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 Family Reunion

 

Chapter 3

Daniel held her hand as he led her through the O'Hare airport. Mike had called the night before, giving them a last minute head's up about a seminar he'd been asked to speak at...that invitation arriving on Mike's desk just two days earlier, when the scheduled speaker had been forced to cancel. Daniel hadn't actually wanted to attend the seminar itself, but Casey had never been to an archaeological function such as this. And she'd expressed interest in the subject of Mike's speech, 'The Theory of Migration Over the Bering Strait'. So, he'd agreed to attend Mike's dissertation. Hopefully he could avoid any embarrassing confrontations. Especially since he'd had to call to make last minute arrangements to attend the lecture.

Things were relatively quiet at the SGC; as quiet as they could ever be. General Hammond had given them a twenty-four hour leave of absence. The first available flight out of Denver would get them to the hotel just before the seminar lunch break was over. They'd be flying back to Colorado Springs the first thing the next morning; they were literally flying in to say hello, and then back out again.

Mike was slated to speak during the afternoon, very shortly after their arrival. Plans had already been made for dinner. There would be no time for sightseeing, or shopping. No reason to leave the hotel until they were ready to return to the airport. Thus renting a car that would sit in the parking garage made little sense. Daniel hailed a cab from the line of cars that waited at the curb.

The cab driver was a young woman. She turned and smiled at the couple who climbed into the backseat, dropping small duffel bags at their feet. "Where to, folks?"

"Crown Plaza Hotel, please," Daniel replied. He'd been damned lucky to have found a room, given that the archaeological seminar had been planned months in advance, and the deadline for reserving a room had been three weeks earlier. Mike had simply been given the room that the other speaker had been assigned. And he'd insisted that if need be, they could call for a roll-away bed, and the Jacksons could stay in the room with him. Not something that Daniel would even consider. If it was just him, then he wouldn't have bothered with a room...he and Mike had shared hotel rooms before. They'd always talked well into the night...well, they did if they were sober enough. When they were drunk, they tended to laugh about everything. But things were different now. He wanted plenty of privacy...nights were for him and Casey...alone.

Casey glanced at her watch. "Just enough time to grab a cup of coffee before Mike's lecture," she said.

Daniel gave her an indulgent smile. God love her, she was as addicted to coffee as he was! "Is there a Starbucks on the way?" he asked the driver.

"Yes, sir, several of them."

"Whichever one is the most convenient, and will be the quickest."

"You got it."

Darting through traffic, the yellow and black car left the airport behind, and joined the flow of traffic that was moving toward the city of Chicago. Not more than a mile from where they had been picked up, the cab pulled into line at one of the famous coffee stands. Daniel instructed the driver to order something for herself as well, earning him a beaming smile and hearty thanks.

Sipping his black coffee, Casey snuggled beside him with her mocha latte, Daniel let his mind wander back in time. To the days when he'd been a grad student at the Oriental Institute...then, an assistant professor; teaching half of Dr. Jordan's classes while the older man worked on his pet project, the study of the common denominators that tied all of mankind together...those links that proved that every civilization, every society on Earth had emerged from one place, eons in the past. Mike had already left for Seattle at that point in time. Dr. Jordan had hired another assistant to help them with their research, particularly one of the smaller projects that required attention. That assistant had been Dr. Steven Rayner.

He shook his head mentally. He and Rayner had been...adversaries...from the moment they had met. Daniel's reputation as a 'wunderkind' had made the new researcher all the more determined to prove everything he said to be in error. It hadn't taken long for Daniel to realize that Rayner had risen among the ranks of young archaeologists not through his own work, but by stealing and cheating; taking the work of others and publishing it before the true author had a chance to do so, adding just enough of his own research to prevent any cries of foul from being taken seriously.

Rayner had been livid to learn, upon being assigned to assist him, that Daniel kept notes in his own personal type of cuneiform. He'd insisted that he be given the 'key', as they were working together, and the possibility of needing the notes while Daniel was otherwise occupied would necessitate him being able to read them. Daniel was still glad he'd refused.

The...antagonistic...nature of their relationship had been emphasized when Daniel had returned to Chicago for Dr. Jordan's funeral. Especially when the letter had been found, which praised Daniel for his ingenuity, and his daring to stand against the staid position of the archaeological community, believing in himself and his work, in spite of the responses of other archaeologists. Daniel had seen the letter, had been touched at his former mentor's glowing commentary. Had the letter been published with the other papers the good doctor had left behind, chances were others would have more closely examined his work, and Daniel would have been welcomed back into the community. There would always be those who would scoff over the theory, but any other theories that Daniel put forth would have been given fair consideration. He had no idea when Dr. Jordan had written the letter, nor did he know when the man had intended to send it out, or to whom. The fact that his mentor had never lost faith in him had buoyed him significantly.

Rayner had destroyed that letter before it could be made public however, sneering that there was no reason for Daniel's reputation to smear the beloved Dr. Jordan's. After all, had Daniel been proven right in his theories, Rayner's best selling book would fall from grace - along with those of dozens of other archaeologists - as being incorrect. And the added income from the sales of that book would have plummeted to zero.

Porsche. That bastard had been driving a Porsche. His own financial health was much improved since joining the SGC. His work...his sacrifices...while working as a part of SG-1 had netted him one of the highest paid positions offered to consultants contracted to the U.S. military. If he really wanted a Porsche, he supposed he could buy one now. He glanced at Casey as she watched the city go by, eyes wide, an excited smile on her face. No, he had no need for a sports car. As Casey had so colorfully put it, when he'd told her about Rayner, and the fancy car, he had no need to drive his dick. He still chuckled about the analogy. Quite fitting actually, since Rayner considered himself the consummate 'ladies man'.

The thought that the bastard could be at the seminar crossed his mind. He didn't relish the possibility of another confrontation with Rayner, particularly in such a public venue. He sighed. Could only hope to avoid the ass.

"Worried about seeing people you'd rather not?" Casey asked quietly.

Once again it seemed that his Wife was reading his thoughts. "A bit, I suppose."

"Don't worry, Stud Muffin. Anyone who knows you should understand that you'd never base a theory on something you couldn't prove. The rest don't matter. You know you're right."

He lifted her fingers to his lips, overwhelmed at the love he could feel wrapping around him...a protective shield against the comments, the cruel taunts he was certain to face.

"I can always call Beth, and tell her about it," Casey grinned.

His grin matched hers. Dr. Beth Meyers had been one of the loudest voices from the archaeological community to denounce Daniel and his 'ridiculous theory'. Now working for the SGC in the archaeological department, she was one of his most vocal advocates. She was also doing a damned fine job of organizing all of the finds that had been brought in during the years the SGC had been operational. "I suppose you could. Not that she could actually say anything."

"True. But what she could say to us about it would certainly be entertaining." Casey had found Dr. Meyers a trustworthy source of information regarding the various archaeologists and their specialties. Her descriptions of various people were always amusing.

His grin broadened. "I suppose so."

The cab stopped in front of the hotel, the valet hurrying forward to open the door. Casey crawled out, looked around. The hotel was located near the airport, convenient for the many scholars who were flying in for the event. The Oriental Institute was hosting the seminar, and for a few moments, Daniel regretted not being able to participate more fully. It had been years since he'd done so, as a fully accredited, respected member of the archaeological community. He gave another mental sigh. Someday. Someday the Stargate Program would be revealed. His theories would be proven...and he'd once again be able to attend conventions with his head held high. More than likely he'd be keynote speaker. And if he were, those lectures wouldn't be monumental failures.

She glanced at him as he stared into the lobby through the wide, plate glass windows. There were several groups of people engaged in conversations, all of them wearing the requisite stick-on name tags. "Your theories are right, Daniel. No matter what they say, no matter how they scoff, everything they believe in is a lie. And the poor fools aren't even aware of it."

Daniel looked at his Wife, then back at the various clusters of scientists. In that moment, it was as if he were seeing them for the first time. Faces he recognized, names that were familiar to him, all of them stuck in the web of falsehoods and half-truths, unable to see with their own eyes that they were caught. "Thanks, Angel," he murmured softly. "Let's get checked in."

"Head high, Stud Muffin," she whispered. Daniel had a tendency to hunch his shoulders and duck his head when he was deep in thought, when he was upset...or when he was trying to avoid a confrontation.

When they walked to the counter that spanned one side of the large lobby, several conversations came to abrupt halts, and then the whispers began. He would have been more self-conscious if he hadn't overheard what one group was saying.

"...can't believe he's here! He disappeared several years ago, just vanished. Haven't heard a peep from him, he's not been on any digs, he hasn't published any papers-"

"Given the last paper he published, can you blame him?" another man asked.

"I don't know what he's been doing, but if I had a woman like that in my life, I don't think I'd leave the house!" The first man declared.

"I heard he was working for the Air Force," another voice, female this time, whispered.

"Well, he does have that doctorate in linguistics, you know."

"I'll bet he's doing translation work for them."

Daniel couldn't help but smirk as he listened. You have no idea, he thought. He was indeed doing translations. As well as playing diplomat and procuring agreements with alien societies. Traveling through the Stargate to fight the damned enemy who had built the pyramids in the first place.

The friendly clerk at the counter completed the process of checking them in, handing Daniel and Casey the cardkeys for their room. Without a backwards glance, he slipped his arm around her shoulders, felt her arm go around his waist, and led her to the bank of elevators.

When the door opened, the one man he'd hoped to avoid stepped out, moved past them, stopped; then turned and looked again. "Daniel Jackson?"

Daniel followed Casey into the waiting car. "Hello, Steven. Goodbye, Steven." He punched to button for the seventh floor, and the doors closed, leaving Dr. Rayner standing with his mouth hanging open.

"Steven?"

"Rayner."

"Oh. The asshole."

Daniel chuckled. He'd told Casey everything about his life, and the people who had moved in and out of it. Her opinions of the majority of them secretly delighted him. "That's him."

"Just say the word, Stud Muffin. There are a couple of new mastaba moves I'd love to try on him."

He couldn't help but laugh at the look of anticipation on her face. "My tiger," he grinned.

"Grrr."

He loved the way she did that...a cross between a growl and a purr. "I just might have to put you on a leash."

Her green eyes began to sparkle. "Now wouldn't that give their sorry asses something to whisper about!"

Pulling her close, planting a kiss on the side of her head, he couldn't help but grin. Whenever he was feeling vulnerable, whenever he was certain he couldn't face the world, she was there, at his side, helping him to see things from a different perspective, giving him the strength he needed.

There was enough time to look around the room, freshen up from their flight, and then it was time to head to the registration desk to get their name tags, to attend the one and only lecture they'd be hearing.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The desk was being manned by grad students from the Oriental Institute. If any of them recognized his name as the disgraced alumni that he was, there wasn't any sign. When he would have slipped quietly into the back row of chairs that had been arranged in the room, Casey marched him down the aisle on one side of the central group of chairs, straight for the front.

He'd become an expert at watching people, without letting them know that he was doing so. There was far more interest in the slender blonde at his side than there was in taking note of just who she was hanging onto. Which amused him. He was certain that some of the whispers that buzzed through the air were about him. Poking around in his mind and his heart, however, left him feeling a bit proud of himself. Because he honestly didn't care. His theory was right. He had the proof. More importantly, he had Casey. And her faith in him was unshakable. Her faith alone could help him move mountains. She was absolutely right...these people were working with half-truths, incomplete suppositions, and erroneous conclusions. That they were all misled wasn't his fault...nor his problem. He had offered the truth. Had tried to share what he'd found. They hadn't wanted to listen. Refused to hear him, to see for themselves. If they were wallowing in their own delusions, that was their choice. He'd freed himself from the staid rules of academia, and had unlocked mysteries of which they'd never be able to conceive. He'd seen more, done more in eight years than any of them would, or had, in their lifetimes. And, he thought, just a bit peevishly, he'd helped to save their collective asses a time or two. Wouldn't they be surprised to learn about that!

She settled into a seat directly in front of the podium behind which Mike would stand. No way for him to miss the fact that they were there. Daniel shook his head mentally. Well, at least no one would have to turn around to look at him, and whisper about him, he thought drolly.

When she pulled a notebook out of her purse, he couldn't help but smile. Offered his pen when it became obvious she'd never find one in that ridiculous pit of...whatever it was full of. Felt the entire room brighten around him when she flashed a smile at him.

"I hope Mike has handouts," Casey whispered.

He couldn't help but chuckle. "He probably will."

"Good. I can't always write fast enough when I'm taking notes. I don't want to miss anything."

There was no doubt that Casey intended to squeeze out every bit of information from this lecture that she could. And, no doubt she'd add it to what she knew, what she'd learned working at the SGC, and would come to some very interesting conclusions of her own.

Five minutes before the lecture was scheduled to begin, the grad students who had been working at the registration desk began passing out folders. He glanced through the contents. Had to grin when he noticed that his friend was skirting dangerously close to the truth...the truth that the U.W. professor and his friends had learned not so long ago. Couldn't help but wonder if Mike would receive the same skepticism that he had, or if he had retained enough of the accepted theories in his speech to remain 'mainstream'.

Mike took the stage, after an introduction that Daniel found insulting; the professor in charge of that introduction apologizing profusely about the absence of the speaker who had been promised, then barely noting that Mike had been willing to step in at the last moment. It seemed, he thought with a sigh, that nothing had changed. Anyone who deviated from accepted theories in any way was criticized and held in contempt. And Mike and his partner had dared to put forth a theory that radically differed from the consensus regarding pre-historical societies. The thought that maybe he should offer Mike a job at the SGC flittered along the edges of his mind.

Casey had crossed her arms over her breasts during the introduction. Obviously she wasn't any happier about what was being said than he was. Daniel had to feel a bit sorry for Mike when she flashed him a bright smile. His friend and former student advisor had nearly dropped his notes.

"Good afternoon," Mike began. "Professor Whitmore is correct in stating that Doctor Ellingsford is the leading expert on the migration of early man over the Bering Strait. However, I've been asked to fill in, so I'll do my best to keep the facts straight."

Casey giggled. No one else in the room did.

Encouraged by that sweet sound, Mike focused his attention on the beautiful blonde in the front row. Began his lecture by going over the accepted facts of the issue. Speaking as if there was no one else in the room, he began to elaborate on what had been discovered. Theories that had been put forth, some proven true, others still unproven.

She was writing down as much as she could, jotting notes in the margins of the handout, as well as taking down comments that Mike made, adding her own thoughts, putting question marks beside those that she didn't fully agree with.

Daniel watched her, fascinated by how caught up she was in the lecture, watching her eyes as she seemed to absorb what she was learning. He was only half listening, having discussed the issue with Mike on numerous occasions, knowing exactly what his friend believed. Couldn't help but wonder...was that what he looked like when he was caught up in something that had captured his attention?

"Are there any questions?" Mike asked, his summary completed. He couldn't help but grin when Casey's hand went into the air. "Yes, the beautiful blonde in the front row."

Casey smiled. "You said that it's accepted that the migration happened over a period of several hundred years...during the times that the ocean levels had retreated far enough to create the Bering Strait Land Bridge. It's been proposed that the last time this event happened was four to six thousand years ago, but there's already proof that early man was living in North America for at least five to seven thousand years before that, possibly longer."

"Is there a question in there?" Mike teased.

"Isn't it possible that prehistoric man also built boats to cross the Bering Sea, and came across during the ice age? We know that early Africans sailed across the Atlantic to South America."

"It's theorized that early African's made that journey," Mike corrected.

"Right. The proof is right there, all you have to do is open your eyes and see it," Casey retorted.

Mike chuckled. "I agree, there's more proof of that migration than of any other that led to what we refer to as 'the new world'."

"Also, knowing that one giant land mass broke apart to become the five continents we now have, isn't possible that the area that became North America already had an indigenous population before the migration?"

"Hardly," a voice called from somewhere behind them.

Mike frowned. "Actually, given that we have evidence of human occupation in several areas of the planet that predate the earliest signs of cave dwellers, it's very possible. I'd even go so far as to say it was probable."

"I agree," another voice called out. "There's been too much found that indicates early man walked with the dinosaurs."

"Probably hunted them to extinction, too," another voice grumbled.

"There have also been significant finds in both biology and geology that indicate that the land masses were positively one large land mass," yet another voice offered. "But the time line doesn't fit. The break up and subsequent drift of those land masses happened millions of years before the first human walked upright. Millions of years before the dinosaurs came to be."

Casey turned around, toward the part of the room where the voices had come. "What I'd like to know is, has anyone considered that if there were early tribes of man hunting dinosaurs, how did they survive, after the meteor hit?"

Half a dozen people began to chatter excitedly. "It is possible that if there were those living close to the poles at the time, the air wouldn't have been quite as toxic. Weather patterns are driven by ocean currents, which keeps the majority of 'weather' in a band around the center of the planet. That's not to say that there aren't storms and what-have-you on either pole, we know for a fact that there are, but it is possible that there might have been areas that were...protected...from the meteor fallout," one of the attendees said.

"That's ridiculous," another man exclaimed. "If core samples can be trusted, there was what we would consider a 'nuclear winter' that lasted nearly a century, and included the entire planet. No one could have survived that!"

"Then explain how we know that man walked with the dinosaurs, and then were wiped out with the dino's...and reappeared again. Almost as if-" Casey broke off, looked at Daniel.

"As if what?" Mike asked gently.

"As if they arrived here."

"Oh, here we go," someone taunted. "The aliens have landed."

"You have no idea," Casey murmured. "Prove me wrong," she dared the man.

"Prove your theory right," he countered.

"If I take the facts as we know them, that theory already has been."

The man stuttered for a moment. "That's just ridiculous."

"So, what you're saying is, the proof that we have that man has inhabited the planet for millions of years, showing up toward the end of the dinosaur era, then the proof of the meteorite hitting Earth and wiping darned near everything out, and then the proof that man 're-emerged', is all in error? It's all wrong? Or are you too narrow-minded to accept the possibility that there are more ways than one to skin a cat, if you'll excuse my metaphor," Casey said, her eyes boring a hole in her adversary.

"There is no solid proof of any of that being factual," he replied.

"Really. What constitutes solid proof? Don't you base your own hypotheses on a few scarce facts and carefully woven theories, trying to piece together what happened thousands of years ago? What makes your theories any more sound, any more provable?"

"She's got you there, Floyd," the woman beside the man chuckled.

"I suppose that you've been influenced by your...friend. He has a few crazy theories as well," the man snapped.

"Possibly. Of course, I know Doctor Jackson well enough to know that he'd never put forth a theory if he didn't have enough proof to back it up. You should take a trip to Giza. Leave your prejudices behind. You'd probably be amazed at what you can find," Casey replied sweetly.

The room went silent. Final point to the feisty blonde, Mike thought, chuckling mentally. He cleared his throat. "I'd like to thank you all for coming. I hope you enjoy the remainder of the seminar."

With the lecture effectively over, those in attendance rose to their feet, many of them discussing what they'd heard. And not necessarily what they'd heard in that room.

"Thank you," Daniel said quietly.

"For what?"

"Defending me."

Casey smiled. "Stud Muffin, the only reason I didn't drop kick his ass is because I don't want to break a fingernail. I just had a manicure. If he'd said one more derogatory thing, though, I'd have risked it!"

He grinned. "My tiger."

"Grrr."

"She certainly is," a voice said.

They turned in unison to face the newcomer. Daniel groaned mentally. "Steven."

"Daniel."

With a sigh, Daniel put his arm around Casey's waist. "Casey, Doctor Steven Rayner. Steven, my Wife, Casey Jackson."

Brown eyes went wide. "Your wife?"

"For two years," Casey said proudly. She barely touched the hand that was offered to her. She could sense the man's animosity. His desire to embarrass...to humiliate...Daniel in any way possible. His jealousy filled his eyes.

"So, still doing that mysterious work that you didn't tell us about when Sarah was...kidnapped?" Rayner asked.

"I am," Daniel replied.

Rayner narrowed his eyes. "Whatever it is, you seem more than interested in it. Come on, tell me about it. Just a hint."

"Like I told you before, I can't," Daniel said.

"Right."

"Well," Casey said, slipping her arm around Daniel's waist, stepping closer to him. "He could tell you, but then he'd have to kill you. He can do it...bare hands, three moves and it would be all over."

"Daniel? He couldn't hurt a fly. He's a pacifist if there ever was one," Rayner laughed derisively.

"You really don't know him at all, do you?" Casey asked softly. "That's a shame. He's an incredible man."

"Well, she's certainly loyal, isn't she?" Rayner jeered.

"She's my Wife," Daniel shrugged.

"So you said."

Casey half turned to face Daniel, put her hand on his chest, her fingers caressing him gently...subtly. "Sweetheart, I'd like to go to the room and change before we meet Mike for dinner."

The movement had the desired effect. Rayner's eyes had widened slightly, disbelief flared in the dark depths just before raw jealousy settled in. "If you ever want to be with a real man, 'sweetheart', you give me a call." He fished a business card from the inner pocket of his jacket. Tucked it into the neckline of her blouse.

Anger flared, Daniel was ready to knock Steven Rayner on his ass...when her hand patted his chest gently. He glanced down at her. Bit back his grin. The look in her eyes was enough to have him almost feeling sorry for his antagonist.

She locked her gaze with the man who had caused so much grief for her husband. Took the card and tore it in half. Let the paper scraps flutter to the floor. "I don't do charity work, cupcake," she spat.

His cheek twitched at the look of utter shock on Steven's face. Nor was the man unaware of his amusement. He gave his best innocent look when Steven glared at him.

"Was he always this annoying?" she asked, looking up at her husband.

"Mostly," Daniel murmured in reply.

"Daniel has told you about me?" Rayner asked, obviously pleased, stroking one hand over his tie.

"Daniel and I have shared everything about our lives," Casey replied. "So, do you have to work at being an ass, or does it come naturally?"

Once again Steven was left sputtering.

"Casey doesn't mince words," Daniel grinned. "Nor does she suffer fools gladly. Now, if you'll excuse us, we have plans for this evening."

"You still believe that crazy theory of yours, don't you?" Rayner asked quietly.

"Like Casey said, it's all right there."

"So, for hundreds of years, every archaeologist who has pored over the pyramids and temples have just 'missed' this elusive evidence of yours?"

"There are none so blind as they who will not see," Daniel replied. "No one has recognized what's there because they've all be trained to see only what they're told is there."

Rayner shook his head. "You can see anything you want in the glyphs, if you look hard enough."

"That's not true," Daniel argued. "The glyphs speak for themselves. If one is willing to listen. Why in the world would I want to concoct a theory that would bring about total ruin to my career?"

It was a question that Rayner had never considered before. He looked at Casey, her words ringing in his ears...

"...I know Doctor Jackson well enough to know that he'd never put forth a theory if he didn't have enough proof to back it up..."

No, Daniel would never publish a theory without some sort of proof...He shook his head. It didn't matter. Daniel was gone...out of the archaeological community. He didn't have to worry about competing with the 'wunderkind' any longer. He preferred it that way. He was making his own mark, was becoming an expert in his own right. He'd been to the same temples, the same pyramids. Whatever Daniel thought he had seen, it simply wasn't there.

"Goodbye, Steven."

"Oh, I'm certain I'll see you around tomorrow," Rayner said easily.

"I doubt it. We're flying back to Colorado first thing in the morning," Daniel said.

"We were only here for Mike," Casey added.

Rayner knew about Dr. Michael Loughlin. He had a crazy theory of his own. Something about primitive man and his means of dealing with conflict. He wondered just who had influenced whom...if the men were close friends and both a bit free with their interpretations of known evidential facts.

Daniel turned to walk away.

"We'll have to talk sometime, Daniel," Rayner said.

"Don't hold your breath," Daniel replied. He led Casey out of the conference room, leaving Steven Rayner staring after them.

 

 

 

"What a totally irritating jerk," Casey said, watching the indicator above the elevator as they waited for the doors to open.

"Yes, he is," Daniel agreed.

"How did you manage to work with him and not smash his face in?"

Daniel grinned. "I ignored him, most of the time."

"Bet that wasn't easy," she muttered.

"Not always."

"You know, I'm sort of glad you're not a part of all of...this," she said, waving her hand in a circle. "These people are as annoying as Goa'uld, and that's saying something."

He chuckled. "Not all of them are so narrow minded."

"But damned few of them are willing to think for themselves," she pointed out.

"True."

"Now I understand why Beth said she was glad to be missing this seminar."

His grin widened. When he'd learned of the seminar, he had spoken to General Hammond about sending the archaeological department staff to several of the lectures. He'd been given permission, but not a one of the scientists had expressed any interest whatsoever in attending. He had been away from the community long enough that he'd forgotten the 'lock-step' in which the majority of the academicians moved. Their inability to look at anything new without disdain and criticism. Their seeming disinterest in actually learning anything other than what had already been discovered. Their tendency to merely repeat what those before them had theorized, forgetting that the work of those long-gone but not forgotten archaeologists was just that...theories. "It's been a long time since I've been to one of these," he admitted.

"Well, with luck, it will be a long time before we ever attend one again," Casey declared. "I mean, I really enjoyed Mike's lecture. He made some excellent points. I'm not certain I agree with everything, but he's given me a lot to think about."

"That's the purpose of these seminars, the exchange of ideas," Daniel said. "It's a shame they turn out to be nothing more than cheerleading sessions for the most popular theories."

"Which is what has stymied the profession for years. There are mavericks out there, like you," Casey said, stepping into the elevator when the doors finally opened.

Daniel pushed the number for their floor. "I know. As long as there are those not afraid to buck the system, not afraid to look at the evidence in a new way, rather than just accepting what's been said before, we'll continue to learn."

"It's a shame that they don't have your brilliant mind," she sighed. "They'd learn so much from you. Someday. Someday you'll be able to teach them. To show them that they have to step out of their little boxes and see the real world."

"Someday," he echoed in agreement.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Mike was waiting for them in the hotel restaurant. He slapped Daniel on the back, hugged Casey. "You asked some very interesting questions," he said, as they began to discuss the lecture. He motioned to the waitress, who hurried over and unobtrusively took drink orders, then moved on to the next table.

"You raised some very interesting points," Casey countered. "I really enjoyed your lecture."

"She was taking notes like crazy," Daniel said, smiling at her.

Mike's eyes went wide. "No kidding?"

"No kidding," Casey replied. "I'm going to put the notes in Stimpler's 'Migration to the North American Continent'."

"Ah, excellent book," Mike grinned.

Casey shrugged. "I think he's a bit wacky myself, and reaching a bit with some of his theories. But, for the most part, I think he's made the right assumptions."

Mike looked at Daniel and grinned. "Dinner conversations at your house must be stimulating."

Daniel chuckled. "They can be." That he and Casey could discuss archaeology, or anthropology, still thrilled him to the core. Sharing his love of the discipline that had so captivated his attention from his earliest recollection made his happiness complete.

"How's Bernie?" Casey asked casually. Wondered if the woman was still in love with Daniel.

"She's on a dig in Oregon. We might have found another early Salish settlement. If it's not Salish, then the people were closely related," Mike reported.

"Sounds interesting," Casey said, examining her menu.

"Must be. Haven't heard from her in a couple of weeks," Mike said quietly.

"Well, she'll call," Casey said confidently. She'd sensed that Mike and Bernie belonged together...there was a closeness between them that she didn't think they were aware of...yet.

"I'll take that to the bank," Mike grinned. "What about you two? Did everything work out okay?"

"For the most part," Daniel replied. "We've been...busy."

"I'll bet you have," Mike chuckled. He was still reeling from what he had learned, even though it had been well over a year since he'd been brought in on the secret that Daniel and Casey lived with every day.

"We had a bit of a...run-in...with Steven Rayner," Daniel said, sipping from the cup of coffee that had just arrived.

"How'd that go?"

"Casey insulted him, left his jaw hanging open, and we left," Daniel grinned.

Mike laughed. "Sorry I missed that!"

"It was entertaining," Daniel agreed.

"That ass is just annoying," Casey grumped.

"And getting worse with every copy of that book of his that sells," Mike said. "Although I hear that he never did get tenure at the Oriental Institute. He's working for some museum in Philadelphia. I don't know that he's actually working on anything specific right now, just going on digs to find artifacts for display."

"I'm not surprised," Daniel admitted. "I doubt that he'll ever find tenure. He isn't interested in teaching, anyway."

"No, he's not. He wants to make a name for himself...thinks he's going to be the next Howard Carter. Although he hasn't made a trip to Egypt in about three years or so."

Daniel ducked his head. The last time Steven Rayner had been in Egypt, he'd damned near been killed by Osiris, who had been in control of Sarah Gardner's body at the time. "Well, I didn't do all of my work in Egypt, either."

"You did more than just dig up pottery and statues for a museum," Mike pointed out.

Daniel conceded the point with a nod of his head. "We never did hear...what happened with those caves in Wenepo?"

"We did a bit more work there, determined that the group that had lived there must have consisted of about four family groups, and were related to the people of another village who had lived not far from that spot. The tribal elders were a little put out at being told they couldn't investigate the caves until the dig was completed. But when we left, we were all on good terms." Mike glanced around. "The upper caves were...scrubbed. We just put down that it seemed they'd been used for storage, that there wasn't any sign of continued occupation in them."

Daniel nodded his understanding. The red and black paint that had adorned the walls had left no doubt as to what the artist was describing. And those descriptions would have raised far too many questions. Questions better left unanswered as far as the general populace went. At least, for the time being.

"Your guys took the totem as well. Don't know what happened to it."

"It's in storage somewhere," Daniel said confidently. "Someday...someday we'll be able to talk about all of it."

"Won't those tribal leaders be surprised," Casey mused.

"Probably a bit pissed, too. To know that their ancestors had been abducted from their homes," Daniel said.

"Probably," Mike agreed.

The waitress had returned, took their meal orders, and conversation continued to flow, the friends enjoying the time they had to share.


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