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Lessons Learned

Chapter 5

Wenepo, Washington was high in the Cascade mountains. It was a small logging community...one main street with one stoplight. The narrow, three story hotel...built when the town had been founded in the early 1920’s...was situated near the center of that main street. ‘Jack’s Stash’, a small diner/tavern was directly across the street. A post office, general store, a hardware store, a tiny courthouse cum police station cum jail, a small but lovely little park, and a narrow grocery store lined the street on either side; those buildings, plus a dozen or so houses, made up the entirety of Wenepo.

Daniel was driving, he slowed down as they entered the city limits. Parking was limited, apparently the folks walked from their homes to the few businesses on the main street. The SUV seemed oddly out of place beside the pick-up trucks and jeeps that could be seen. There were two open spots in front of the hotel.  He pulled into one of them, turned off the engine.  The group climbed out of the SUV, and walked into the aged, but sparkling clean lobby of the hotel. 

"May I help you?" The voice belonged to an older man, his gray hair nothing more than a wisp of curls around his pink skull.

Daniel smiled. "Yes, I’m Doctor Daniel Jackson. Doctor Loughlin was to have made reservations for us."

The man smiled. "Yes sir, he did. Filled up the hotel! That hasn’t happened since..." he stopped, crossed his arms, tapped a finger against his nose. "Come to think of it, don’t think it’s ever happened!"

"Well, we’ll try not to be too much bother," Daniel said politely.

"You folks are on the top floor. Rooms 301, 302, and 303." He handed the keys to the muscular young man. "I hope you young folks can get your luggage, my back ain’t what it used to be."

"Not a problem," Jack smiled.

"Daniel Jackson? Or should I say Doctor Jackson?" a feminine voice asked. There was a hint of humor in her tone.

All eyes turned toward the door, where the speaker stood, watching them. She was a willowy woman in her mid thirties, the same height as Sam, and her wavy brown hair brushed her shoulders. Her hazel eyes were full of amusement, and she crossed her tanned, slender arms in front of her.

Daniel bit back a moan. He'd known he'd have to face her eventually. He just hadn’t planned on it happening as soon as he hit town! "Hello, Bernie."

"It’s been a long time," she said softly, stepping into the room. She walked up to Daniel, ignoring the people with him, hugged him tightly. Only the back of her mind took note that he didn’t really hug her in return.

Well, this certainly wasn’t how he'd expected their first meeting in over eleven years to go! Especially after what had happened. He gently pulled away from her. Reached out and tugged Casey close to his side. "Yes, it has been."

Dr. Bernie Watson didn’t miss the action, or the look of worry in the green eyes of the slender blonde who now stood next to Daniel, her arm around his waist, his around her shoulders. The last time Daniel Jackson’s name had come up in conversation, Mike had told her that he was widowed, and broken up as hell about it. The ass hadn’t said a thing about him being in any sort of relationship when he'd called last night, only that Daniel had shown up in Seattle, was willing to help them, and to rent three more rooms for a him and his friends, who would be arriving today. Nope, not one word about a having a woman in his life! He was so going to pay for that!

"Casey, this is Bernie Watson...uh...Doctor Bernie Watson. We worked together on a couple of projects when I was a grad student. Bernie, this is my Wife, Casey Jackson."

Wife? Well, well, well! That had happened quickly enough, hadn’t it? Grieving widower one day, getting drunk as a skunk with Mike in an effort to deal with the loss, now here in Washington with little wifey number two in tow. She shook her head mentally. It had been well over a year since Mike had given that lecture in Houston. And if memory served, it was the one year ‘rememberance’ of his wife’s death that had had Daniel so distraught. She should be happy about Daniel’s...recovery...from his grief, shouldn’t she? So why did she feel as if someone had just bitch-slapped her? She forced smile. "How do you do?"

Casey gave a small smile in return, although the action failed to light her eyes. "I do well, thank you. And you?"

Bernie’s smile wavered slightly when she realized that she was the cause of the woman’s obvious unease. "I’m doing very well."

"Bernie, these are my best friends; Jack O’Neill, Sam Carter, and uh...Murray Teal’c," Daniel said, introducing the rest of the team.

She looked the tall black man over carefully. "Is that tattoo symbolic?"

"It is," Teal’c replied.

"He’s from Mozambique," Jack said quickly.

The look on her face told them that she suspected that Teal’c was most certainly not from that particular African nation, but she remained quiet, and simply nodded.

"So is Bernie short for Bernice or Bernadette?" Sam asked, shaking the woman’s hand.

"Bernadette," was the reply. She turned back to Daniel. "Mike is still with the tribal leaders, last minute blessings or something.  We were able to go to the site for about an hour this afternoon.  We’re all going to have dinner together at Jack’s Stash tonight, sort of a ‘last meal’ sort of thing. With only three weeks, we have to work smart and fast, which will probably mean some very long days."

Daniel nodded. He understood having to work fast. He wondered briefly what his ‘old’ friends would think if they knew that sometimes he only had two or three days, or even just a few hours, to find all that he could. "What time?"

"Five-ish," Bernie said. She glanced at Casey again. She knew that she was an attractive woman. She could turn heads when she dressed up. But standing near the slender blonde made her feel like a toad! Her eyes went back to Daniel’s face. He was looking at his wife as well, the love in his eyes apparent to all. Her fingers went to her hip pocket. Where the letter she'd written so many years ago waited. And right or wrong, she still wanted to give it to him.

"We’ll be there," Daniel confirmed. Tightened his arm around Casey’s shoulders.

"Let’s get our stuff, shall we?" Jack said, breaking the sudden, uncomfortable silence that had fallen.

Bernie stood back and watched as they trooped back out and toward that white SUV. She'd felt those people surround Daniel emotionally. They were all very close, she could sense it. She wondered just how, and when, that had happened. The Daniel Jackson she'd known had kept everyone at arm’s length. Even Mike had been unable to move past the protective barriers Daniel had erected around himself. And the one time he'd dropped those barriers, had reached out to her...she shook her head mentally. She'd reacted in total surprise. And had ruined any chance of something...special...happening between them. It was difficult to admit to herself that over the years she'd harbored the secret hope that someday she might get a second chance. She most certainly was not going to examine the feeling of excitement she'd felt when she'd seen him standing near the front desk. Nor would she address the feeling of loss that had washed over her when he'd introduced her to his...wife. Not girlfriend...or lover. Wife. And Daniel Jackson was a ‘forever and ever, ‘til death do us part’ type of man.

She reached out hesitantly and took his arm as he walked past her, his friends and wife already on the staircase that would take them to the next floor. "Daniel? Do you have a minute?"

He stopped, looked at her, then up at Casey. Could see the fear that lurked in those amazing eyes. He wanted to tell Bernie 'no'. But they'd be working together for the next three weeks. And it would be better to...clear the air...now, as to wait. "Sure," he said.

Casey felt her heart lurch in her chest. His eyes were guarded when he looked up at her. She would not be a clingy, bitchy wife. She would not! No matter how frightened she might be of losing him. No matter how badly it hurt to watch that woman lead him back onto the porch of the hotel. She raised her chin, and followed her friends up the stairs. Forgetting for the moment that Daniel had the room key.

Before she could change her mind, or chicken out, Bernie reached into her pocket and pulled out the letter that she'd written eleven years ago. "I had every intention of sending this as soon as I wrote it, since I could never seem to...catch up...with you," she said softly.

"Bernie, I don’t-"

"Please, let me get this out. I’ve been practicing for years," she murmured. "I...I was so surprised that day. You...you ran out of the room before I could explain."

"Explain what? That I was a nice guy, a good friend, but that you didn’t like me ‘that way’?" he asked, the bitterness in his voice surprising him.  He hadn't thought about Bernie in years, had tucked that hurt away with the others that pricked at his soul.

"No, that I was totally surprised that you...noticed me. You never seemed...interested... even when I tried flirting," Bernie replied.

His eyes went wide, his eyebrows rose above the rims of his glasses. "Flirting with me? When?"

She smiled. "I suppose I did a lousy job of it if you never noticed."

"I guess I was a bit...obtuse...when it came to women," he admitted.

"Just a bit. I think it was more a protective gesture than intentional disregard," she allowed. She tucked the letter into the pocket of his shirt. "I know that you’re...I can see how much you love her. I just...I just need you to know."

She'd turned and was walking down the sidewalk before he could reply. Bernie had flirted with him? He frantically searched his memories, tried to pinpoint a particular moment that he'd ‘misread’. Nothing...he couldn’t remember at any time feeling as if she were... flirting...or even encouraging him. Or had it been so subtle that only his subconscious had picked up on it...leading him to make the moves that he had on that day? He shook his head. It didn’t matter. Bernie was part of his past. Oh, their friendship might be rekindled in his present. But nothing more. Because his heart, his soul, belonged to one woman.

Casey was sitting on the floor in front of the door when he made it up the last flight of stairs. He could tell that she was trying desperately not to cry. "Hey, gorgeous," he said softly.

She could see the envelope in his pocket. "Hey, handsome," she replied. She stood up, let him unlock the door, followed him into the room. She dropped her duffle beside the antique dresser. Ran her fingers over the brass footboard. The bed was narrow, just a full bed, rather than the queen-size they were accustomed to. She wondered briefly if the springs squeaked.

He unclipped the garment bags, hung them in the cherry-wood wardrobe that filled one corner of the room. Watched her surreptitiously. The way her arms went around her slender waist. The way she tried so hard not to look at him.

They unpacked in silence, moving around one another; tip-toeing, metaphorically, around each other and the questions...the explanations...the things that needed to be said, that neither knew quite how to approach.

The room was lovely...it was almost like stepping back in time, to a simpler life. Two upholstered chairs sat in front of the narrow windows, a round table between them. Next to the wardrobe was a door to what she assumed was the bathroom. He was standing there, she’d check it out later. Suddenly restless, not sure what to do with her hands, she shoved them into the back pockets of her jeans. He would want privacy to read in. To make any calls to arrange meetings... a rendezvous. "I think I’m going to take a walk," she said, trying to force a smile to her lips.

"Sounds good." He smiled at her, headed for the door. It would be easier to talk while they were walking...it always was. How many times had they walked the neighborhood, discussing things that bothered them, clearing the air after a disagreement...twice after an actual yelling, screaming argument.

"Alone."

He turned to look at her. "Any particular reason why?"

She nodded. Her eyes went again to the letter in his pocket. She damned them for filling with tears.

"C’mere, Angel," he said softly, holding out his hand. Winced at the look of pain in her eyes; his heart began to pound when she hesitated. "Please?"

When his blue eyes filled with such worry...such pain, she couldn’t stay away. She walked toward him, took his hand, let him pull her into his embrace. Just as she began to relax against him, she felt the envelope against her chest.

He felt her stiffen. "Case?"

"Read your letter, Daniel," she said softly, pulling away from him. She moved out of his embrace, and was out the door before he could respond.

Damn it! He yanked the wrinkled, yellowed envelope from his pocket, tossed it toward the bed, and hurried after his Wife. He caught up with her in the lobby. "Casey, wait!"

Why wasn’t he reading that damned letter? "What?"

He linked his fingers with hers. "Come on. Let’s take that walk."

The air was cool this high in the mountains. The sun was beginning dip toward the horizon. Soon it would disappear completely behind the mountain peaks to the west of the town. She tugged her hand free, pulled her jacket tighter, wrapped her arms around her waist as they walked slowly toward the small park.

Her refusal, and that’s what it was, to even hold his hand bothered him...worried him. He could sense that she was trying close herself off...from him. Trying to protect herself. "I love you, Casey."

"I love you," she replied.

"There was never...nothing ever happened between Bernie and me. Oh, I thought, even hoped, something might...I tried..." he shook his head. "I wasn’t very...confident...back then. I hadn’t had much experience with girls...with women. In fact, Bernie was only the second girl I ever kissed. She uh...well, she sort of backed away, I thought it was because she didn’t like me, ‘like that’..." he spoke slowly, choosing each word carefully, needing to make sure that Casey understood what had happened...and what hadn’t happened between him and the other archaeologist.

"But she did?"

"Apparently," he admitted. "I didn’t give her a chance to tell me that...I ran away...hid in my room...made sure our paths never crossed again."

"You were embarrassed," she said softly.

He gave her that shy, half smile. "I was mortified. Didn’t even look at women again until Carrie Weaver started chasing me."

She giggled softly. "Go read that letter Daniel. I’ll be all right."

Daniel shook his head stubbornly. "I want you there with me."

"Why?"

"Because you’re my Wife. I want...I need you at my side," he replied.

She studied the grass beneath her hiking boots. "And if she tells you she loves you?"

He shrugged. "I’ll tell her the truth. That you’re the only woman my eyes will ever see. You’re the only woman that fills my heart. You’re the only woman I love. That you’re my Destiny." He reached for her hand. Sighed silently when her fingers laced themselves with his. He tugged gently. "Let’s get back. We’ll be going for dinner shortly."

 

 

 

Neither of them noticed that Sam and Jack were standing at the window of their room watching, making certain that all was right between the Jacksons. "Ever get the feeling that Fate is just bound and determined to throw as much shit at this team as possible, and most of it seems to hit those two?" Jack asked quietly. He tightened his arms around Sam’s waist, pulled her closer.

"Yeah, I have," Sam replied softly. "We always make it through...they always make it through."

"Our SG-1 luck."

"Let’s hope it never runs out," Sam sighed.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

The letter had fallen to the floor, lay beside the bed. Daniel picked it up, carefully opened the envelope...which looked as if it had just recently been unsealed. Withdrew a single sheet of paper...

 

 

It seemed relatively short. To the point. Quintessential Bernie. He flipped the paper over. There were two lines on the back. It was quite obvious that they'd just been added.

 

 

He wiped his hand over his face. Casey was right. Bernie had just told him that she loved him. He closed his eyes. Thought about how thrilled he would have been had he received this letter before she'd left for Central America. No doubt they would've made love, and although he was fairly certain he wouldn’t have left his studies, he probably would've at least visited her as often as possible.

"Daniel?"

He looked down into green eyes full of love. The green eyes that held his entire universe. "You were right."

The pain...the fear that she'd felt earlier returned in full force, nearly knocking her to her knees. "I see. So, how do you feel about it?"

He shrugged. "I suppose that if she'd sent this as soon as she'd written it, things might have been different between her and I."

"And now?"

"Now I’m in love with this incredibly beautiful blonde. Married her so she couldn’t slip away from me," he replied, smiling at her as his hands reached for her.

"You are, huh?" She let his words, and the love in his eyes, wash over her, soothe the worry from her heart.

"Absolutely. Head over heels. Totally besotted. Enraptured. Entranced. Charmed..." he frowned slightly.

"What’s wrong?"

"Give me a minute, I have to come up with more..."

She giggled. "Not necessary. I get the message."

"Do you?" he asked softly, pulling her close.

"Loud and clear," she whispered.

"Good." He glanced at the mantel clock that sat on the wide dresser across from the bed. "If we didn’t have to leave in just a few minutes, I’d re-enforce that message."

She shivered appreciatively. "Maybe you can do that after dinner," she suggested.

"Good idea."

"What if the bed springs squeak?"

He laughed. "Then we’ll just have to put the mattress on the floor."

Leave it to Daniel to come up with the perfect solution! She giggled. "Might be hard to explain to the maid."

He grinned at her. Dropped onto the bed and bounced a few times. "Hey, it doesn’t squeak!"

She jumped onto the bed beside him. "Lucky for us."

"Lucky for everyone around us. We won’t keep them awake."

Her giggles turned into a full throated laugh. "Which would have made it difficult to face them the next day."

"Yeah, they’d probably all be pissy...lack of sleep." He pulled her close. "We’re okay?"

"We’re okay. But if she tries anything, I’m gonna drop her!"

"I’ll warn her that you’re extremely jealous...and possessive...and..." He laughed when she slugged his shoulder.

"Don’t you dare make me sound like some...some out-of-control clingy...harpy!"

"Okay. I’ll tell her that I’m extremely jealous, and possessive, and that you’re the only woman I’ll ever want."

"That’s much better," she huffed.

A tap on the door precluded any reply he might have made. He pulled himself to his feet, crossed the room, and opened the door. Jack stood grinning at him. "Ready to go eat? I’m starving."

"Yeah, we’re ready." He folded the letter, stuffed it back into the envelope. He'd give it back to Bernie. Which would tell her all that she needed to know.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

Mike was sitting beside the brown-haired woman, his arm around the back of her chair, laughing at something a large man with coffee-colored skin was saying. He looked up when Daniel and his wife and friends walked into the tavern. "Hey, Danny! Come on over!"

Daniel smiled, and led the team to the long table. "So, did you get all of the blessings?"

"Every last one of them," the man replied with a grin. "Everybody, this is Doctor Daniel Jackson, his incredibly beautiful wife Casey, his friends Jack, Sam, and Murray. Danny, this is everybody."

A young woman with a mass of red curls barely controlled by a ponytail shook her head. "I’m Annette VanDusen," she said. She grinned at Mike. "The only student brave enough to sign up for this dig." At five feet, four inches, she was a petite woman, with a dusting of freckles over her cheeks and nose that made her appear far younger than she was.

The African-American man, nearly as big as Teal’c, gave them a friendly smile. "Willis Abrams," he said, his accent giving away his New England heritage.

The woman beside him, her round, caramel-colored face wreathed with a smile as large as Mike’s, spoke up next. "Katelynn Abrams," she said.

A reed thin woman in her late forties was next. She smiled up at them, waved to the seats on the opposite side of the table. "Sit yourselves down! I’m Alice Smith. Everybody calls me Alley."

"It’s nice to meet all of you," Daniel said.

"Doctor Daniel Jackson?" Willis frowned slightly. "Didn’t you have some crazy theory about the pyramids and aliens?"

Daniel's cheeks flushed red. "Yeah, something like that."

"I don’t think it’s so crazy," Annette said, just before popping a pretzel into her mouth.

"You don’t?" His surprise was genuine. Knowing that he was right was one thing. He could never tell these people that he was...at least, not until the Stargate program became public knowledge. And that wasn’t going to happen for a very long time.

"Nope. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that structures that large were meant as simple tombs," Annette replied.

"They’re monuments," Alley argued. "The Pharaohs believed themselves to be descendants of gods...hell, they thought they were gods! What they wanted, they got. And they wanted monuments that would ensure their place in history. To make certain that they were never forgotten."

SG-1 exchanged glances. Most of the ‘gods’ of Egypt had been Goa’uld. Daniel had hypothesized in the early days of the SGC that the first of the Pharaoh’s might have been actual offspring, conceived by human consorts and slaves in the harems that each Goa’uld seemed so fond of keeping.

Mike didn’t miss the looks. "Danny, something you’d like to share?"

He grimaced. "Like to? Absolutely. But it’s all...classified."

The older man frowned. He knew that Daniel was employed by the Air Force. He'd always assumed that it was his linguistics degree and his amazing ability with languages that was what they wanted. Suddenly he had the feeling that there was something else going on...something much...bigger.

The others were staring at Daniel as well. Often what was not said revealed much more than any words used. Bernie glanced at the man that Mike had introduced as Jack. Her father had been in the Army. She knew military when she saw it. And the blonde with the short hair...Sam...she was military, too. Oh, there was no doubt that they were all friends...very close friends...but still. Jack was frowning at Daniel. As if the younger man had just given away state secrets or something. "Well, I think we should stop worrying about pyramids, and start worrying about those caves."

Daniel heaved a silent sigh of relief. The minute he'd spoken he realized he'd said too much.

Mike nodded slowly. Whatever Daniel was into, he was happy. That’s all that mattered in his book. "There are five of them. So far we have no clue what’s in the top two. Two of the lower ones have various drawings on the walls. There’s an area in front of them I’d like to try and excavate...see if we can find anything. If those caves were dwellings, that area would've been the perfect place for everyday tasks."

"Do you have camcorders?" Daniel asked.

"Three of them," Mike confirmed.

"Get film of all of the cave walls. You can look at it later. Concentrate on digging where you can," Daniel said.

"Good plan." It was a damned good plan. And Daniel'd spoken as if it was something he'd done...often. The idea came too easily.

"I will be the first to volunteer to film," Alley grinned.

Mike grinned back. "Huh uh. Sam, Jack, and Murray get that job, since they aren’t familiar with archaeological digs."

Once again glances were unconsciously exchanged. This time, the others chose to ignore the obvious. All of them were certain, however, that the newcomers knew much more than they were telling...or even letting on.


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