through, he wasn't so certain about that. "If you have it tonight, I'll take care of it, Angel. I promise."
"If I have it," she said.
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